Construction engineering company Basil Read Mining has launched a new autonomous drill that could offer an increase of about 30% in productivity, compared with manual drilling, contracts director Nqobile Khumalo tells Mining Weekly.
The first C650 drill is to be delivered to a mine in Botswana after a final quality-assurance and -control testing phase currently under way.
Khumalo points out that the drill will be on site in the last quarter of this year.
He enthuses that the automated C650 offers two distinct benefits when drilling coal deposits – an increase in productivity, owing to consistently “optimum” drilling pressure and rates, as well as enhanced safety through eliminating operators’ exposure to fall-of-ground risks.
The drill is remotely operated using a secure wireless network to achieve the autonomous drill functionalities.
Advanced global positioning system geofencing, collision avoidance and on bench trailers, with aided live-feed pan, tilt and zoom cameras, are used for hole-to-hole drilling and tramming cycles.
“Basil Read has worked closely with clients and local service providers to ensure adequacy of bandwidth and eliminate any possible latency and/or interferences from auxiliary equipment,” Khumalo points out.
In ensuring adequate network coverage, Basil Read has identified areas where it will need to set up a combination of fixed and movable network access points.
Meanwhile, there is no tenable limit to the number of planned holes that could be programmed into the drill hole sequence system.
The C650 is automated with one of electrical machine manufacturer Flanders Electric Ardvarc’s control systems, which allows for holes that are drilled using either its own or other equipment to be marked as complete, owing to Flanders’ multi-drill awareness system.
“This function helps optimisation of work among drills where multi drills are deploy on a production bench. The drills ‘know’ what work has been completed by other drills, in near real time or under five seconds,” he explains.
Further, high precision and accuracy of the hole collar and depth allow for compliance to the designed fragmentation size for loading, hauling and crushing, reducing end-to-mill costs.
Accurate drill hole depth also improves ore losses because of dilution, Khumalo enthuses.
The automation capability is based on information collected by sensors on the machine’s hydraulic and electrical systems. The information is then interpreted by an onboard computer, which then provides appropriate instructions through the various control valves.
In terms of drill range and machine working pressures, the drill works optimally as the valves are electronically controlled, consequently leading to better component life and improved maintenance costs.
Meanwhile, the design and manufacture of the C650 are the result of a three-way partnership involving Basil Read; drilling solutions provider Revathi Equipment Limited (REL), in India; and Flanders Electric, which is headquartered in Indiana, in the US.
REL – represented in Southern Africa by importer and supplier Paramount Equipment – is the drill manufacturer, while Flanders Electric manufactures the advanced drilling control and automation systems through its South African entity.
Khumalo adds that autonomous drilling presents a “ground-breaking” application of technology and innovation for mining, one that has been in use in other industries.
“The realities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution are tangible and Basil Read strives to be at the fore in the contract mining space,” he enthuses.
Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, autonomous drilling also allows for reduced virus transmission risks as human interaction is limited during operation.
“Hole quality and accuracy are within 95% of the design specifications, which can be considered world-class,” concludes Khumalo.