A prototype of Swick Mining Services’ Gen3 E-Rig, the first fully-electric mobile diamond drill rig in the global market Swick says, will soon start testing at a mine site in Western Australia, the ASX-listed contractor reported in its financial year 2021 results.
The company recently established the Future of Drilling ‘Futures’ department to provide clients with “significant ESG (environmental, social and governance) solutions to lower the carbon footprint of drilling and improve safety through automation”.
As part of the division, the company has been building its Gen3 E-Rig, set to reduce the carbon footprint of underground core drilling by around 50% per metre drilled, Swick says.
Swick says the first prototype is set to be tested at a client’s site in Western Australia in October, with the fully proven electric rig set to be available for Swick’s engineering department to “construct in volumes” by the start of its 2023 financial year.
Swick’s Futures department is also developing a remote control drilling (RCD) system to allow drillers to operate rigs remotely through video-linked controls from surface effectively and safely for up to “24 hours a day of productive time”.
The key inputs of the RCD program are automation, surface to underground high speed communication and semi-autonomous rod handling.
The automation software developed in-house has been delivered and optimised during the company’s 2021 financial year and is now ready for application, it says. “Communication architecture” is now available from third parties, leaving the semi-autonomous rod handling as the last key system design to work on.
“Although the benefits of RCD are evident, Swick expects the implementation of RCD to ramp up over time as the mines get deeper and non-productive time increases and the working environments get more challenging for personnel due to temperature gradients at depth,” it said.