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.