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Norwegian mining company Titania chooses Topcon for their huge excavators and wheel-loaders.

Standard excavators weigh about 10 tonnes (11 tons), but the CAT 6040 FS on Titania’s mining site weighs over 40 times that amount! Together with other super-big construction machines – and essential Topcon systems – the tough rocks and cliffs at the ilmenite mine near Sokndal, amidst Norway’s dramatic mountains and fiords are easily tackled!

It costs a lot to excavate so much material with such big shovels

Gunnar Vinterstø

We follow the serpentine road through nooks and crannies, dodging passing trucks and avoiding motion sickness as best we can. The rewards for our efforts are fantastic views over the southwest Norwegian Rogaland county’s steep cliffs and beautiful coastline. Drivers have to be  extra-careful on the curvy road. “If you fall asleep while driving here, you do it only once!” our guide Morten Gørlitz-Håkonsen said.

Morten is the CEO of Norsecraft Geo, which delivers Topcon systems to customers throughout Norway and other Scandinavian countries. Today he is taking us to mining company Titania’s ilmenite mine in the hills of Tellnes.

So what is ilmenite? It’s 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 890,000 m3 (1.16 million cubic yards) of the material every per year.”

This corresponds to seven percent of the entire world’s production of ilmenite. But arriving at Titania’s mine it seems hard to believe. Could these grey-black mountains actually provide the world with one of the world’s most common whitening agents? It’s as easy to believe as if someone would like to clean your white shirt with a lump of coal. The explanation is much more simple, the finely ground titanium dioxide powder does in fact become white when processed.

To excavate all this precious black-rock-to-become-white-gold, 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, which weighs more than 205 tonnes (226 tons). It is equipped with Topcon’s 3D GPS+ control system for optimal grading productivity. This is the same equipment used on 20-ton wheel-loaders on construction sites worldwide.

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 22 m3 and a height of almost eight meters (26 ft). The company invested millions, just on this machine.

For several years Topcon has been Titania’s GNSS systems provider for its mining machines. In the near future, the company plans to further increase its use of GNSS appliances, in order to discern 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 as an explanation to why Titania is now considering Topcon’s Sitelink3D system as a possible solution to connect all machines with each other and the office. The reason is simple and obvious: “Otherwise you’ll use too much fuel and other resources!” explains 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! Being able to limit the number of unnecessary shovel lifts or the amount of ore an operator digs would save the company millions over the lifetime of the equipment.

After the visit to the Tellnes ilmenite mine, toothpaste will look very different to us in the future. Now we understand the connection it has to the huge machines equipped with modern technology, working, digging the black ore from the big mine!