Tag Archives: Pit Viper

Antofagasta’s automation and electrification journey bearing fruit

Antofagasta’s purpose of ‘Developing Mining for a Better Future’ has seen the Chile-based copper producer lead from the front in terms of the adoption of both automation and electrification.

The company launched a digital roadmap all the way back in 2017, which, over the following years, has seen it advance projects to automate blasthole drills and haulage trucks, leverage remote operation centres and integrate advanced data analytics into its decision-making process.

Backed by a digitally-literate talent pool and underwritten by a series of roadmap and plans, Antofagasta is setting itself up for the long term.

When it comes to electrification, the company has played a key role in furthering research on the use of hydrogen fuel cells in haulage applications on mine site conditions. It has also signed up as a patron in the Charge On Innovation Challenge, being one of 19 companies looking to accelerate commercialisation of interoperable solutions that can safely deliver electricity to large battery-electric off-road haul trucks.

Outside of consortium projects, it has announced plans to also study and test the development of battery-powered trucks at its Antucoya operation and has outlined plans for a trolley assist pilot project at the Los Pelambres copper mine in Chile.

And, in April 2022, the company reached the goal of all its mines operating on fully renewable power.

Alan Muchnik, VP Strategy & Innovation for Antofagasta, says all of these developments epitomise the company’s overarching aims.

“The objective we have is to develop the next generation of mining practices to enable growth and reduce our company’s environmental footprint,” he told IM.

In addition to the digital roadmap the company outlined five years ago, Antofagasta has been carrying out all its electrification projects under the guise of an Electromobility Plan – part of its wider climate change strategy.

Following the achievement of its previous emissions reduction target of cutting both its Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes of CO2e between 2018 and 2022 – a goal it achieved two years early – the company set a more ambitious target in 2021. This is looking to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 – in line with Chile’s national commitment – and reduce emissions by 30% by 2025, relative to 2020 performance. One element of the company’s efforts to reduce emissions has, as mentioned, seen its operations run solely from renewable energy as of April this year.

According to Antofagasta’s own calculations, in 2020, two-thirds of its greenhouse gas emissions from diesel combustion were attributable to its mine haulage trucks.

Komatsu 980E-5 trucks at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela)

“In this respect, Antofagasta is actively participating in initiatives that seek to replace the diesel used by mining haulage trucks,” Muchnik said.

“As part of that electromobility roadmap, we have considered our participation in early-adoption projects with a view to pilot and scale promising technologies.”

With the HYDRA Consortium – which includes Antofagasta, ENGIE, Mining3, CSIRO Chile, Liebherr and Mitsui & Co – specifically, the company has been one of the driving forces of hydrogen haulage adoption on mine site conditions.

It has confirmed that it will test a fuel cell and battery powertrain propulsion system at its Centinela mine, with the first HYDRA prototype expected to start functional testing shortly. This will allow Antofagasta to assess the powertrain’s behaviour and performance under real mine conditions, including at high altitude with suspended dust. It will also help establish technical and safety protocols for hydrogen use at scale in mining, which will be vital for the fuel’s successful deployment across the industry.

The trolley assist project at Los Pelambres under study, meanwhile, consists of implementing a trolley system on, first, uphill ramps. This will consist of one lane of a two-lane ramp, which will allow for trucks coming behind to leave the trolley and overtake a stopped truck still on the line.

“Some of these projects may bring an early opportunity to transform specific sites as we transition towards the longer-term prevailing solution to implement at our sites and help reduce our Scope 1 footprint,” Muchnik said.

“Each mine has their unique characteristics and different technologies may become more attractive depending on those characteristics or may become complementary in enabling that diesel replacement.”

Of course, automating the haulage and blasthole drilling processes will help the company reduce its Scope 1 emissions through more efficient operations. It will also help offset some of the higher costs of inputs and inflation that come with operating in Chile.

Similarly, all of Antofagasta’s sites have strong data analytics teams to identify opportunities for efficiency gains and continuous improvement.

