Tag Archives: blasthole drilling

Aquirian buoyed by Collar Keeper System blasthole results in Western Australia

Aquirian Ltd says it has successfully completed the Stage II prototype trial of its Collar Keeper® System (patent pending), a technology designed to improve blasthole quality control across the mining sector.

The Stage II prototype unit was deployed on an existing drill rig operating in a hard-rock gold mining environment in the mid-west of Western Australia, according to Aquirian. The trial successfully tested fitment to existing drill rigs and delivered marked improvements to drilling rates and drill hole quality.

Drilling rates were improved by approximately two minutes per drill hole on a 5 m blast bench during testing, which equates to an improvement of more than 20% over conventional drill methods, the company claims. Further benefit in time savings as compared with a traditional collar piping process is expected to be realised during Stage III testing in December 2021, it added.

The prototype testing was conducted over numerous blast holes, testing system functionality and speed of deployment.

The Collar Keeper System is a combination of Aquirian-developed, retrofittable drilling apparatus combined with its existing Collar Keeper. The technology represents a step change in managing blasthole quality and is targeted to provide a unique solution to a range of different blasting environments with global applications, the company said.

The initial focus for the technology will be on mines operating in Western Australia with smaller-diameter holes in challenging ground conditions, where high-cost collar piping is traditionally used.

“The traditional method of collar piping has not changed in over 40 years and introduces significant hazards as well as cost, time and quality issues, and poor blast outcomes for clients,” the company said. “In addition, the poor blasting outcomes lead to further downstream costs in load and haul, and the processing of mined material.”

The current development focus is targeting around 200 operating drill rigs in Western Australia alone, pending the commercialisation of the technology intended for the 2022 financial year.

Aquirian Managing Director, David Kelly said: “We are excited by the successful trial of our Stage ll prototype last week. The system can be quickly and easily retrofitted to existing drill rigs and the improvements to drilling rates and blasthole quality exceeded our expectations. We will continue trialling the Collar Keeper System in alternate conditions with the aim of commercialisation over the current financial year.”

Epiroc introduces Automatic Bit Changer for hands-free bit changes on blasthole drills

Epiroc has introduced the Automatic Bit Changer (ABC) for hands-free bit changes on Pit Viper 270 and Pit Viper 290 series drill rigs.

The ABC option is designed to change rotary tricone bits faster than manual exchanges and eliminates human interaction with the drill string for a safer way to operate a drill fleet, the company says.

It makes it possible to complete drill bit changes with a single touch of a button, according to Epiroc. This can be done from either a remotely based control room or in the comfort of the cab.

“The ABC option optimises productivity and efficiency of the drilling operation and improves safety by eliminating exposure to live work environments,” Epiroc added.

The ABC carousel can store three rotary tricone bits in varying sizes and cutting structure, for a total of four on-board bits, for flexibility and versatility on a drill site. Unique bit adapters allow the system to safely replace the worn drill bits with new fresh drill bits without exposure to live work.

Epiroc says the ABC is capable of completing a bit change in significantly less time than a manual process for decreased downtime. Time saved by eliminating manual drill changes increases machine utilisation and profitability.

“The Automatic Bit Changer is the next step in autonomous drilling advancements,” Tim Ledbetter, Vice President – Automation R&D, said. “The process of continuously evaluating how to move the industry forward is key to this innovation. We will eliminate live work for our customers with safer, more productive technology, machines and operations.”

Customising a Pit Viper 270 or Pit Viper 290 drill rig with the ABC option offers many benefits for the operator, Epiroc claims. It reduces the possibility of human error, injuries related to heavy lifting, lost time on manual adjustments and accidents.

Eliminating these Live Work tasks is crucial in the mining industry, with several options for Live Work Elimination available for a range of Epiroc equipment.

At the conclusion of field trials, the ABC will be available for new drills and retrofit of drills already in the field, Epiroc says.

Robit’s ‘built to last’ philosophy on show with newest products

Robit has launched two new products that, it says, have been designed to deal with the harshest mining conditions.

Its tubeless range of high-performance down-the-hole (DTH) hammers and the Robit Extreme Carbide are made for environments where wear and tear are a constant factor, the company says.

The new range of tubeless DTH WH TL hammers has been designed to eliminate the risk of foot valve breakages and the resulting operational downtime, according to Robit. Not only has the foot valve been removed to enhance reliability, but the design of the hammers has been further revamped to bring maximal usability in a minimal footprint, making them ideal for both blasthole and energy well drilling applications, Robit said.

The integrated choke system allows for airflow adjustments to suit the compressor and improve flushing, Robit says. The hammers’ inner liner allows optimal airflow and provides improved performance in wet conditions. The piston, itself, has been redesigned for improved strength and optimal performance. The hammers are suitable for ground conditions with high volumes of water or in soft unconsolidated ground, according to the company.

The Dual Property Extreme Carbide, meanwhile, is built to last.

Customer trials conducted in North America showed bit life improvements of over 50% when drilling in highly abrasive ground conditions, making it the ideal choice for blasthole and well drilling applications, Robit claims.

The Dual Property Extreme Carbide has a wear-resistant outer layer that uses the Robit Extreme grade #4 carbide. This is specifically formulated for highly abrasive ground conditions, staying sharper for longer while increasing productivity and reducing the number of necessary regrind processes. Furthermore, the Robit Extreme Carbide has been developed to reduce the overall CO2 impact of drilling and to improve the sustainability of Robit products, the company says.

Under the outer layer of wear-resistant Robit Extreme Carbide, the inner core is made of standard grade #1 carbide. This makes it strong and durable against fracturing, all the while guaranteeing the DTH bit performs at the same high level as Robit standard quality carbides are renowned for once the outer layer has eventually worn away. And for customers that do not re-grind drill bits, preferring to “drill-to-destruction” or “run-to-life”, the Robit Extreme carbide has shown to be even more advantageous, Robit says.

The recently-released Robit Rbit button bit series is also showcasing the company’s sustainability credentials. Made of 100% recyclable steel and finalised with eco-friendly water-based paint, the Rbit is designed to achieve the fastest rates of penetration and lowest cost-per-metre drilling in the company’s range.

All these products will be presented at the company’s MINExpo 2021 booth in Las Vegas, September 13-15.

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.