Glencore deploys drill autonomy at Antapaccay

Marking a milestone for the Glencore group as a whole, the Antapaccay copper mine in Peru in late 2022 began the process of autonomous blasthole drilling deployment where the equipment is monitored remotely from a control room without line of sight. Currently two drill units are being operated autonomously at the site.

Glencore states that the key participants in this process are the employees involved, who are mostly from the local town of Espinar and thanks to the training they have received, have become the first operators of multi-brand autonomous drills in Peru.

The global diversified mining group adds that the implementation of this technology ensures continuous operation cycles. It states: “It will keep the operators away from the operational areas which is an improvement in operational security measures and optimises the acquisition of real-time data to enhance the performance of the drill.  The control of the high-precision drill optimises the fragmentation of the material during blasting for loading, hauling and crushing processes, while also reducing the cost of production.”

Autonomous drill monitoring at Glencore Antapaccay

“We are proud of the implementation of this initiative, especially, as this marks a global milestone,” said Carlos Cotera, the General Manager of Antapaccay, who highlighted the versatility of the employees that enabled them to transition from a conventional to a highly technologically advanced operation.

Back to the subject of the drills being multi-branded – Antapaccay is using the OEM-agnostic ARDVARC system from FLANDERS. Glencore Copper Manager Technology Fleet Enrique Caballero told IM that the main drivers in selecting ARDVARC were the fact that it is an agnostic solution and is therefore capable of applying autonomy to not only multiple OEM brands but also models.

FLANDERS growing success in South America has also been taken into consideration, first in Brazil and now with customers in Chile and Peru. It also allows Glencore to keep the option of a multi-brand replacement strategy for its drills. Antapaccay currently operates a mix of Caterpillar and Komatsu P&H blasthole drills with a new Epiroc Pit Viper arriving in 2024.

In addition to Antapaccay, in June 2022, FLANDERS announced that it was working with Glencore at the Lomas Bayas copper mine in Chile – this initially involves automating two Caterpillar drill rigs with the conversion expected to be completed in mid-2023. Caballero confirmed that this was well underway and added that ultimately the current plan is to have a total of nine drills automated across the two mines.