Vermeer Terrain Leveler surface excavation machines deliver more than rock-penetrating power

Vermeer Terrain Leveler surface excavation machines (SEM’s) combine productivity with precision, and are built to handle big jobs in your surface mine, quarry, civil construction or site prep application.

Comprised of tractor and attachment, you have the ability to switch between the chain drive or direct drive Terrain Leveler attachment for surface mining, overburden removal, road construction or soil remediation and trencher attachment for installing large-diameter pipe for energy, sewer, water and gas applications.

The Terrain Leveler SEM is designed to maximize machine simplicity with a hydrostatic transmission that provides less moving parts compared to mechanical systems. Wide track width and low center of gravity provide stability – while dual hydrostatic tracks allow for maximum maneuverability – including 360-degree counter-rotation. The rear-mounted drum and top-down cutting helps minimize machine contact with the cut material, and the tilt mechanism on the drum helps manage the floor or bench to allow a formation of a flat, smooth floor.

Cut to plan with the addition of a grade control system which can help improve cutting accuracy and operator consistency. SmartTEC performance software, available on all Terrain Leveler SEM’s, makes adjusting controls and recording machine productivity more efficient and the ability to view SmartTEC information through the telematics lens helps the fleet manager monitor the machine’s performance.

The advantages of the Vermeer technology are numerous:

  • Access areas of surface mines where drilling and blasting cannot be done due to local regulatory restrictions placed on the use and storage of explosives
  • Reduce noise, dust and vibration compared to drill and blast
  • Produce a smaller, more consistent particle size, helping to eliminate the primary crusher step
  • Use the Terrain Leveler SEM for haul road construction and maintenance
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Vermeer machine helps with disaster recovery

Vermeer uses the T1255III Terrain Leveler® surface excavation machine (SEM) in the recovery process after the 2018 tornado in Pella.


T1655 Commander® 3 Terrain Leveler SEM

A worldwide network of experts to help you get the job done

The surface mining industry is a key facilitator of worldwide growth. Whether it’s in the extraction of raw materials that serve as the building blocks of modern life or through job creation, mining plays an integral part in building our tomorrow.

In a highly regulated industry with exacting standards, our customers require an equipment partner who is deeply invested in their success on the jobsite and beyond. After 50 years of success in rock cutting, Vermeer understands your need to deliver commodities competitively.

Unique technology designed specifically for surface mining, quarry, site prep and civil construction operations brings more precision and production to excavation projects. Precision surface mining, as developed by Vermeer, puts more control in the operators’ hands for precise, high-production material extraction.

From production to building the infrastructure required to support a large-scale mining operation, the Vermeer portfolio of equipment and support solutions gives you the confidence to be more productive.

Getting smarter about rock

Surface mining material is a very precise process. Knowing what you can about the material’s hardness and abrasiveness allows a more precise estimate of production and cost per ton of various types of rock.

In early 2006, Vermeer set up a state-of-the-art rock mechanics laboratory at its facilities in Pella, Iowa, USA. Using computer-controlled equipment provided by GCTS Testing Systems, Vermeer has tested rock from all over the world to build a database of rock properties. Tests include the unconfined compressive strength (UCS), abrasivity (Cerchar Abrasivity Index), indirect tension (Brazilian Test) and density. The lab has tested over 7,500 rock samples from over 700 locations around the world.

In some rock types, Vermeer has found that standard UCS hardness does not accurately predict machine production performance. Some rocks are soft but more difficult to cut, and others are hard but less difficult to cut than may be expected. Vermeer has developed its own energy-based test to help predict this behavior.

Determining rock properties is only part of the picture. Experts from Vermeer not only test the rock in-house, but also go out into the field to understand how our machines perform in that rock. Terrain Leveler SEM’s have been used on numerous sites where the instantaneous production rates and tooth wear were measured and compared to the Rock Lab results. This has enabled correlation of rock properties with estimated production rates and abrasivity.

Your local Vermeer dealer will assist you in working with the Rock Lab, including sending in core samples from your jobsites and receiving the results. Utilizing a Vermeer-developed solutions calculator, the results from the rock tests can help identify if the Terrain Leveler SEM may be right for your operation by estimating production rate and cost of operation/ownership.

Contact your local Vermeer dealer to submit a rock sample.


