How to drill more holes per shift more safely, and increase productivity by 10-16%

Mining companies can improve the productivity of their drilling operations between 10-16% by using automated rigs that make the most of the first and last hour of a shift, as well as being able to continue drilling during blasting operations.

That’s one of the findings of a report into the effectiveness of switching from manual drilling to the ARDVARC Autonomous drill system developed by FLANDERS.

The report examined manual drilling operations at two hard rock mines over five months.

With manual drilling, the average number of holes drilled in a shift’s first and last hours is typically much lower than at other times in the shift.

The drill rate drops when operators finish a shift and a new person comes onboard.

But the report found that by using the ARDVARC Autonomous system, there would be less variability in the number of holes drilled per hour over a standard 12-hour shift.

That’s because a fully automated machine would not stop at the end/beginning of a shift.

The report found that: “Clearly the last hour of the shift as well as the first hour of the shift are incredible opportunities for productivity improvements.”

There can also be further productivity gain and increased safety for workers.

The Autonomous system can continue drilling during blasting because the operator is located away from the blast site, with one operator able to manage up to eight drills.

In effect, blast outages can become a thing of the past as equipment using Autonomous can operate through the blast without the need to shut down.

Mine Site 1 — Auto Propel results in 16% more holes drilled per shift

Mine Site 1 had a fleet of eight Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271 rigs used in the manual configuration.

The report looked at the number of holes drilled by each machine in each hour over a 12-hour shift, both day and night, and the data analysed.

The data typically showed a massive decrease in the number of holes and productivity in the last hour of the shifts examined.

In the case of one machine, only one hole was drilled in the final hour of a shift, compared to 266 holes drilled only two hours earlier in the 10th hour of the shift.

With another machine, only 19 holes were drilled in the final hour of a shift, compared to 364 holes two hours earlier.

The report found that using an autonomous system on the eight drill rigs would result in a 16% increase in productivity involving:

  • 1,460 additional hours of drilling per machine per year and
  • 3,173 additional holes are being drilled per drill per year.

As well as that, the machines would continue to drill during blasting, resulting in a further 195 hours of additional drilling.

This would lead to an extra 89 holes being drilled per machine per year.

Mine Site 2 — additional 912 hours of drill time

The second mine site studied had a fleet of four Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271 rigs in manual configuration.

Again, the data was collected over five months, with the machines used in 12-hour shifts, and the number of holes drilled was recorded in each hour of the shift.

The study found that by using the Autonomous system with the four drill rigs, average productivity would increase dramatically, as the automated machines could continue drilling at the end of the shift and when blasting occurs.

The report says better utilising the machines during the last hour of a shift at this mine site would result in 912 additional hours of drilling time per year for each drill, which would result in 2,105 extra holes per drill per year.

In addition, the machines would drill an extra 195 hours a year (the average downtime due to blasting), translating into an additional 89 holes per year per drill.

Overall, the report found there would be a 10% increase in productivity at Mine Site 2 if the Autonomous system were used.