Tag Archives: blasthole drilling

Ausdrill commissions automation-ready Cat MD6250 drill at Boggabri

Ausdrill says it has just commissioned the first of four new Caterpillar MD6250 drills at the Boggabri coal operations in New South Wales, Australia.

The machine has been successfully commissioned on site four weeks ahead of the contract start date, according to the Perenti company, with the help of the WesTrac team at Tomago, NSW.

These M6250 drills come with the next level of drill automation and driller assist, Ausdrill says, including one touch auto levelling and auto drilling functions combined with Cat MineStar Terrain for drilling to improve safety, productivity, reliability and accuracy.

Back in February, Perenti reported its Surface Mining Industry Sector Group had been awarded A$155.5 million ($113 million) in new and extended contracts. This included a three-year contract (with options to extend) for production drilling services with Boggabri Coal Operations (a part of Idemitsu Australia Resources Group) at Boggabri.

The MD6250 is designed for both down-the-hole drilling in hard rock and rotary drilling in softer rock. The blasthole drill carries out single-pass drilling and multi pass, as well as angle drilling, according to Cat.

MACA is currently running an MD6250 at the Bluff coal mine, in Queensland, while AngloGold Ashanti Australia, with support from Flanders and Tropicana Mining Alliance partner, Macmahon Holdings, now has five autonomous Cat MD6250 drill rigs as part of its drilling fleet at the Tropicana gold mine, in Western Australia. Thiess, Cat and WesTrac have also introduced an MD6250 drill rig with autonomous drilling capability at Mount Pleasant, in New South Wales, in a phased 12-month pilot project.

Varel becomes Terelion as it refocuses on mining sector

Varel Mining and Industrial is changing its name to Terelion, as the drilling company looks to focus solely on the mining sector.

The new brand will continue to design, manufacture, and deliver quality drill bits and complementary products for its blasthole drilling clients around the world, it said. Terelion is headquartered in Carrolton, Texas, USA, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sandvik Group.

“With the recent sale of their oil and gas division, Terelion has developed a new business strategy allowing them to focus solely on the mining industry,” the company said. “While rotary drill bits and down-the-hole products for surface mining will be the core part of their business, drill bits for water well, construction, and other industrial applications will also be included in the Terelion portfolio.”

Terelion’s President, David Harrington, said: “Terelion will continue to build on the proud heritage of the Varel brand. Refining our product line allows us to strengthen our R&D and marketing efforts, while continuing to supply world-class products and services for our mining customers.”

With an established presence in all the major surface mining markets around the world, the company is already well placed to serve its global customer base, it said. The company said it is looking forward to a phase of dynamic expansion, innovation and collaboration with stakeholders.

Mineral Resources achieves Aussie first with new gen Epiroc blasthole drill rig

Mineral Resources Ltd says it has become the first company in Australia to start up Epiroc’s new generation SmartROC D65 drill rig.

The updated SmartROC D65 delivers high-quality blast holes with accuracy and precision and is loaded with smart features such as automated drilling and rod handling, according to the miner and technology and service provider. It also uses less hydraulic oil than previous versions and has fewer hoses and pumps. This helps to reduce costs and makes servicing easier, while increasing sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of the rig, Minerals Resources says.

Back in October 2019, Epiroc’s Kris Thomas, Product Manager – SED at Epiroc Australia, told IM that Australia was the first big target market for this new rig, with the new model already having been put forward in several major tenders, particularly in the Western Australia iron ore industry.

Mineral Resources’ own portfolio of iron ore assets comprises numerous known deposits and highly prospective targets across two of Western Australia’s premier iron ore provinces – the Yilgarn and the Pilbara.

“We decided to bring our drill and blast function in-house to enable greater agility, innovation and optimisation,” Mineral Resources said. “We’re always looking at ways to reduce our environmental footprint, not only with the work we perform but also in our choice of equipment.”

Having the new drill rigs on site allows for further efficiencies, the company says, as a platform drill is no longer required to drill up to 229 mm blastholes.

“By being more efficient in everything we do means we’ll continue to achieve our aim of being a leading provider of innovative and sustainable mining services and a low cost mining operator,” the company concluded.

Mining3’s ‘Top of Coal’ tech heads for commercialisation with CR Digital pact

Mining3’s “Top of Coal” technology is heading for commercialisation after the company signed an agreement with CR Digital for the next phase of the innovation’s development.

The announcement comes on the back of promising new results delivered from the most recent trial in the Bowen Basin of Queensland, where the technology was tested over 12 weeks and collected downhole data from over 250-plus boreholes, the companies said.

“Accurately detecting the approaching top of a coal seam prior to blasting is fundamental to efficient coal recovery,” Mining3 and CR Digital said. “During the extraction stage, a significant percentage (up to 12%) of overall coal loss is attributable to blast damage and coal dilution, which then makes it difficult to separate the coal cleanly from the waste during both overburden excavation and coal processing. By eliminating the damage done to the top of seam, substantial increases in recovery are enabled.”

