Tag Archives: ARDVARC

Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to start automation journey with production drill rigs

Glencore’s Compañía Minera Lomas Bayas (CMLB) copper mine in northern Chile is looking to maintain its safety and sustainability standards, as well as increase its productivity and profitability, with a new project to automate two of its Caterpillar drill rigs using FLANDERS technology.

Glencore Lomas Bayas is a low-cost, open-pit copper mine in the Atacama Desert, 120 km northeast of the port of Antofagasta. The low-grade copper ore mined at this facility is processed by heap leaching and converted to copper cathode after processing through the SX-EW plant. The Lomas Bayas operation produces approximately 75,000 t/y of copper cathode.

The first phase in the Glencore digital mining journey at Lomas Bayas will be completed using FLANDERS’ ARDVARC technology and involves automating two Caterpillar drill rigs and providing a dedicated wireless network. The results obtained in the initial phase will provide essential information to continue the journey to full automation of mining equipment across the operation, Glencore and FLANDERS say.

The project is significant as Lomas Bayas will be the first operation to adopt intelligent drill technology globally in Glencore mining operations. Conversion of the Cat drills and wireless network installation is expected to be completed in June 2023.

The ARDVARC Autonomous system has been used for over 15 years, enables advanced functionality through interoperability with fleet management systems and other data acquisition platforms, and is agnostic to original equipment manufacturers, FLANDERS says.

Lomas Bayas’ General Manager, Pablo Carvallo, said: “Incorporating technology into equipment is our response to constant changes that mining operations face; as in the case of Lomas Bayas, where everyday challenges must be dealt with in an even safer and more productive way. We want digital mining efforts to expand over time and educate industry of our learnings and support technology development in our region.”

Lomas Bayas’ Mine Manager, Felipe Bunout, said: “This initiative is in line with our core objectives; to provide a safer environment for our workers and increase productivity in our processes. This technology will allow us to increase the equipment utilisation and the precision of the drilling pattern and improve the quality of the blasting process and the whole process downstream. This initial phase is the first step for Lomas Bayas into mine equipment automation, and we have high hopes that the results will enable us to continue walking down this path.”

This is the first of many Glencore Copper group technological initiatives seeking to modernise, transform and align the business to stakeholder’s requirements and priorities, according to Glencore’s Operational Excellence & Technology Global General Manager, Cristian Carrasco.

Glencore’s Technology Study Manager, Enrique Caballero, added: “We decided to commence the automation program at Lomas Bayas as the operation has shown high adaptability and organisational maturity. Their executive team has a well-built long-term view. The operation vision is strongly aligned with digital mines and technology as a path forward, in which safety, sustainability and their workforce life qualities are part of the pillars.”

FLANDERS Regional Director, Martin Schafer, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Glencore at its Lomas Bayas operation. Given its low grade, CMBL is a compelling business case. To the well-known value, FLANDERS’ ADS solution generates for a mining operation in general, and the drilling process, the relatively short overall implementation time adds a financial dimension that happened to be critical to obtaining the required return on investment. The technology also brings environmental gains.

“ARDVARC autonomous drills have shown a 7.3% reduction in fuel compared to manned drills, which is a reduction of about 1,200 litres of fuel per year, equivalent to 2,966 t less CO2 in the atmosphere.”

FLANDERS’ autonomous control system, ARDVARC, and Command Centre technology is industry-leading, helping mining companies improve drill performance and keep people safe, the company says.

Typically, the ARDVARC system produces increases in productivity by up to 30%, providing greater drill accuracy and the ability for one person to operate up to eight drills. Including technology in the ARDVARC Command Centre (ACC) builds on remote working capabilities to unlock additional value, such as enhancing decision making by integrating functions across the value chain.

Although not a new concept, products like the ACC present an opportunity for Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to re-imagine and reform the mine operations, as remote working becomes imperative to ensuring value and sustainability.

Schafer added: “When fully automated, the drills that we will be converting in Chile will also be safer for workers, who will operate the drills well away from the drill and blast areas. The mission-critical dedicated network and the 24/7 support provided in the scope round-up an extremely reliable solution.”

