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Major milestone in surface drilling automation

Fully autonomous SmartROC D65 drill rig

Epiroc announce that fully autonomous SmartROC D65 surface drill rig is now in production

IN the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, Epiroc have announced that the world’s first fully autonomous SmartROC D65 drill rig is now in production, marking an important milestone for surface drilling in open-pit mining and quarrying.

At the push of a button, it is now possible to complete entire drill patterns autonomously, say Epiroc, which will not only remove the operator from potentially hazardous benches in a mine or quarry, but will also allow them to carry out other tasks while the rig is drilling.

Additional benefits include increased productivity and better hole quality, which means more holes drilled per shift, in part because automating the drilling process results in continuous operations without breaks and with less wear on drilling tools. Moreover, positioning is said to be faster and more accurate.

Epiroc say this achievement would not have been possible had it not been for the strong partnership between themselves and Newmont Goldcorp (formerly Goldcorp), and their dedicated staff in the Hollinger open-pit mine in Timmins, Canada, where Epiroc’s 6th Sense way of working was used to implement and develop the fully autonomous SmartROC D65.

During the project, Epiroc and Newmont Goldcorp collaborated on a tailored solution that gathered ongoing insights to optimize process and people performance and unlock the potential of machine automation using interoperability.

‘The Hollinger project is a perfect example of collaboration between a mining company and Epiroc, which demonstrates what our industry is capable of achieving. The future is very exciting,’ commented Brian Doffing, president of Epiroc’s Surface and Exploration Drilling division.

Autonomous drilling employs a number of already existing technologies developed by Epiroc, such as their Rod Handling System (RHS), Hole Navigation System (HNS) and Auto Positioning. Another crucial factor is the scalability of the Rig Control System (RCS).

‘To make this work, we are using the smart functions that are already there on the drill rig. Since we developed these functions over the years, we have a good understanding of how to incorporate them in the autonomous mode,’ explained Mayya Popova, product manager for automation in the Surface and Exploration Drilling division.

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