Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to start automation journey with production drill rigs

The copper mine in Chile will convert its surface drills to an autonomous operation through industry leading technology provided by FLANDERS.

Glencore’s Compañía Minera Lomas Bayas (CMLB) copper mine is in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile and extracts low grade copper oxide ore. Maintaining safety and sustainability standards, increasing productivity, and reducing operational costs is a significant focus.

The first phase in the Glencore digital mining journey at Lomas Bayas will be completed using FLANDERS’ technology and involves automating two Caterpillar drill rigs and providing a dedicated wireless network. The results obtained in the initial phase will provide essential information to continue the journey to full automation of mining equipment across the operation.

Lomas Bayas’ General Manager, Pablo Carvallo, said, “Incorporating technology into equipment is our response to constant changes that mining operations face. As in the case of Lomas Bayas, where everyday challenges must be dealt with in an even safer and more productive way. We want digital mining efforts to expand over time and educate industry of our learnings and support technology development in our region”.

Likewise, Lomas Bayas’ Mine Manager, Felipe Bunout, said, “This initiative is in line with our core objectives; to provide a safer environment for our workers and increase productivity in our processes. This technology will allow us to increase the equipment utilization and the precision of the drilling pattern and improve the quality of the blasting process and the whole process downstream. This initial phase is the first step for Lomas Bayas into mine equipment automation, and we have high hopes that the results will enable us to continue walking down this path”.

The project is significant as Lomas Bayas will be the first to adopt intelligent drill technology globally in Glencore mining operations. Conversion of the CAT drills and wireless network installation is expected to be completed in June 2023.

Glencore’s Operational Excellence & Technology Global General Manager, Cristian Carrasco, commented on the award, “This is the first of many Glencore Copper group technological initiatives seeking to modernize, transform and align the business to stakeholder’s requirements and priorities.”

Glencore’s Technology Study Manager, Enrique Caballero, said, “We decided to commence the automation program at Lomas Bayas, as the operation has shown high adaptability and organizational maturity. Their executive team has a well-built long-term view. The operation vision is strongly aligned with digital mines & technology as a path forward, in which safety, sustainability, and their workforce life qualities are part of the pillars”.

Finally, FLANDERS Regional Director Martin Schafer said, “We are very pleased to be working with Glencore at its Lomas Bayas operation. Given its low grade, CMBL is a compelling business case. To the well-known value, FLANDERS’ ADS solution generates for a mining operation in general, and the drilling process, the relatively short overall implementation time adds a financial dimension that happened to be critical to obtaining the required ROI. The technology also brings environmental gains. ARDVARC autonomous drills have shown a 7.3% reduction in fuel compared to manned drills, which is a reduction of about 1,200 liters of fuel per year, equivalent to 2,966 tCO2 less in the atmosphere.”

Glencore Lomas Bayas is a low-cost, open-pit copper mine in the Atacama Desert, 120 kilometers northeast of the port of Antofagasta, Chile. The low-grade copper ore mined at this facility is processed by heap leaching and converted to copper cathode after processing through the SX-EW plant. The Lomas Bayas operation produces approximately 75,000 tonnes of copper cathode per annum.

FLANDERS’ autonomous control system, ARDVARC, and Command Centre technology is industry-leading, helping mining companies improve drill performance and keep people safe. The ARDVARC Autonomous system has been used for over 15 years, enables advanced functionality through interoperability with Fleet Management Systems and other data acquisition platforms, and is agnostic to original equipment manufacturers.

Typically, the ARDVARC system produces increases in productivity by up to 30 percent, providing greater drill accuracy and the ability for one person to operate up to eight drills. Including technology in the ARDVARC Command Centre (ACC) builds on remote working capabilities to unlock additional value, such as enhancing decision-making by integrating functions across the value chain. Although not a new concept, products like the ACC present an opportunity for Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to re-imagine and reform the mine operates, as remote working becomes imperative to ensuring value and sustainability.

Schafer added, “When fully automated, the drills that we will be converting in Chile will also be safer for workers, who will operate the drills well away from the drill and blast areas. The mission-critical dedicated network and the 24/7 support provided in the scope round-up an extremely reliable solution”.

About Glencore
Glencore is one of the world’s largest globally diversified natural resource companies.
Founded in the 1970s as a trading company, we have grown to become a major producer and marketer of commodities – employing 135,000 people worldwide.
Our operations comprise around 150 mining, metallurgical, and oil production assets. Our purpose is to source the commodities that advance everyday life responsibly. We do this by delivering on our strategy to be active at every stage of the commodity supply chain. Our diversity in geography, product, and activity, maximizes the value we create for our business and its diverse stakeholders.
People are at the heart of our business. We prioritize safety for all our assets, minimize our impacts on the environment and communities, and aim to attract employees who strive to be leaders in their field.

A technology innovator, custom manufacturer, and electrical systems trouble-shooter for heavy industry, FLANDERS designs, engineers, produces, and services industrial power systems and control systems.
FLANDERS specializes in electric rotating machinery for high-demand applications across mining, mills, and heavy industry.


Enrique Caballero
Manager Technology Studies, Copper Assets

Martin Schafer
Regional Director, South America

Kate Gilbey
Marketing Director