Lomas Bayas, last year, announced it would become the first user in Chile of Komatsu’s 930E-5 304 t class haul trucks, matching with its existing Komatsu P&H 4100XPC shovels.

FLANDERS boosts performance, stability and usability of ARDVARC Command Center

Drill automation specialist FLANDERS has released what it says is an improved, new-look interface for its Command Center for its flagship product, part of its ARDVARC© autonomous control solution.

ARDVARC has been used in the field for more than 15 years to convert manually operated blast drills to remote operations. In that time, FLANDERS clients have successfully used it to drill millions of blast holes worldwide, according to the company.

According to Katrina Claassen, the UI-UX (user interface-user experience) Designer with FLANDERS, the new version of Command Center offers improved performance, stability and usability.

“We value the feedback we get from our clients and have taken all their concerns into account when designing and developing the new and improved features of Command Center,” she says.

“The feedback from our clients has been instrumental in helping us make sure the Command Center works the way they need it to.”

The many changes include improvements to the GPS map, reduced CPU resource usage, and a new, cleaner look for the overview screen.

Claassen says the new GPS map is uncluttered and informative and runs more quickly and smoothly than the previous iteration. For instance, while the GPS map is loading, the information closest to the drill will load first, so operators get the information they need most without waiting for the whole map to load.

“The GPS screen syncs much faster and loads from the drill outwards, so the user sees what they need to see faster than the previous GPS screen,” says Claassen. “Users now no longer have to use the buttons on the screen to zoom in and out, and they can use the scroll wheel on the mouse, which saves a lot of time for operators.

“One of the other big improvements on the GPS maps is that they can add waypoints more easily.”

FLANDERS also updated the backend processes to increase stability and improve CPU utilisation.

Windows within the Command Center can now run independently, allowing users to close each window separately and no longer have to restart the entire system, while drill cards have been redesigned to maximise space with the overview screen updates.

“Some operators will have eight drills showing on their screen so their drill cards can be small; we made it so they can easily zoom in and out and adjust the size of the drill card,” Claassen says.

As part of the update, there’s also more room for translating information into other languages, such as Spanish or Portuguese.

Claassen says the Command Center upgrade will be available to customers as part of their annual software maintenance.

“Customers can take all the updates FLANDERS releases during the duration of the annual software maintenance period at no additional cost,” she says.

“Clients only incur a fee if they request customised, business-specific upgrades not part of the planned roadmap items.

“If you’re already using ARDVARC, you’ll get the new improved Command Center to upgrade as part of your normal annual software maintenance.”

FLANDERS autonomous drilling solutions start up at Anglo’s Mogalakwena mine

The first FLANDERS autonomous drills are now up and running at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena platinum group metals operation in South Africa, with a third set to start up later this year.

FLANDERS CEO, John Oliver, and VP of International Operations, Willie Van Ryneveld, recently visited the mine in Limpopo, South Africa, where the first ARDVARC autonomous drills are now in operation in fully-autonomous mode.

The first two ARDVARC Autonomous drills were delivered on time and within budget to Mogalakwena, and the third Epiroc Pit Viper 271 XC drill is due to arrive at the FLANDERS South Africa workshop for conversion in May, the company said. The company said the first PV 271 XC drill recently drilled its first hole in fully-autonomous mode.

FLANDERS’ flagship ARDVARC automated drill control systems has been used around the world for more than 15 years, with more than 30 mine site deployments in this time.

The product suite is designed to facilitate customers to scale up automation at their own pace and covers all aspects of drill automation, from semi- autonomous to tele-remote and autonomous operation of a single piece of equipment to multi-machine control and full-fleet automation using Command Centre control capabilities. ARDVARC Autonomous comprises a suite of tools for automating, analysing and optimising drilling production and processes, interconnecting with fleet management systems and other data acquisition technologies.