Benefits of utilizing the Terrain Leveler SEM include:

  • Tilting capability allows you to produce a controlled floor
  • Optional grade control allows you to control your cut depth, helping optimize production rate
  • Top-down cutting allows you to control product size and helps increase production rate while putting more horsepower to the cutting teeth
  • Optional vacuum dust suppression system helps reduce the amount of dust entering the air
  • Highwall capabilities up to a 90-degree vertical with the chain drive attachment
  • Operating cab with Falling Object Protective Structure (FOPS) and Rollover Protective Module (ROPM)
  • Pressurized cab with air-ride seat improve operator comfort
  •  TEC® Plus with SmartTEC computer-aided control system helps improve efficiency and track machine productivity
  • Common operating platform across all models
  • Work comfortably on cross slopes and ramps
  • Rear-mounted drum allows easy access for changing teeth
  • Two-track system allows machine to counter-rotate a full 360-degrees for enhanced maneuverability
  • Caterpillar® engines allow for worldwide support
  • Hydrostatic direct drive allows more efficient power transmission and built-in cutting drum stall protection for ease of operation and transmission protection

Dust suppression   Grade control   Haul roads   Highwalls   Control system   Top-down cutting


Continuous dust suppression system helps reduce amount of dust entering the air

In mines, quarries and civil construction sites, dust is a challenge due to urban and air quality concerns. An optional dust suppression system on the Vermeer Terrain Leveler SEM features an enclosed cutting head with two large vacuums continuously pulling dust from the enclosed cutting head into baghouses. The collected dust is purged, helping reduce the amount of dust entering the air. This continuous vacuum system eliminates the need to source water for dust control. When compared to water spray systems, it also helps increase productivity because you do not need to constantly stop the machine to fill the water tank. In addition, depending on the ore chemistry, a water spray system may not be an option on certain jobsites.


Grade control technology available on Terrain Leveler® surface excavation machine (SEM)

Contractors that use a Terrain Leveler SEM for surface mining, haul road construction and site preparation now have the option of adding grade control, which can improve cutting accuracy.

Grade control, coupled with a patented tilting head, allows the machine to freely and precisely follow ore bodies in three dimensions and engineered plans.

With this technology, you have the ability to control the cutting depth. Controlling the cutting depth helps increase the production rate, produces a smooth, designed floor and allows for better control over product size.

Vermeer has worked with Trimble, a global leader in grade control technology, to design Trimble Ready machines which is available on the T1255III and T1655III Terrain Leveler SEM’s. Trimble Ready machines are equipped with basic harnessing and mounting points for a Trimble GCS900 system. Other manufacturers’ grade control systems can also be used on Terrain Leveler SEM’s.

Laser grade control Laser grade control has a simple setup and is most often used for flat or sloped floors. It allows you to control cut depth to help improve productivity.

GPS grade control GPS technology can be used to create a detailed plan. A company starts by conducting a GPS survey of the jobsite; that information is given to a designer who creates a plan and that plan is uploaded to the GPS system on the Terrain Leveler SEM. The operator selects that plan, and the GPS system controls the cutting depth.

GPS auto steer This is currently only available on the T1255III direct drive Terrain Leveler SEM. When equipped with a Trimble dual-antenna GPS auto steer system, the machine can follow a straight line to provide greater accuracy on each cutting pass. The optional Vermeer auto steer system provides a cutting overlap as determined by the operator or surveyor, helping enhance productivity with each pass.


A new approach to haul roads

The haulage process starts with loading at the blast face or pit floor and ends at the stockpile. It’s hard to overstate the importance of a haul road to a surface mining operation, as truck haulage costs can account for a significant portion of surface mining expenses.

In haul road construction, the traditional method is to import material to the road site. A fleet of equipment is necessary in this traditional approach, including shovels or wheel loaders and haul trucks to move material to the road construction site, bulldozers, graders and other support equipment. Once a road is complete, maintenance and dealing with water can be major ongoing issues.

The Terrain Leveler SEM can build or reconstruct the road and produce a smooth pit floor by utilizing GPS that allows the machine to cut to grade. This smooth floor allows reduced wear and tear on the haul trucks and increases transport speed. As the graph above shows*, average truck speed was increased by 3.9 km/h (2.4 mph) at this particular mine site. This allowed the trucks to increase their productivity, decrease maintenance costs and potentially reduced the number of haul trucks needed on site.