With support from ACARP, Mining3 has been developing a measurement while drilling (MWD) system that detects the top of a coal seam while routinely drilling blast holes.

During the drilling process, the detection system uses resistance measurements ahead of the drill bit to detect approaching coal in real time. This method of detecting “Top of Coal” brings significant benefits to surface mining operations, Mining3 says, including:

  • Providing a reliable indication of the approach to “Top of Coal” that will enable drilling to be stopped before touching coal or at a minimum standoff distance;
  • Increase production by reducing damage to coal from blasting; and
  • Strata recognition and mapping during routine blasthole drilling.

The system can also be retro fitted to a standard rotary air blast drill rig.

CR Digital, part of the global CR Group, is now working with Mining3 on the commercialisation of the technology, and the integration of the Top of Coal technology into its technology portfolio.

Together, CR Digital and Mining3 see potential for the technology to be an extension to the Thunderbird 1110 and StrataSense products within the CR Digital portfolio.

“Collectively, this agnostic range can be retrofitted to any rotary air blast drill rig and is intended to build on the StrataSense capability of CR Digital, to compile a three-dimensional understanding of the bench and coal seam in real time,” the companies said.

Epiroc Pit Vipers pass automation test at Boliden Aitik

To help increase productivity, efficiency, and safety at its Aitik copper mine, in Sweden, Boliden has looked to leverage advances in autonomous drilling.

The mine has plans to raise production at the open-pit copper mine to 45 Mt/y this year, from 36 Mt/y previously.

To meet this target, Boliden needed to increase production from its fleet of five Epiroc Pit Vipers at the operation, the mining OEM said.

“The traditional and obvious solution would be to invest in additional Pit Vipers,” Epiroc said. Instead, Boliden looked to see if utilising automation and operating its fleet with teleremote, and semi-autonomous single-row Pit Vipers, could provide the needed boost.

“One reason to convert to remote and autonomous operations is the opportunity to reduce non-drilling time, increase utilisation and gain productivity,” Epiroc said.

Aitik is one of Europe’s largest mines with a massive pit visible from space, according to the equipment maker.

Peter Palo, Project Manager at Boliden Aitik, explained: “Its depth is 450 m and it has a width of several kilometres, requiring 15-20 minutes of driving time for operators to travel to and from the surface level. There is also a satellite mine even further away. Lunch breaks in production can last for an hour.”

Another factor taken into consideration is the harsh arctic winter climate, with snowstorms and biting cold that reduces visibility, and increases the need for safe workplace conditions. Both Boliden and Epiroc were curious to see whether automated Pit Vipers could handle these conditions, Epiroc remarked.

The first step in this transition was to perform a test with one of the Pit Vipers, converting and upgrading the machine for remote operation.

A meeting room in the mine office building was converted into a temporary control room, and the WLAN in the pit was updated and fortified to increase coverage and bandwidth.

Boliden staff were trained to operate the Pit Vipers by remote control, with the primary key performance indicators yielding positive results, according to Epiroc. On top of this, the Pit Viper automation technology received positive feedback from the operators.

Fredrik Lindström, Product Manager Automation at Epiroc, said: “There’s more to converting to automated operations than you’d think. To enjoy the full advantages of automation, you have to systematically change and improve routines, adapting them to the new processes. The lion’s share of the work involves getting people to change their habits to reach the common goal.

“Boliden has done a tremendous job laying the groundwork for the necessary process changes.”

The next step involved converting the other four Pit Vipers for remote operation while upgrading the first Pit Viper to handle single-row autonomous operation. The automation, in this case, entails the operator initiating the process, leaving the Pit Viper to drill a whole row of blast holes on its own and moving autonomously between drill holes. Once the row is completed, the operator moves and prepares the machine for the next row of holes.

Comparing the semi-autonomous single row Pit Viper with a fully manually operated machine, under optimal conditions, Boliden has measured a utilisation increase from 45-50% to 80%, as well as a 30% increase in productivity, Epiroc said.

Palo said: “We’re very pleased with the results, which is why we’re converting the rest of the Pit Viper fleet to remote operation as a step towards further automation.”

The operators handled the transition to remote operations exceptionally well, Epiroc said, explaining that the onsite operations control system was designed to mimic the Epiroc Pit Viper onboard controls with the same configuration.

Palo added: “We’ve been running by remote for a year now, and everyone is happy.

“Some of the operators were wary about learning to use the technology, but that settled quickly. They appreciate working together in a control room in the office building. It’s a better work environment, easier to exchange experiences and socialise.

