With the portal cut, excavation for the underground decline at Kanmantoo began on 29 October. Eradicating the need for blasting could have a transformational effect on conventional underground mining and is likely to be easily transferrable to hard- and soft-rock civil tunnelling where it could allow TBM launch to happen at an earlier stage.

The 100% electrically-powered Komatsu MC51 continuous miner is seen as a major step toward zero-emission mining. The blast-free technology is claimed to potentially transform traditional underground mine development to achieve better safety, operational performance and a smaller environmental footprint.

Commenting on the development at Kanmantoo, Hillgrove CEO and managing director Lachlan Wallace said: “We are excited to advance the mine development in a way that leads the industry towards zero-emission mining, which is without question the way of the future.”

This is the second major development in hard rock excavation in a matter of months and follows hard on the heels of the Robbins MDM5000 which is the world’s first rectangular rock boring machine.