The drill and blast team at OceanaGold’s Haile gold mine, in South Carolina, recently added remote technology from Epiroc to its blasthole drilling process.
Haile is the first gold mine in the US to use Epiroc’s BenchREMOTE technology for remote control drilling with two of its three Epiroc drills, according to the miner.
“This technology provides many advantages for Haile’s workforce – no strangers to working in sometimes harsh South Carolina environmental conditions of extreme heat, wind, and rain,” the company said.
The BenchREMOTE system enables operators to work from a safe distance in a comfortable environment, handling up to three rigs in parallel. This technology allows the operator station to be placed up to 100 m away and +/- 30 m in elevation with a line of sight to communicate with the drills. Haile purchased two Epiroc D65 drills, BD7 and BD8, in 2019 compatible with this new technology.
“The BenchREMOTE package includes the operator station only, so installation design is determined at the operator’s discretion allowing for a customisable end product,” the company said.
Haile Drill and Blast General Supervisor, Aaron Kash, worked with ATC Trailers to design Haile’s housing, building the remote station into a fully insulated enclosed trailer.
“When we bought the equipment from Epiroc, I reached out to our local ATC trailer dealer and had them bring up the specs of a similar trailer,” Kash said. “We made a few changes – making it a little longer, equipping it with a bigger A/C unit to withstand the heat, and upgraded the generator.”
Safety is a primary concern any time people are present on a drill pattern with remotely operated drills. Communication, situational awareness, preparation, and warning systems are necessary for maintaining safe operation, according to the miner.
“Perhaps the most significant benefit of the remote drills is the potential for increased productivity,” the miner said. “Now one driller can operate up to three machines at a time, increasing utilisation.”
Another safety benefit is that the remote drill can access areas that may be unsuitable for people to access.
“With the development of the new Haile Pit, we are encountering historic workings,” Kash said. “We may want to drill into an area with little cover to see what’s there, but we don’t want to risk putting somebody physically in the drill.”
In 2020, the Haile gold mine is expected to produce between 180,000-190,000 oz of gold.