In the last week I have seen a few marketing campaigns from Epiroc which outline new automation features across their latest production drill rigs. The integrated technology delivered here looks extremely exciting, not only utilising tele-remote functionality, but also the ability to move and tram the rig from a remote location:
I have read about operations in Russia already further advanced with a hybrid-remote setup for production drilling. They are utilising a couple of drill operators who oversee the tramming, site setup and fault issues before handing the drilling over to the tele-remote team on surface. Staffing and systems setup at the larger, mechanised underground mines will be one to watch as these systems and networks become more of the industry norm.
“Simba Teleremote E-tramming enables the machine to tram to the next drill ring without starting the diesel engine, navigate, and drill everything from the control room using the same joysticks as in the cabin. The hardware that enables Teleremote E-tramming consists of cameras in the front and the rear of the machine and navigation lasers. The machine is also equipped with motion sensors. If people enter the drilling area, sensors will be activated, and the machine stops.”Source: Epiroc.com
These machines and workflows open multiple advantages to mining operations if implemented and managed correctly. With one clear advantage being the removal of an operator from what is often a challenging and dangerous environment around the stopes edge. The ability to drill around the clock and across shift change is also a huge bonus for continuous improvement of the mining cycle.
The diagram above outlines the automation features on the new rigs and it’s fascinating to witness OEMs following the data flow that new underground wifi networks are enabling. I really enjoyed the camera with its “cute” wiper blade for the harsh conditions at a stopes edge!
This new generation of improved connectivity machines that can be operated both in situ and from surface control desks, will revolutionise the industry through improved utilisation and drilling rates. It will be fascinating to see more OEMs come to the “tele-remote party” and drive change through their new integrated machines.
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