Tag Archives: FLANDERS

FLANDERS reflects on 75 years of innovation in electric rotating machines

FLANDERS, a global provider of engineered solutions for the mining, mills, oil and gas, power generation, utilities, and energy markets, is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022/23 with, it says, activities highlighting the company’s history and plans for the future.

Beginning in 1947 as a small motor repair workshop, the company has grown into a global leader, specialising in the distribution, service, repair, design and manufacturing of electric rotating machines, it says. It now boasts products and services like artificial intelligence-powered-condition-based monitoring, custom controls, systems integration, and automation for the industry’s largest and most demanding applications.

Frank Flanders started the company in May of 1947 in Evansville, Indiana, and, in 1962, Roy Patterson and Bud Havens purchased Flanders Electric Motor Service Inc. The Patterson family held sole ownership until recently, with family members, including grandfather, father, mother, and sons, holding key leadership roles throughout the decades.

Center Rock Capital Partners purchased the company in March 2021, with the acquisition forming part of a broader initiative to serve heavy industry and mining with electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic services – focused on a “whole of service” offering to our clients, helping them lower their operating costs.

FLANDERS now has with 15-plus locations worldwide, supporting over 10,000 customers and employing hundreds of people worldwide in a family-oriented environment.

John Oliver, CEO of FLANDERS, said: “I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished throughout the company’s 75-year history. It takes a great team of employees and partners to get us where we are today. From our legacy products to new engineered solutions, we’ve learned from and evolved with the needs of our global customers. As we look to the next 75 years, we are committed to developing innovative products and solutions to meet our customers’ unique challenges.”

Today, FLANDERS has multiple business streams, including autonomous solutions, control and power systems, distribution, motor manufacture, and repair and services. Each business stream capitalises on solid engineering expertise to help customers solve unique challenges, it says. The company is also investing in green power solutions to protect the environment and solutions that help reduce the cost of operation in heavy industry.

FLANDERS has its headquarters in Evansville, Indiana, and holds more than 1 million sq.ft (92,903 sq.m) of repair, office, and inventory space.

Oliver added: “Built into the FLANDERS ethos is our customer service mindset, we understand that our customers are focused on safety, quality, reliability and productivity, and at FLANDERS as we use that lens to engineer solutions and services that put the customer’s needs at the forefront and going a step further to think above and beyond what can be done to improve the customer experience.”

FLANDERS says it is dedicated to investing in its diverse employee base and innovative technologies, focusing on green power management solutions for another 75 years.

Sandvik and FLANDERS to develop ARDVARC-iSeries drill rig digital interface

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions and FLANDERS have agreed to develop a Digital Interface between FLANDERS’ ARDVARC® Autonomous Drill System (ADS) and Sandvik iSeries rotary blasthole drills.

The development of this digital interface is a direct response to growing customer demand for agnostic automation systems in surface mining, the pair say.

The digital interface will enable the operation of Sandvik rotary drills via the ARDVARC ADS system with no modification to the drill rig, effectively a plug-and-play solution that allows for easy deployment of Sandvik drills to mine sites, FLANDERS explained. This open-architecture approach simplifies the installation and commissioning process while ensuring the customer retains OEM warranty and aftermarket support.

This agnostic approach to delivering digital solutions allows customers to select the value-added solutions that best meet their needs, whether that be the drill or the operating system powering the drill, FLANDERS added.

ARDVARC improves drill productivity by up to 30% and provides a significantly safer working environment for workers operating in complex or hazardous conditions, according to FLANDERS.

With its autonomous operating technology, FLANDERS helps its customers pro-actively optimise drilling and increase plant availability. The introduction of autonomous technology at the mine adds significant environmental gains for diesel machines, reducing fuel consumption and CO2 by up to 7.3% compared with a manned operation.

With its autonomous operating technology, FLANDERS helps its customers proactively optimise drilling, improve fragmentation, improve loading and hauling productivity and increase plant throughput.

The first deployment of the FLANDERS/Sandvik Digital Interface is scheduled for the December quarter of 2022 with further deployments being scheduled soon after that.

Sandvik in its statement says it “will continue to develop and support AutoMine® Surface Drilling solutions for remote and autonomous operation of the full range of Sandvik iSeries drills”.

FLANDERS added that it has signed a deal with Anglo American to incorporate ARDVARC on all new and existing drills at Anglo’s Mogalakwena mine in South Africa, including the recently purchased Sandvik DR410i blasthole drills.

The third (of four) brand new Sandvik 410i drill is currently being converted to an ARDVARC Autonomous system at the state-of-the-art facility in Middelburg, South Africa.

FLANDERS has already deployed ARDVARC Autonomous drills to Mogalakwena, converting Epiroc Pit Viper 271 XC drills.

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 AC system retrofit boosts dragline productivity at BHP South Walker Creek

After retrofitting an aged DC 8050 dragline with a safer AC power system, a multi-dragline coal mine operating in Queensland experienced a major boost in productivity and power efficiency, substantially diminished operating costs and a positive return on the investment within 18 months, FLANDERS says.