Constructing highwalls

Creating a steeper highwall in a pit expands the amount of mineable material in a surface mine or quarry at its outer boundaries. With the chain drive Terrain Leveler SEM attachment, you can cut up to a 90-degree highwall. With the single-sided direct drive Terrain Leveler SEM attachment, you can cut up to an 80-degree highwall. The dual-sided direct drive Terrain Leveler SEM attachment can cut up to a 45-degree highwall.

In the picture shown above, the highwall was a cut with the single-sided direct drive attachment. This job was to cut in a road through the rock. The road width and elevation were determined by the jobsite engineer, and having the ability to cut a highwall for this job helped reduce the amount of material that needed to be cut and handled to get the road width and elevation required.


Muscle and brains: a tough machine with the intelligence to match

SmartTEC performance monitoring assists operators with adjustments to machine controls to help improve efficiency. The system offers guidance on how to efficiently operate the machine on a consistent platform across all machine models by utilizing on-screen visual prompts.

SmartTEC performance monitoring also tracks the operational performance of the machine. Performance history is recorded, including individual operator history, for analysis by the machine owner or fleet manager. SmartTEC screens also offer a clear, easy-to-read display and shows what the operator needs to do to improve control and production.

The screen on the left shown above is what the operator sees while the machine is running. The middle screen is an example of prompts given to the operator to help optimize performance. These prompts can include shift up, shift down, increase ground drive lever, etc. The screen on the right is an example of a performance monitoring screen that shows machine usage.

This intuitive, easy-to-read platform takes the guesswork out by giving management an indication of how their operators are performing. Now you no longer just have to look at the production rate, fuel consumption or tooth usage – with SmartTEC you can see a much larger picture that allows you to effectively evaluate operator performance.

You can view SmartTEC screens in the cab of the machine and download all SmartTEC screens for offsite visibility and evaluation.

Vermeer also offers a telematics platform known as Vermeer Fleet Edge. Vermeer Fleet Edge is integrated with SmartTEC performance software which allows a contractor to monitor the results from both a fleet and operator perspective. The machine transmits data through a cellular signal where it can be accessed by customers through cell phones, computers or tablets – in the office or on the go.


Cutting edge technology

Vermeer developed top-down cutting. As the machine travels forward, the drum rotates in the same direction as the tracks which allows the cutter teeth to gain penetration without using the machine’s tractive effort to drive the teeth into the material.

Because of top-down cutting, more horsepower is delivered to the cutting drum rather than expended on the ground drive. This results in increased production rate for the same horsepower.

As the material is cut, it has less contact with the drum. This leads to less wear and tear on both the drum and cutting teeth compared to up-cutting. As contact is made, the top-down cutting action of the teeth creates a more consistent-sized product which can be affected by increasing or decreasing the depth of cut – resulting in smaller material or reduced fines. Top-down cutting allows for cutting harder materials than competitive methods which cut in an upward direction.




What is a Terrain Leveler® surface excavation machine (SEM) used for?

Put this machine to work in your surface mine, quarry or civil construction application

Whether you’re prepping a site for civil construction, surface mining or extracting aggregates from a quarry, the Terrain Leveler SEM can help you be more productive.

This machine allows surface mines to separate different grades of valuable material from the waste and also helps eliminate the need for a primary crusher. It also helps produce a smooth, consistent floor which can reduce wear and tear on hauling equipment.

Surface Mining    Quarry    Civil construction

Utilizing a Terrain Leveler SEM in a civil construction application allows you to cut to grade and have a usable product.

Transporting product in a quarry can be costly and logistically challenging. This machine helps produce smaller, more consistently sized product and may allow you to access reserves otherwise inaccessible due to existing infrastructure and urban encroachment.

Surface Mining

Aiding in the reduction of drilling and blasting and primary crushing are only the beginning of the benefits accrued from precision surface mining. Reduced shock, vibration, dust and noise from precision surface mining enables operations to take place closer to roads and existing structures than would be permitted by drilling and blasting.  

