Late last year, leading autonomous drilling technology provider FLANDERS embarked on a project to begin automation of the blasthole drilling fleet at Debswana’s Orapa diamond mining operation in Botswana, situated 240 km west of Francistown. The conversion of the first drill to autonomous operation, an Epiroc Pit Viper PV-271, has now been completed, which will also have the distinction of being the first autonomous drill in Botswana.
The conversion to the ARDVARC system was carried out by FLANDERS’ South Africa-based team working closely with local technicians and the Debswana staff at Orapa. It marks the beginning of a new way for the mine to carry out drilling, with operators now monitoring the autonomous rigs from an air conditioned command centre well away from the high temperatures of the open pit itself.
In some online comments on the project, Johan Booysen, FLANDERS’ Senior Operations Manager, based in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa, stated: “Once again, we are pleased to announce that the project was delivered on time and within the expected quality standards. This was only possible through the close collaboration with our valued customer. With the lead of Jackson Moore, SA Product Support Specialist, the team which comprised of South African FLANDERS employees as well as technicians from Botswana, completed the autonomous solution conversion, on time and meeting quality standards.”
A nod was also given to Kane Van Boxtel for flying in from Australia as FLANDERS’ Automation Implementation Specialist for this build, to ensure the command centre and technical setup are completed.
FLANDERS says it has not only executed the conversion of the first autonomous drill in Botswana, but as part of that has up-skilled a number of individuals in Botswana to work with the new technology. This year 2024 is kicking off with the communications link establishment between the drill and the command centre, fine tuning the drill parameters, and of course making the first full autonomously drilled holes in Botswana.
Booysen added: “At the hands of the site’s senior leadership team we are confident that this drill will be a benchmark autonomous drill, considering the excellent mining standards observed. In addition, the mine’s leadership’s change management process was shared with FLANDERS EVP Willie van Ryneveld and GM Hein Grosskopf. We are excited to see the expected performance of this drill become a reality.”