In 2018, senior management of BHP’s South Walker Creek coal mine was developing a plan for the DRE28 DC 8050, a nearly 40-year-old dragline on which the DC rotating equipment and DC control system had reached the end of their operating service life. The dragline was still operating with the original Westinghouse DC motors and generators, which had also reached their end of service lifespan.

At a minimum, the DRE28 motors and generators needed to be replaced. They could upgrade to new DC equipment that would maintain productivity for another 25-plus years with similar operating costs. However, the DC system required regular maintenance and was at a high risk of extended periods of machine downtime due to waiting for parts and maintenance techs, both of which were harder and harder to find, FLANDERS says.

Another option was to retrofit the DRE28 with an AC system. AC dragline systems were already known to have safety advantages and reduced maintenance costs compared with DC systems, according to FLANDERS. They also had the same service life expectancy of 25-plus years.

The team decided to move forward with an AC retrofit from FLANDERS. In July 2019, the boom was lowered on DRE28 DC 8050 and the on-site retrofit began. After 90 days, the DRE28 AC 8050 was back online.

“AC systems are designed with safety built in,” FLANDERS said. “Hardware compatibility, simpler and safer operating mechanisms and scalability are benchmarks of FLANDERS’ AC system design.”

One of the key features of the AC system is the unique, easy-to-access drive cabinet designed to replace DC motor-generator sets, FLANDERS says. Water-cooled semiconductors remove heat, so the cabinets keep parts protected from debris. This results in a substantial reduction in noise, dust, heat, and rotating parts, and reduced exposure of employees and maintenance technicians to these safety hazards associated with DC systems.

The drive cabinet also eliminates the need for on-site machining to blow out dust, balance parts, clean brushes and other regular maintenance DC systems require.

AC hoist/drag motors

The 690 V AC hoist/drag motors are designed to fit in the same size box as the DC motor, with the same footprint, allowing for easy drop-in installation. No modification to brakes, gearing, or coupling is necessary. Class H insulation and high-output blowers help the motors safely produce a 25% higher kilowattage than the DC motor can achieve.

Arc flash safety system

The FLANDERS AC system design mimicked the DC design in generating low- and medium-voltage interactions. The motors and drive cabinet have a category zero arc flash rating, requiring little intervention with specialists or the need to manually isolate systems within the machine.

There are several systems in place to ensure safety from arc flashes:

  • Metal doors safely hide high-power components, and all doors use Fortress Interlocks to ensure appropriate isolation of high-voltage before access is gained;
  • Electronic control boards can be separated into low voltage panels, nullifying the need to access high-powered areas;
  • Arc flash optical relays installed in each drive cabinet monitor for arcs and trip high-voltage VCBs to reduce potential energy below arc venting requirements; and
  • Fast-acting fuses are located on a) the secondary drive transformer and, b) bridge cabinets feeding to drive line-ups, and the DC bus in drive line-ups.

Ground fault detection

The built-in Bender IRDH265 Ground Fault Monitor eliminates the risk of electric shock, providing a system shut down override at the sign of a catastrophic event. Each drive line-up has a manual ground fault test function to supplement the auto test function of the Bender. This allows electricians to manually verify functionality of the ground fault monitoring system, FLANDERS explained.

The system is programmable logic controlled, which prevents the circuit from operating while the drive is in operation.

Opportunities for optimisation

Where the DC commutator is limited in output, AC capability is expanding and growing for draglines. There is still potential to be unlocked by analysing machine data and implementing optimising upgrades, according to FLANDERS.

AC conversion delivers results

From September 2019 through June 2021, the DRE28 AC 8050 operated at the previous DC 8050 electrical, mechanical and structural settings. In July 2021, after system optimisation, the AC 8050 surpassed the limits of DC 8050 machines, reaching output levels closer to the 8200 DC draglines models, and continued to bank gains in reduced maintenance costs, increased productivity and improved energy efficiency.

A side-by-side comparison of DC and AC dragline operations over 12 months and including three months of data reported after the July 2021 upgrades, shows the results.

The DRE28 AC 8050 is – operationally and electrically – the safest dragline in its fleet, according to FLANDERS, with the drive cabinets and motors maintaining a category zero arc flash rating since installation.

“The overwhelming response from our client was related to the safe and easy operation of the AC system,” Owen Uebel, Strategic Business Development Manager for FLANDERS, said. “Operators were vocal with management about the improved work conditions.”

In terms of productivity, the low-maintenance design of DRE28 AC system has resulted in reduced machine downtime and proportional gains in machine availability. A twelve-month comparison study confirmed that, compared with the DC 8050, the AC 8050 moved an additional 2 million bank cu.m (BCM).

With the July 2021 optimisation, the AC dragline is expected to reach a minimum of 15 million BCM annually in 2022, setting a record for this mine.

