Flanders works with AngloAmerican to deliver a first in semi-autonomous drilling.

After months of preparation, our Metallurgical Coal business in Australia has drilled a hole at our Dawson mine using a machine operated remotely by a controller situated four kilometres away.

The overburden (OD14) semi-autonomous drill is the first in Metallurgical Coal’s fleet to be fitted with this capability.

“This is a significant step towards Future Smart MiningTM at Metallurgical Coal,” said Matt Graham, Anglo American’s Principal, Open Cut Technology and Automation.

Introducing the semi-autonomous drill brings several benefits, including safety improvements, increased productivity, and a reduction in shift change times, which is essential somewhere like Dawson, where the operation spreads across 50 kilometres.

Exploring opportunities

The project team received guidance from colleagues in other parts of Anglo-American, including our Copper business in Chile and our Kumba Iron Ore business in South Africa. There are 12 drills currently in use across the industry.

They worked with the electrical control system supplier FLANDERS and Dawson’s Maintenance and Engineering team to upgrade the drill system’s onboard computer, sensors, and new safety devices. The Information Management (IM) team also upgraded the mine’s Wi-Fi network to ensure connectivity.

“We’re always looking for ways to be safer, more productive, and more sustainable, and the opportunity at Dawson was attractive because of the ‘can do’ culture of the team,” said Dieter Haage, Head of Mine Modernisation on our Technical & Sustainability (T&S) team.

“Applying technology in this way is how we modernise our approach, and the Dawson mine has taken an important first step on this journey.”

Work will continue on the overburden (OD14) while the team focuses on automating the drill rod-changing process. Once complete, they’ll explore opportunities to upgrade other drills in the Metallurgical Coal fleet.

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