ABB completes commissioning of the world’s most powerful conveyor system

Sept. 28, 2020
The “world's highest-powered gearless conveyor drive system” enables continuous operations at a Chilean copper mine.

ABB has provided engineering design, gearless conveyor drives, electrical equipment for power supply, energy distribution and automation of a new underground and overland conveyor system at the world's largest open pit copper mine.

Project management and engineering for the full electrical, control and instrumentation (EC&I) scope was led by ABB in Germany, with long spells on site in northern Chile to work side-by-side with TAKRAF to equip the site’s new underground operation with a large conveying system that overcomes an altitude difference of 1,200 m and covers a distance of almost 13k m.

The three principal 11,000 tph conveyors feature gearless conveyor drives (GCDs) equipped with large ABB AC synchronous motors with a rated power of 5MW each, resulting in a motor shaft torque of about 900kNm. With every line in constant use, high availability and low maintenance are essential. Designed with a minimum of transfer stations, just one was required underground, saving a significant project cost, according to ABB.

Based on continuous-conveying technology, the infrastructure is completely truckless, eliminating the need for 120 large haul trucks. This results in saving around 130 million liters of gasoline consumption per year, bringing the carbon emissions from 340,000t p.a. down to 100,000t p.a. It is also the first transportation system in the world to employ premium steel cable belt technology, ST10000, for use on uphill tunnel conveyors, per the partners.

“This mega project achieves a number of firsts, from the system’s installed drive power to the application of the ST10000 conveyor belt,” said Marc Hollinger, TAKRAF project manager. “With this project, we firmly establish TAKRAF as one of the world’s only providers capable of delivering a mega project of this nature incorporating advanced technologies that push the boundaries of what has been done before. This is a complex project of the highest magnitude demanding global cooperation between internal and external parties.”

“This is a new milestone in underground applications for continuous mining. It is the highest drive power ever installed on a conveyor and uses a wide range of features for data aquisition, equipment assessment and process optimization.” said Ulf Richter, global product manager for belt-conveyor systems, at ABB. “In piloting this gearless drive application with TAKRAF we have overcome tremendous technical and logistical challenges due to underground situations, elevation change and capacity requirements.”