“Handling the winter climate was also a cinch, despite heavy snowfalls and low temperatures for days on end. Even the laser-based Obstacle Detection System coped splendidly during snowfall. The automated systems seem to withstand arctic conditions very well.”

acQuire optimises blasthole sampling with new app

Global software company acQuire has introduced mobile blasthole sampling in its latest release of GIM Suite 4.2.

The update extends acQuire’s mobile app to include mobile data capture for blasthole sampling in open-pit mines, it said.

acQuire explained: “The app, called acQuire Arena, gives miners a better way of working when capturing blasthole samples. Samplers and pit technicians can position themselves on the blast pattern, capture samples on simple, user-friendly forms and instantly validate their data at the point of capture.”

This speeds up the time it takes data logged in the pit to become available to downstream grade control processes like modelling and ore blocking, according to the company.

“In the current global climate, where many are affected by COVID-19 restrictions through either reduced or paused operations, it’s becoming crucial for miners to use new technology solutions to their advantage,” acQuire said.

Steve Mundell, Director of Product, said enhancements to the acQuire Arena app extended its data capture capabilities for grade control so pit samplers could work faster and more accurately.

“Miners who are still logging on paper, or using more manual methods of data collection, now have a reliable and modern mobile solution that works in the pit and seamlessly synchronises data back to the central database,” he said.

The acQuire Arena app is purpose-built for GIM (Geoscientific Information Management) Suite, with full integration across desktop, web and mobile, according to the company. “Its modern, user experience designed interface dynamically changes across different device sizes and it is optimised for Android and iOS operating systems, giving geologists more freedom to choose the device they prefer to use,” it said.

The GIM Suite 4.2 software release marks a significant step on acQuire’s technology roadmap, it said. “With greater functionality added across web and mobile, customers will continue to benefit from more and more features introduced in the future,” the company added.

acQuire says it provides geoscience data management software and services for the global mining industry with five offices worldwide and customer support centres operating in each major time zone.

Caterpillar releases new blasthole rig for large-scale mining

Caterpillar says its newest ultra-class rotary blasthole drill rig provides the optimal mix of on-board air, feed force, rotary torque and machine mobility.

Designed for large blasthole production drilling, the MD6380 can deliver a hole diameter range of 251-381 mm, single-pass hole depth of 19.8 m and multi-pass hole depth of 39.5 m, according to the company.

The MD6380 powertrain is designed to efficiently manage loads generated by the compressor and hydraulics, delivering superior fuel economy, Cat says. The compressor is configured with electronic regulation and variable volume air control, allowing the driller to match compressor output with drill tool and application needs. It also lowers standby pressures while the machine is in idle, further improving fuel efficiency.

The MD6380 is capable of pulldown force of 49,895 kg and rotation torque of as much as 20,880 Nm, Cat says, adding that the Cat 3512C diesel engine produces 960 kW and delivers emissions performance equivalent to US EPA Tier 2 and EU Stage II. The powertrain offers extended durability and high availability to help boost use and lower costs, the company added.

Controlled through Cat electronics, the MD6380 has integrated machine protective features and interlocks to help keep operators safe and the machine up and running by preventing potential failures or misuse. Cat Electronic Technician makes troubleshooting quick and easy, the company said. Drill electronics also provide a common platform for the integration of automation solutions.

The MD6380 features a spacious cab that offers superior operator comfort and machine control, Cat says, while an intuitive multi-function joystick controls and touchscreens promote efficient operation.

Display screens are adjustable to suit the driller’s reach and line of sight, and the driller can easily tram from a seated position, according to the mining OEM. “With a full-length driller window, large pane glass around the cab and four standard high-definition cameras, operators have excellent views of key areas,” Cat says.

The machine also features Drill Assist, which delivers automated functions including auto level, auto retract jacks, auto raise and lower mast, and auto drill. The drill depth monitoring system helps to reduce both over- and under-drilling.

The MD6380 incorporates Cat Terrain for drilling, with the MineStar™ technology providing precise hole location, production reporting and strata reporting. Terrain seamlessly connects to Cat Command, offering a path to remote operation and autonomous drilling, Cat added.

“The drill features a best-in-class working envelope with a low centre of gravity and ample approach angles,” Cat claims. These attributes aid manoeuvrability, allowing it to navigate quickly and efficiently hole-to-hole and bench-to-bench.

The Cat excavator-style undercarriage has grease lubricated track pins, positive pin retention and automatic track chain tensioning – all to help the undercarriage deliver extended durability and optimal performance on grades and in tough operating conditions, the company says.

The MD6380 is designed to be rebuilt multiple times for lowest lifecycle costs.

“With parts, maintenance services, condition monitoring and component rebuilds, Cat dealers help ensure high productivity and lowest cost per tonne,” the company said.

CR Digital to tackle fragmentation optimisation with Thunderbird buy

CR Digital has agreed terms to acquire Seattle-based Thunderbird Mining Systems in a transaction that, it says, further expands CQMS Razer’s digital technology division’s product offering, IP, sales/marketing and technical support activities.

