Thinking big: mining Norway's mountains

Tackling the tough rocks and cliffs at the ilmenite mine amidst Norway’s dramatic mountains and fiords

The mine in the middle of Norway's mountain range
The mine in the middle of Norway's mountain range

Standard excavators weigh about 10 tonnes (11 tons), but the Topcon CAT 6040 FS on Titania's mining site weighs over 40 times that amount yet, together with other super-big construction machines equipped with the latest technology, easily tackles the tough rocks and cliffs at the ilmenite mine near Sokndal, amidst Norway's dramatic mountains and fiords.

Black Rock becomes White Gold

Ilmenite is a titanium-iron oxide mineral with a blackish colour that, commercially, can provide useful titanium dioxide powder used in toothpastes, detergents, paint and many other products. "The majority of the material goes to the pigment industry," Gunnar Vinterstø, mine assistant at Tellnes, said. "We extract up to 890,000m3 (1.16 million cubic yards) of the material every year." This represents 7% of global production of ilmenite.

Norwegian mine excavator
One of the huge machines at the mine

To excavate the precious mineral, Titania has purchased some of the world's largest excavation machines. At work near a black mine terrace wall is an enormous Komatsu WA-1200 wheel-loader, weighing more than 205 tonnes (226 tons). It is equipped with Topcon's 3D GPS+ control system for optimal grading productivity, the same equipment used on 20-ton wheel-loaders on construction sites worldwide.

It is hard to believe that these grey-black mountains provide the world with one of its most common whitening agents, but the finely ground titanium dioxide powder becomes white when processed.

Big Shovels

Further away, however, stands the real prize winner – CAT's huge 6040 FS excavator, with a match weight of almost 400 tonnes (440 tons), a bucket volume of 22m3 and a height of almost 8 metres (26 ft). The company invested millions, just on this machine.

Norwegian mine excavator
One of the huge machines at the mine

For several years Topcon has been Titania's GNSS systems provider for its mining machines and the company plans to increase its use of GNSS appliances to detect different ore quantities and qualities and thus limit the need to dig up unnecessary volumes of rocks.

"It costs a lot to excavate so much material with such big shovels," says Gunnar Vinterstø, explaining why Titania is considering Topcon's Sitelink3D system as a possible solution to connect all machines with each other and the office. "Otherwise you'll use too much fuel and other resources!" says Morten Gørlitz-Håkonsen.

For instance, the Komatsu WA1200 wheel-loader uses almost 200 litres (50 gallons) diesel per hour. Using an average of 100 operating hours per week, this equals a staggering 660,000 USD (€500.000) per year in fuel costs, just for this machine. The company expects to make significant financial savings over the lifetime of the equipment by controlling the number of unnecessary shovel lifts or the amount of ore an operator digs.

Interested in seeing your project featured?

Do you or your company have a project you'd like to share with civil engineers from across the globe?

Our Knowledge Marketing team sources content from across the world of civil engineering, as well of as offering opportunities for sponsorship.

Training opportunities from ICE

ICE provides world class training for civil engineers looking to develop their skill set.