Reflecting on the gradual rollout of automation across the company’s operations, Muchnik referred to the overarching roadmap the company outlined in 2017.

“This roadmap considered different strategic programs with rollout options that improve productivity and safety, with automation being a relevant dimension,” he said. “It was built on the concept of knowledge transfer to enable other companies of the group to benefit and learn from the experiences at specific sites.”

That has worked from the looks of it, going from Epiroc Pit Viper autonomous drill deployments at Los Pelambres to the rollout of the technology at Esperanza Sur (part of Centinela).

A fleet of 11 autonomous electric drive Komatsu 980E-5 trucks have also gone live at Esperanza Sur over this time frame.

“Another good part of that is the Integrated Remote Operating Centres (IROC) we have setup to support these operations,” Muchnik said. “We recently opened an IROC for Centinela in the city of Antofagasta and, following the same transfer process, Los Pelambres is expected to go live with their IROC here in Santiago, in the second half of 2022.”

Integrated Remote Operations Centre for Centinela, based in the city of Antofagasta

Muchnik says one of the many benefits of the IROCs is the ability to attract and retain talent for Antofagasta’s operations.

“It is not just about bringing in new talent but working with our people to be allow them to move with this transformation and become digitally literate to help us prepare for an autonomous and remotely-operated future,” he said.

An in-house digital academy that Muchnik and his colleagues launched in 2020 has been vital in this process.

“It has enabled a different mindset within our workforce, preparing them for the transition through training and learning.

“This has ensured all of our employees go through the journey with us.”

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.

Epiroc to provide IAMGOLD’s Côté mine with autonomous blasthole drills

Epiroc says it has won a large order for surface mining equipment from IAMGOLD Corp in Canada that will optimise safety and productivity through advanced automation at its greenfield Côté Gold operation in Ontario.

The order includes several Pit Viper 231 and SmartROC D65 drill rigs for the open-pit gold development, which is currently under construction and expected to start production in the second half of 2023. The Pit Vipers will be fully autonomous, while the SmartROC D65 rigs are prepared for remote operation.

The order is valued at approximately SEK130 million ($15.1 million) and was booked in the September quarter of 2021.

“IAMGOLD, a returning Epiroc customer, is taking safety, sustainability and productivity extremely seriously,” Epiroc’s President and CEO, Helena Hedblom, said. “As IAMGOLD is preparing a new exciting mine project, we are proud to contribute to their success with our advanced machines and solutions for autonomous operation.”

IAMGOLD has previously employed different levels of autonomous drilling at its other operations using Epiroc Pit Vipers. It launched the first automated drill rig in West Africa with assistance from Epiroc back in February 2020 at its 90%-owned Essakane mine in Burkina Faso. This followed a series of automation steps carried out on the company’s fleet of Epiroc PV235 blasthole drills, beginning with the ‘Operator Assist’ phase back in 2016.

The Pit Viper 231 and SmartROC D65 surface drill rigs are built to face the toughest conditions while optimising productivity, safety and fuel efficiency, according to Epiroc. Advanced features include Epiroc’s telematics system, Certiq, which allows for automated and intelligent monitoring of productivity and machine performance.

Anglo moves Los Bronces Pit Viper drilling operations to remote operations centre

Anglo American has launched the first Epiroc Pit Vipers operating at its Los Bronces copper mine in Chile to be remotely controlled from its Integrated Remote Operation Center (IROC) in Santiago.

These five drills are the first in Chile and Latin America to be operated from outside the designated mine site, with the company planning to have all five blasthole drills running by fully-autonomous means by 2022, Anglo American Chile said.

All five drills have automatic drilling systems, such as AutoDrill and self-levelling. These features allow the controller to set the target depth of a hole, with the machine automatically drilling, while the self-levelling function results in the machine automatically altering the hydraulics to level the equipment. The rigs are also fitted with a high-precision GPS system with automatic navigation system, which enables the drilling sequences to be carried out after the controller issues the relevant instructions.

The sensors and advanced control systems of this equipment allows the continuation of work routines with minimal human intervention, translating into increasingly safer operations, Anglo American Chile said.

