Tag Archives: Whaleback

BHP reaches autonomous drilling milestone at WA iron ore operations

BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore division has reached a significant milestone, with its drills operating autonomously for more than 479,607 hours, drilling more than 25 million metres, the company said.

WAIO’s remotely operated drilling program commenced at Yandi in late 2016 and has since expanded to a total of 26 rigs across five Pilbara mine sites.

The rigs are all controlled remotely from the Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC) in Perth, Western Australia.

WAIO Asset President, Brandon Craig, said: “This is an exciting milestone in WAIO’s autonomous journey and one we should all be proud of.

“The autonomous drilling program sought to eliminate the risk of safety incidents and serious injuries to our people and, by removing them from the drilling frontline, we’ve also seen an increase in overall drill productivity.”

WAIO now has one of the biggest autonomous drill fleets in the world – which is managed by 32 crew members and one engineer all based at IROC.

IPRO Control Operations Manager, Clayton Hanrahan, added: “This achievement was made possible by a huge team of stakeholders, including the original Project Team, Technology, our vendor Epiroc, IPRO, IROC Drill and Control, all of our site partners in the Pilbara Drill and Blast teams and many more.”

Congratulations to everyone involved on reaching the milestone of autonomously drilling more than 25 million metres.

The automation journey begain with Yandi completing a successful 18-month trial of three autonomous drill rigs, paving the way for a staged approach across other WAIO mine sites.

Mining Area C introduced autonomous drilling in January 2017 before, in October 2017, the technology was implemented at Newman’s Eastern Ridge mine. In December of that year, Jimblebar introduced autonomous drilling and, in March 2018, Newman’s Whaleback mine implemented autonomous drill rigs. The journey has been rounded out by, in 2020, the introduction of autonomous drill rigs at South Flank, making WAIO’s drill rig program fully autonomous.