An independent study confirmed an 11% boost in power efficiency over the DC 8050 dragline over an operating period of January 1 to December 31, 2020, meanwhile.

“As previously mentioned, one of the major benefits of the AC system is its scalability,” FLANDERS said. “The 2021 optimisation increased the system’s peak power, resulting in a 4.5 second reduction in cycle time with no additional structural or mechanical stress on the machine. This finding was verified independently by MineWare reports and outside consultants.”

The AC system’s solid-state components have substantially reduced the amount of mechanical wear on dragline parts, extending savings across the lifecycle of the machine, according to FLANDERS. Maintenance costs are down over 55% on average (and potentially upwards of 65% based on available data since July 2021 upgrades).

Additionally, the AC dragline’s efficiency translates to 4.5 kilotons of CO2 offset, with major implications. To put that into perspective, at a global price of $200 per ton, that’s $450,000 annually and $900,000 over the two years of this study.

The AC retrofit achieved a return on investment within 18 months of being online, making it the lowest-cost pre-strip solution on the market, according to FLANDERS.

As of October 2021, the mine’s overall electrical and mechanical maintenance expenditures bottom line decreased by 60%.

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.

Rolls-Royce and FLANDERS sign MoU to develop hybrid mining truck retrofit kits

More details have emerged on Rolls-Royce and FLANDERS Electric’s plan to develop a retrofit solution for hybridising mining trucks with mtu engines, batteries and hybrid control systems, and FLANDERS drive train solutions at MINExpo 2021 this week.

As IM revealed last month, Rolls-Royce has been working on concept of a hybrid drive system for mining trucks, with  FLANDERS Inc power electronics and controls to be used for retrofits.

The two companies have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding enabling them to offer a scalable retrofit kit for hybridising mining trucks in a wide range of mining applications.

With its brand mtu, Rolls-Royce says its business unit Power Systems is a leading provider of advanced integrated and sustainable power solutions for a wide variety of applications, including mining equipment. FLANDERS, meanwhile, develops and sells electric motors and generator systems, as well as automation and control systems for heavy industrial applications.

The companies plan to leverage their extensive experience to offer customers hybrid solutions that aim to save fuel and reduce the CO2 footprint of mining trucks as well as optimising vehicle power performance and efficiency, enabling more climate-friendly and safer mining operations, they say.

John Oliver, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Flanders, said: “Improving our customers’ operations, lowering their costs while enhancing their energy footprint, is a win for the mining industry and for the environment as a whole. We are excited to partner with Rolls-Royce Power Systems to deliver an industry leading hybrid power solution that will help our customers achieve their energy or carbon reduction goals.”

Scott Woodruff, Vice President for Mining and Oil & Gas at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, said: “We are excited to shape the mining industry’s sustainable future together with Flanders and further leverage our advanced hybrid technologies, which are already proven in the rail industry. Together we will offer our customers integrated, future-oriented, hybrid solutions.”

The mining truck hybrid concept recovers braking energy, using the mtu EnergyPack battery system. This energy is then fed back to power the wheel motors, allowing the diesel engine to be downsized. The smaller engine reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 30%, helping mining customers to achieve their emissions reduction targets, while optimising their operations, it says. The hybrid concept also includes the DC/DC converters which interface the battery system with the DC link of the truck. The system is highly modular and scalable for trucks of any size, working anywhere in the world, according to Rolls-Royce.

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.”

Anglo’s Dawson coal mine shifting to semi-autonomous mode with help of FLANDERS

After months of preparation, Anglo American’s metallurgical coal business in Australia has drilled a hole at its Dawson mine using a machine remotely operated by a controller some 4 km away.

The overburden (OD14) semi-autonomous drill is the first in the business’ fleet to be fitted with this capability, Anglo said.

“This is a significant step towards Future Smart Mining™ at Metallurgical Coal,” Matt Graham, Anglo American’s Principal, Open Cut Technology and Automation, said.

The introduction of the semi-autonomous drill brings a number of benefits, including safety improvements, increased productivity, and a reduction in shift change times, according to Anglo. This is especially relevant somewhere like Dawson where the operation spreads across 50 km.

The project team received guidance from colleagues in other parts of Anglo including its copper business in Chile and Kumba Iron Ore in South Africa. There are 12 drills currently in use across the group, Anglo said.

“They worked with electrical control system supplier, FLANDERS, and Dawson’s maintenance and engineering team to upgrade the drill system’s on-board computer, sensors, and new safety devices,” Anglo said, adding the information management team also upgraded the mine’s Wi-Fi network to ensure connectivity.

Dieter Haage, Head of Mine Modernisation on Anglo’s technical and sustainability team, said applying technology in this way is “how we modernise our approach, and the Dawson mine has taken an important first step on this journey”.

Work will continue on the OD14 while the team focuses on automating the drill rod changing process, Anglo said. Once this is complete, the team will explore opportunities to upgrade other drills in the metallurgical coal fleet.