These five rigs in question were previously operated from the Operational Management Room in the Los Bronces mine offices.

The automation initiative is part of a plan for the development and implementation of new technologies for mining at the Anglo American group level, all guided by the overarching FutureSmart Mining™ approach.

“With these innovations, the operation will become autonomous in its drilling cycles, without the intervention of an operator, manually or remotely, turning the operator into a system controller, and making this task much more efficient,” the company said (translated from Spanish).

Anglo has a 50.1% interest in the Los Bronces mine, which it manages and operates.

Epiroc charged up by automation, digitalisation and battery equipment wins

Epiroc’s second ever Capital Markets Day, in Stockholm, Sweden, was an enlightening affair, with the original equipment manufacturer backing up its credentials as a leader in the mine automation, digitalisation and electrification space.

Speakers including Per Lindberg, President and CEO; Helena Hedblom, Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure; Sami Niiranen, President Underground Rock Excavation; and Jose Sanchez, President Drilling Solutions, with all of them reeling off a number of statistics worth highlighting.

For example, the company said around 60% of Epiroc equipment is now being delivered with its rig control system (RCS), a system that on Pit Viper blasthole drills is the next “evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining”, the company recently said.

At the same time as this, 3,400 of its machines have been delivered with “connectivity”, Lindberg said, a transition that is allowing customers to monitor, in real time, elements of a machine’s performance. As recently as the company’s June quarter results release, Lindberg said more than 2,500 machines were ‘connected’.

When it came to automation underground, Epiroc said it had 43 projects on its books, with 600 drill rigs equipped for complete automation of the drilling process; the latter up from the more than 550 Lindberg quoted in the June quarter results.

Epiroc has also seen a 30% increase in utilisation of connected Simba production drills globally, according to Lindberg.

On surface, meanwhile, Epiroc was involved with autonomous and teleremote drilling in 16 countries on five continents, he said.

Among these automation projects were the fully autonomous electric drill at Boliden’s Aitik copper mine, in Sweden, an autonomous SmartROC D65 at Newmont Goldcorp’s Hollinger mine, in Canada, and autonomous Pit Vipers at the leading gold miner’s Penasquito mine, in Mexico.

A map shown by Sanchez also included first remote/teleremote operations in Morocco, Ukraine (see Ferrexpo Yeristovo story), Chile and Papua New Guinea. There was also mention of first autonomous solutions in South Africa (along with a first multipass autonomous operation) and a first autonomous drill in operation in Australia.

And, of course, the company provided an update on its battery-electric solutions, which Epiroc believes will improve health and safety, reduce emissions, lower total cost of operation and improve productivity for its customers.

Lindberg said the company had accumulated 100,000 hours of battery-electric machinery operation to date and, so far, customers had achieved a more than 70% reduction in energy consumption – mainly through reduced ventilation needs.

On the company’s recently-launched Minetruck MT42 Battery, specifically, Niiranen said Epiroc had observed 10% increased productivity through faster ramp cycle time at operations where the machine was being trialled/operating. One of these machines is currently being trialled at Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä gold mine, in Finland, as part of the EU-funded Sustainable Intelligent Mining Systems project (a project Epiroc is coordinator of).

Boliden trials first automated electric drill at Aitik copper mine

Boliden says it has completed a world first with the trial of an autonomous electric Epiroc 351 Pit Viper drill at its Aitik copper mine in Sweden.

The trial ran through the month of March and was part of a three-year staged approach to autonomous drilling in Aitik that started in April 2017, Boliden said. The first part entailed tele-remote drilling, with the results from that setting the stage for stage two; a trial of single line autonomous drilling. “The third stage will evaluate the extent to which a whole pattern can be drilled with an electric autonomous drill,” Boliden said.

The drill, an Epiroc Pit Viper 351, is currently running successfully and achieving 30% increase in productivity compared with the manned equipment (190 m/d), according to Boliden. With the success of the project and positive feedback from the operators, a trial of autonomous drilling on two single passes (as opposed to multi-pass drilling) was expected to be performed shortly. There will also be a test performed with the soon to be commissioned LTE network in Aitik.