Thunderbird founder, John Vynne, and his team have been pioneering measurement while drilling (MWD) technologies since founding the company and have a rich history in drilling technology and guidance for surface mining, CR Digital said.

Damian Assaillit, Head of CR Digital, said: “Thunderbird Mining Systems were highly regarded in the mining technology sector, providing world-leading blasthole drill optimisation technologies to mining customers for over 30 years.”

Vynne added: “There is immense appetite for digital knowledge of drill planning and blast outcomes, and the Thunderbird technology combined with CR Digital’s Load Haul Optimization creates a unique and compelling combination that our mining customers will be able to leverage.

“Thunderbird’s technology is proven to increase mine productivity, reduce drilling costs and improve blasting effectiveness.”

The addition of blasthole drill optimisation and rock knowledge systems reflects a strategic move by CR Digital to expand its product range across fragmentation through to load and haul optimisation, it said.

Assaillit said: “Thunderbird Mining Systems products complement our existing CR Digital product range, including our market-leading Titan 3330™ Load Haul Optimization technology. Optimised fragmentation is a key variable in the productivity of load haul circuits and being able to offer our customers more real-time knowledge is a great opportunity to further enhance mining productivity using technology.”

The Titan 3330 technology uses sophisticated instruments and patented algorithms to calculate and display the payload of each bucket, accurately, in real-time and during motion, before it is dumped into the truck, according to CR Digital.

CR Digital said Thunderbird Mining Systems’ customers will benefit from the enhanced capability of the global CR group, CR Digital’s proactive technical support, the data analytics capability of its Orion platform, and access to a broader technology portfolio providing enhanced value to their operations.

Cat DTH hammers and bits up the ante in blasthole drilling

Caterpillar has introduced its first Cat® down-the-hole (DTH) hammer and bits for blasthole drilling as it looks to speed up penetration rates and reduce drilling costs in difficult conditions.

The new Cat DTH Hammer is 152 mm (6 in) in diameter and is the first to be introduced in the new DTH line. Its valved design provides reliable operation, low air consumption, easier maintenance and cost effective rebuild, according to the company. The piston design, meanwhile, delivers long life and efficient energy transfer.

The new hammer is rated to run with compressed air systems driving working pressures up to 34.5 bar (500 psi). Cat explained: “This additional back-head pressure, when combined with corresponding airflow demanded, generates more blows-per-minute to generate faster penetration rates in the hardest of materials.”

Caterpillar also is introducing bits for DTH drilling. Several different configurations of 171 mm (6.75 in) bits are now available in both standard and heavy-duty versions to allow matching the bit to the rock characteristics and job requirements. The bit selections include a variety of carbide shapes (spherical, ballistic) and face shapes (concave, flat, convex).

“Cat Bits are optimised for high wear resistance and improved rock chipping,” the company says. “The aggressive, long-lasting cutting structure in conjunction with the efficient Cat DTH Hammer delivers a superior rate of penetration.”

Caterpillar’s advanced materials and heat treatment technology used in the DTH products yield longer life and result in lower overall drilling costs in demanding conditions, it says. In head-to-head tests conducted in iron ore and quarry applications, Cat says its hammers and bits demonstrated significantly lower total cost of drilling.

Epiroc lifts the lid on automation success in Q2 results

After many years of automation talk, the mining industry finally appears to be investing in this new technology judging by Epiroc’s latest financial results.

The Stockholm-based company reported record revenue of SEK 10.6 billion ($1.13 billion), alongside a 25% year-on-year operating profit increase to SEK 2,263 million in its June quarter financials, but the most interesting elements from this release were comments from the company on automation.

Epiroc says it is a market leader in automation, connectivity and battery-electric vehicles, with the company noting customer interest in, and demand for these solutions, is growing quickly.

In the quarter, the company launched 6th Sense, its new offering of solutions to enable customers to optimise processes by connecting machines, systems and people using automation, information management and system integration, and to achieve higher production at lower operating costs.

Even though it is early days for this initiative, Per Lindberg, President and CEO of Epiroc, said the company has more than 2,500 connected machines on its books; a number that is rapidly increasing.

“For example, for production drill rigs, the number of connected machines has doubled in the last year. We also see that connectivity is an enabler for increased utilisation,” Lindberg said.

In underground drilling, Lindberg said more than 550 of its drill rigs are equipped for complete automation of the drilling process and, in surface drilling, it has the largest installed base of autonomous rotary drill rigs. On the latter, the world’s first fully autonomous SmartROC D65 down-the-hole drill rig is now operating in Canada, it said.

“Also, the interest in our next generation underground battery-electric vehicles continues to be strong and we received more orders for these machines in the quarter,” the company said.