March-April 2016

The best in new technology

Compiled by David Chen

Smart drilling

Courtesy of Atlas Copco

Even the most seasoned drill operator is still prone to error after a long day, potentially reducing the productivity of a surface drilling rig. Atlas Copco kept that in mind when designing its new SmartROC D60 surface drill, which it believes will make drilling more efficient and less dependent on human operation compared to its predecessor, the FlexiROC D60. One of the smart features on the drill is the hole navigation system, which employs GPS navigation to drill holes automatically. Rather than having the operator mark holes physically and then drill manually, the SmartROC D60 “adds and extracts the rod by itself,” said Mattias Hjerpe, Atlas Copco’s surface and exploration drilling global product manager. The rig also shows the drill plan on its screen and navigates to the hole autonomously via satellite connection. Hjerpe said automated drilling improves precision and reduces wear on consumables like rods and drill bits, compared to when a human manually operates a drill. The D60 also includes a new rig control system, which is able to track and optimize the rig’s engine and compressor and reduce fuel use by up to 15 per cent, compared to its FlexiROC predecessor.

Eye in the sky

Courtesy of Keytroller

Equipment tracking at a mining operation can be a logistical challenge, especially in remote locations where cellular service is unavailable. While many large mining machines such as haul trucks and excavators now come with sophisticated built-in monitoring systems for tracking and maintenance, these vehicles make up a small portion of a mine’s entire fleet. According to Keytroller president and CEO Terry Wickman, the company’s new Cyberwatch SAT alarm and GPS location metre is a simple and inexpensive way to monitor smaller pieces of equipment that do not have monitoring systems, such as generators, work trucks or skid-steer loaders, in remote locations. Unlike previous versions of the Cyberwatch, the most recent does not rely on cellular or WiFi signals. The Cyberwatch SAT can be wired to any kind of engine or motor and transmit information such as location, oil pressure, engine temperature or how long a machine has been running or idling. It then periodically transmits that information via satellite onto customer-specific web portals, which can be accessed anywhere in the world. “It’s an inexpensive way of monitoring equipment, and you can use that monitoring for accountability,” Wickman said, such as keeping track of how a company’s machines are being used or how long its employees have been working. It is also useful for knowing when equipment is in need of maintenance.

Improving bit-by-bit

In order to get the most out of a drilling program, operators need drill bits that are durable enough to withstand the thrust of high-capacity air bearings. That is why Sandvik Mining designed its new RR221 series blasthole rotary drill bits and air bearing platform to complement each other, increasing the capacity of the air bearings by up to 20 per cent and making the bits more durable and efficient. “With the increased bearing capacity, it enables us to make better use of the life we’re going to get out of the bits,” said Simon Mitchell, Sandvik’s vice-president of rotary tools. Sandvik also added sturdier metals and protective inserts to the RR221 bits to increase the lifespan by up to 30 per cent, compared with its previous series. Additionally, Mitchell said, the cutting structure of the bits and the geometry of the tungsten carbide inserts has been optimized for different conditions, from soft rocks like soft formation coal, up to hard iron ore. He said the updated bits and air bearings will cut back on spalling and increase drilling hours by 10 to 25 per cent.

Drill bits
   Courtesy of Sandvik

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