The KPIs were to be reviewed at a steering group meeting on May 7 when a decision was expected on whether to approve the investment to upgrade the remaining fleet, which could start as early as October. It is not yet known what the results were.

Shane Leighton, Senior Engineer Technology/Mine Automation at Boliden, said the trial represented a world first using an autonomous electric Pit Viper drill.

“There are a quite a few mines in the world running diesel-powered automated drills; this is the first automated electric 351 Pit Vipers. What we have learned from the trial in Aitik will support an upgrade to the 4 x 271 Pit Viper fleet in Kevitsa to an automated fleet that is scheduled to start in 2020,” Leighton said.

The trial must achieve a number of key performance indicators covering three different areas – safety, production and arctic weather conditions – to move onto a full investment. Currently, only single line drilling uses autonomous mode, the company said.

“Since we have never used this type of technology before, we wanted to be 100% certain that we could be successful before deciding to upgrade our entire fleet of Pit Vipers. The trial addresses that,” Leighton explained.

With regard to the safety, the same call-up procedures will apply when approaching the autonomous drill as for a manned drill. In addition, overview cameras mounted at various locations around the pit will allow the operator to gain a full overview of what is happening around the drill with four cameras located on the drills, Boliden said. A laser-based system for obstacle detection and a proximity detection solution are also new features designed to detect personnel; these will require staff to wear a tag that vibrates when entering the drill pattern.

The project team includes Boliden Project Manager Peter Palo, Niklas Johansson, representing the drillers, Shane Leighton from Technology, and Fredrik Lindstrom, Product Manager for Automation at Epiroc, Boliden’s supplier for the drills and technology. The project was partially funded by Boliden’s Mine Automation department.

Epiroc provides the next ‘evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining’

Epiroc has introduced the fifth generation of its Rig Control System (RCS) on Pit Viper blasthole drills as it looks to equip miners with all of the tools to embrace full automation.

RCS 5 for Pit Viper blasthole drill rigs is the next “evolutionary step toward fully autonomous mining”, the company said upon launch of the system earlier this month at the Bauma fair in Munich, Germany.

Features such as Machine-to-Machine Communication, sharing real-time drill plan updates between drills, Auto Tower Angle and Integrated Camera View advanced awareness are some of the early features introduced, Epiroc said.

“Whether operating from a remote location or on-board the drill, the new and improved RCS 5 intuitive main menu creates a user-friendly experience that ultimately increases productivity. This new design allows the operator to focus on the task-at-hand and switch seamlessly between screens in a well-organised and dynamic environment.”

RCS 5’s new Drill Plan Generator function allows for creation and editing of drill plans on-board the rig or from a remote location quickly and easily, according to Epiroc. The new Drilling Data Screen, meanwhile, features real-time depth and penetration rate feedback with histogram for easy in-hole monitoring.

Tyler Berens, Product Line Manager, Automation at Epiroc Drilling Solutions, said: “We’re excited to continue our automation journey, pushing the limits in sustainable productivity. Launching the RCS 5 platform will allow our customers and partners to further advance their operations, saving valuable time and dollars while increasing predictability and safety with either on board or autonomous operations.

“Autonomous operations began with RCS 4, wait until you see where we take it with RCS 5.”

Autonomous drill rigs, Oyu Tolgoi recognised in Epiroc awards

Epiroc’s first annual awards have recognised close customer collaboration in Mongolia and innovative autonomous drill rigs in Australia.

Its “United in Performance Award” honours exceptional customer collaboration, the company said. This inaugural award is presented to Anders Berglund, Bayar Torguud, Batzorig Jamsranjav and Alf Lawrence at Epiroc’s Customer Center in Mongolia, as well as to mining company Oyu Tolgoi LLC.

