Goldcorp’s Peñasquito mine seeing benefits of fully-autonomous drilling

Goldcorp says it is seeing the multiple benefits of autonomous drilling at its Peñasquito gold mine in Mexico, with the company set to ramp up the use of this technology in the next few years.

In a site visit presentation, the company said using a fully-autonomous drill solution – where the drill is given instructions that it carries out automatically supervised by an operator in a safe and climate-controlled area – has been beneficial to the amount of metres drilled, the quality of drill holes and safety.

In 2017, Peñasquito pursued the use of automation by fitting two drill rigs with autonomous technology for a trial as it looked to reduce its workforce’s exposure to potential hazards associated with drilling in the open pit.

The company now has multiple rigs installed with this technology. In 2018, it retrofitted two Epiroc Pit Viper PV-351 rigs with autonomous features and it is set to retrofit another two this year, according to the site visit presentation. In 2019, it also intends to bring in two automation-ready Pit Viper PV-271s (pictured), and has another scheduled for delivery in 2020.

These are supervised in a control room where up to 12 rigs can be monitored.

The company’s current drilling fleet includes nine Pit Viper PV-351s, one Pit Viper PV-271 and four Flexiroc D65s, according to the presentation.

On the technology itself, Goldcorp said: “The drill can now operate through blasting and other interruptions, providing opportunities for additional drilling hours.”

In addition to this, the autonomous drills can achieve a consistent higher penetration rate, while improving metres per operating hour and reducing operating costs.

Goldcorp said operating hours per calendar day per drill had increased 25% since the introduction of fully-autonomous drilling, while the metres drilled per operating hour had risen 12%. This has amounted to a 40% productivity gain in metres per day, plus improved fragmentation, it added.

Just this week at an SME Annual Conference & Expo press briefing, Matthew Inge, Business Line Manager, Drilling Solutions for Epiroc, said companies were also achieving significant maintenance benefits from the use of autonomous drilling solutions.