The company claims operations can achieve productivity gains of up to 30% when employing ARDVARC autonomous solutions by reducing downtime due to human factors such as shift changes and pauses of drilling during blasting operations.

Macmahon, Flanders help automate Cat drills at Tropicana gold mine

The rollout of a A$6 million ($4.3 million) autonomous drill fleet at the Tropicana gold mine in Western Australia is believed to be an industry first for hard-rock mining, according to the mine’s contractor, Macmahon Holdings.

Macmahon says the use of hammer drilling versus the more traditional rotary concept when it comes to blasthole drilling is unique in the hard-rock space.

AngloGold Ashanti Australia (AGAA), with support from Flanders, a technology innovator and leader in autonomous drilling, and Tropicana Mining Alliance partner, Macmahon Holdings, now has five autonomous CAT MD6250 drill rigs and seven manned rigs as part of its drilling fleet.

Mining at Tropicana, which is 70% owned and managed by AngloGold Ashanti Australia and 30% by IGO, is carried out by Macmahon.

The fit out of the fifth rig in August comes only four months after the first rig was commissioned on April 27 and incorporates the ARDVARC drill control system with multi pass and down-the-hole modes to provide seamless operations with the site’s recently-installed long term evolution (LTE) telecommunications network, Macmahon said.

The project was initiated by AGAA Manager: Technology, Martin Boulton, who developed the original project scope before engaging Macmahon to further develop the business case.

He has been integral in developing the roll out schedule and managing the various technical linkages such as running the solution on the Tropicana LTE platform, according to Macmahon. This work led to the project taking out the AngloGold Ashanti Zero HARM (Hazard & Risk Management) Award in 2020.

“The autonomous drill fleet roll out has had many benefits with increased operating efficiency and asset utilisation as the equipment can operate through lightning and inclement weather, explosive detonation and eliminates the need for operator fatigue breaks,” Boulton said.

It also introduces a safer, risk-reduced method in production drilling, increases asset availability and operating efficiency and decreases asset wear, according to Macmahon.

While still early days, the autonomous fleet has already recorded an 8% increase in instantaneous penetration rates compared with the manned rigs, along with a 14% reduction in delay times in June compared with May.

These improvements can be attributed to the rigs’ ability to continue to drill safely during live blasts and lightning storm, while delays have also been removed from water refills and shift changes, the company said.

Tropicana Autonomous Drilling Systems Specialist, Richard Hill, said the autonomous project was testament to the team on site and at Flanders, and had come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

One person (drill controller) can operate up to five rigs from the one console located in the administration building at Tropicana with the automated rigs supported by two ground crew on the pit floor. To date, up to three rigs have been operated from the one console.

With roster changes on a two weeks on and one week off swing, that equates to three crews (with one back-up per crew).

“The plan is to have six drill controllers when fully mobilised, one main controller and a backup per crew,” Hill said.

However, like any new concept, it was not without some early teething problems.

The first was rod feed rates, particularly when it came to transitional ground, but the solution came with development of a new bit chasing logic and the plan is to also develop an automated bit changer that would further reduce delay times, Macmahon said.

Another challenge was managing the autonomous operating zones, which are currently required to run separately from the manned rigs as they were not equipped with collision avoidance software.

“We are working on that now and within the next couple of weeks should be able to incorporate those in the collision avoidance, and that will then increase our production as we will not have to change work areas as often,” Hill said.

Manning has also been an issue in terms of availability of ground crews to support the drill controller, but the role will now be classified as an entry-level position with a clear career pathway progression for new entrants.

Macmahon General Manager Plant & Maintenance, Mark Hatfield, said the company was thrilled with the overall performance of the fleet having achieved full conversion from design to installation and commissioning of the drill and remote operation centre in just eight weeks.

“The Flanders team have worked alongside our people providing specialist support for the duration of the trial on site, and remotely, and will work to provide continuous improvements in the coming months,” he said.

“The system provides an agnostic solution with a customisable capability, with all available drill data providing valuable insights for analysis and improved planning, and importantly, improving site safety conditions for our people.”