“Their far-reaching collaboration is boosting productivity and safety at Oyu Tolgoi’s major copper mine,” Epiroc said. “With the mine located remotely in the South Gobi desert, Epiroc has developed strong local service capabilities, yielding customer benefits such as on-time spare parts delivery. The companies are emphasising safety and diversity and they have successfully worked together to recruit more women as equipment operators and service technicians.”

The Inspired by Innovation Award, meanwhile, recognises Epiroc’s most innovative technical development that has had a proven commercial success.

It has been presented, this year, to Tyler Berens, Tim Ledbetter and Dustin Penn at Epiroc’s Drilling Solutions division, Lars Eriksson at the Rocktec division, and to Adrian Boeing at the Customer Center in Australia for developing and deploying autonomous Pit Viper drill rigs for BHP.

A fleet of Pit Vipers is operating remotely at iron ore mines in the Pilbara region, some 1,300 km away from the office building in Perth, Western Australia, where BHP’s operators are located.

“This automation solution brings strong customer benefits, including improved work environment, higher productivity and lower operating costs,” Epiroc said.

Back in December, the first autonomous Epiroc Pit Viper 271 drill rig broke ground at BHP’s South Flank iron ore project in Western Australia. This was the first of five autonomous drill rigs to operate at the mine, all of which will be controlled remotely.

Per Lindberg, Epiroc’s President and CEO, said of the awards: “We are proud of our strong teams that continuously focus on making customers more productive and safe while lowering their operating costs. Automation and proactive customer collaboration are two important ways to achieve this.”

The awards will be presented to the winners at the company’s Annual General Meeting on May 9.

Maintenance savings add to autonomous drilling business case, Epiroc says

The application of autonomous drilling solutions at mine sites is resulting in more than just productivity improvements, Matthew Inge, Business Line Manager, Drilling Solutions for Epiroc, said at an SME Annual Conference & Expo press briefing this week.

Inge said the customer feedback the mining OEM had received from the 30 or so automated rigs it had at mine sites, which had drilled close to 7.5 million metres autonomously, had included significant cost savings on maintenance.

“When you talk to most customers, operators and mines they will tell you that autonomous drilling is a productivity resource,” Inge said. “One of the by-products we have seen is reduced cost of maintenance.”

He said some of the company’s biggest customers had estimated “some very large figures” for maintenance cost savings linked to, for example, reduced operator abuse of the rig and improved drill string component life.

Such savings were lowering the total cost of ownership that came with operating these machines, while also strengthening the business case for further automation on mine sites.

During the same press briefing, Epiroc announced its automation-ready Epiroc Pit Viper PV-231 would be available from Spring of this year following an 18-month field test at a Nevada gold mine. Inge said this test was probably one of the most successful trials the surface drilling team had ever experienced.

Anglo American selects Epiroc drilling equipment for Quellaveco copper project

Epiroc has been awarded a “significant” order from Anglo American for its new copper mine in Moquegua, Peru, Quellaveco.

The diversified miner has ordered multiple drill rigs and related equipment to be used at the planned open-pit copper mine as it looks to build an operation with optimal safety, productivity and efficiency, Epiroc said.

The order totals about $44 million, with most of the contracted value booked in the December quarter of 2018 and a smaller portion booked in the current quarter, Epiroc said.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said: “We are proud to once again team up with Anglo American and play a key role in making sure that its new mine in Peru is operated in the most productive, safe and cost-efficient manner possible.”

The order includes Pit Viper 351 and SmartROC D65 drill rigs, BenchREMOTE remote operator stations (pictured), rock drilling tools and HB 10000 hydraulic breakers.

“The machines incorporate state-of-the-art technology features,” Epiroc said, adding that operators are, for example, able to run rigs remotely from a safe distance.

Delivery of the machines will start in early 2020 and continue through 2021, in line with Anglo American’s plan of first copper production during 2022.

Fluor is carrying out the project build at Quellaveco as part of an EPCM contract. With a reserve of 1,300 Mt at 0.58% Cu, Quellaveco is expected to have a 30-year mine life at an average production capacity of 127,500 t/d. This could see the mine produce around 300,000 t/y of copper.