The advantages of the Vermeer technology are numerous:

  • Produce a smaller, more consistent particle size
    • Help eliminate the primary crusher step
    • Help reduce fines to increase usable product
    • Use the Terrain Leveler SEM in heap leach applications
    • Increase payload in mine trucks over drill and blast material
  • Separate chemistries from waste
  • Increased access to areas of surface mines where drilling and blasting cannot be done because of physical or permit limitations
  • Use the Terrain Leveler SEM for haul road construction and maintenance
    • Help increase haul truck speeds
  • Produce a smooth floor to help minimize wear and tear on mine trucks and loaders
  • Potential to work next to power lines, pipelines, urban areas and other existing structures
  • Mine reserves that otherwise may be left behind

Quarry Application

An issue for quarries is transporting product – it’s expensive and logistically challenging. Most of these products are used for building materials, so the goal is to locate quarries near where road and other construction projects occur. This is typically in urban areas, which is becoming an even bigger concern for mining companies because of increasing regulations on drilling and blasting methods due to environmental and safety concerns, especially in highly populated areas. One solution is the Terrain Leveler SEM.

Benefits of utilizing a Terrain Leveler SEM in a quarry application include:

  • Produce more consistently sized material and leave a smooth floor which makes loading and transporting more efficient
  • Help reduce the need for a primary crusher
  • Help reduce the amount of dust entering the air with an optional dust suppression system
  • Work around water tables with reduced risk of fracturing the layer between the floor and water table
  • Access reserves on a slope utilizing the tilt head
  • Work around restrictions placed on quarries, such as minimum distance to roads, utilities and buildings
  • Mine reserves that may otherwise be left behind to help extend the life of the quarry
  • Help get the quarry to market faster

Civil construction

For a civil construction contractor, deadlines are everything. In the site planning phase, a Vermeer Terrain Leveler SEM is a solution to get your job done more efficiently.  

Designed for site preparation, soil remediation, road demolition and construction, the Terrain Leveler SEM offers fewer restrictions and permit requirements than using explosives. This helps reduce the need for supporting equipment and produces a smooth working surface for easier loading. This leads to less wear and tear on the loading and hauling equipment. All this helps increase efficiency and productivity.

Examples of civil construction projects include:

  • Cutting canals and building islands, foundations for buildings, retention ponds, water spillways and golf courses
  • Developing new communities
  • Reclaiming mines
  • Lowering tunnel floors
  • Highway and runway demolition

Benefits of utilizing the Terrain Leveler SEM in a civil construction application include:

  • Create a near-vertical highwall
  • Create square corners
  • Machine low center of gravity provides stability and maneuverability on uneven jobsite terrain
  • Produce a usable product for backfilling and road bedding
  • Work next to existing infrastructure
  • Produce a controlled floor in 3D with tilting head





Vermeer Glossary Terms for Terrain Leveler Surface Excavation Machines (SEM’s)

Surface mine – a pit or excavation in the earth from which mineral substances are taken (an ore deposit)

Precision surface mining – uses continuous surface miners to excavate the mineral deposit, can provide an efficient, cost-effective alternative or complement to drilling and blasting

Terrain Leveler® surface excavation machine (SEM) – Vermeer precision surface miner

Heap leach – an industrial mining process to extract precious metals, copper, uranium, and other compounds from ore via a series of chemical reactions that absorb specific minerals and then re-separates them after their division from other earth materials

Road demolition – breaking up any road surface

Quarry – an open excavation usually for obtaining building stone, slate or limestone

Water table – the highest underground level at which the rocks and soil in a particular area are completely wet with water

Primary crusher – first step in the crushing process.

Civil construction – segment of the broader construction industry focused on building core infrastructure like pipelines, telecommunications, sewers, water treatment systems, highways, roads, bridges, subway tunnels and light rail transit lines.

Usable product – what is created by the Vermeer Terrain Leveler SEM

Controlled floor – results from grade control

Site prep – preparing the ground for processing

GPS – Global Positioning System

Grade control – ability to control the cutting depth to produce a designed floor

Haul road – road inside a mine or quarry to transport product from the mine face to the stock pile

Highwall – the edge of a mine or quarry

Top-down cutting – a style of cutting where the cutter tooth engages the ground from the top of the surface

Hydrostatic transmission – uses a variable displacement pump driving a variable or fixed displacement hydraulic motor to power the cutting head and the tracks.

Tilting cutting head – this patented technology aids production by keeping the drum level and allows you to use grade control systems more effectively

USC – Unconfined compressive strength tests rock hardness

Abrasivity – wearing or tearing away of particles and material from the solid surface; this is measured using the Cerchar Abrasivity Test

Density – the degree of compactness of a substance

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