Underground development cycle times and drilling rig utilisation can become problematic at complex, large scale mines operating at depth. There are multiple facets to completing an underground advance which can slow down development rates. One area to explore is utilising jumbo drill rigs to focus solely on boreing meters, and not be tied up with installing ground support. The Epiroc Boltec M has been designed to do just that as a master on ground support install!
I personally want to learn as much as I can following my return to the mining front line after some time in the mining supply sector. That said, something caught my eye on my first week underground at my new project. One of the underground drill rigs in the fleet is the Epiroc Boltec M and I had to ask a few questions about this mysterious new rig. It is clearly noticeable when you head into a drive, as it has one oversized drilling arm and one much smaller assisting arm.
The Epiroc Boltec range builds on the base of their existing longhole/jumbo rigs and delivers a new offering just for ground support install. It offers both diesel or full electric driveline for those sites looking to full electric integration in the future.
The real clear advantage of this rig is the ability to, on larger sites, have a machine that is solely assisting development jumbos create maximum development meters. When utilised in cycle a bolting rig can deliver ground support whilst jumbos are boreing cuts elsewhere. Further to this it can assist with a backlog of rehab required in historic areas of the mine. This rig acting as a “rear guard” sweeping up behind the front line production jumbos can really add meters to the monthly development totals.
Speed of bolt install is also a huge benefit; with a special magazine (MBU) for holding up to ten bolts ready for insertion on its drilling arm. This used in conjunction with the optional mesh handling arm allow for quick, easy and safe install of ground support. The stop/start nature of the usual single bolt loading on a conventional jumbo is reduced by the magazine system. Safety is also increased if a nipper is not available by avoiding continual dismounting for the operator.
Resin is looked after by a hopper behind the drivers cab that will install resign in-situ in the drilled hole during the single pass cycle. The bolts themselves also improve install speed as they are “self tapping” meaning they are installed by the rig without a separate hole needing to be bored before insertion.
This rig can deliver a different set up for the mining front line, which if utilised correctly in cycle, should allow for improved development rates in particularly busy or complex mines. Keeping development and ground supporting rigs separate could be a large capital outlay initially, but if managed correctly it could pay for itself over the lifetime of a contract/mine life. It has been interesting to see this rig being used in cycle and I will be watching to see if this new approach is proven and utilised industry wide.