AutoMine® Surface Drilling, part of the Sandvik AutoMine expanded suite of automation products announced at MINExpo INTERNATIONAL 2012, applies the technology and experience used to develop the company’s underground automated mining systems used successfully in hard rock operations around the world.

According to Riku Pulli, vice-president, Mine Automation at Sandvik Mining, AutoMine Surface Drilling provides a suite of flexible and scalable automation options to meet every mine’s requirements.

Advantages include increased safety and efficiency, real-time process control to enable consistent productivity levels, superior drilling accuracy and more effective use of what has traditionally been non-productive time.

AutoMine Surface Drilling is available for the existing Sandvik DPi series of surface drill rigs, as well as the company’s Next Generation Pantera drill range released at Finland’s EuroMining 2013 exhibition in September.

Pulli said: "Because it is based on our highly successful AutoMine concept, AutoMine Surface Drilling is a proven solution for automated and tele operated drilling."

"It provides improved safety and efficiency for all surface drilling operations. A key aim of AutoMine Surface Drilling is increasing mining personnel safety by minimising the need for employees to access hazardous areas."

How it works

AutoMine Surface Drilling consists of:

  • An ergonomically designed remote operator station – including a full set of standard drill rig controls
  • A fully integrated on-board automation system within the drill rig
  • A dedicated safety system
  • A robust, reliable wireless network communication system between the rig and the operator station

"The wireless network connection provides continuous, reliable real-time video and data communication between the drill rig and the operator station," Pulli added.

"The operator station has been designed to be easily installed on a range of mobile platforms, in a van or a trailer, for example, enabling simple and quick relocation from one operational area to another."

Operator station hardware consists of two large touchscreen displays, along with drill rig controls identical to those in the rig itself. All drilling controls and equipment status are displayed on a graphical screen, while direct visual contact to the rig is provided by seven on-board video cameras, which transmit real-time images on the operator station’s displays, eliminating blind spots in the drilling area.

"Because it is completely integrated with the drill rig’s control system, personnel in the remote operator station can carry out exactly the same tasks, using the same controls as conventional manual operation, but with none of the potential hazards and health risks," Pulli said.

"This makes training of operators for AutoMine Surface Drilling applications a simple and straightforward process, as all controls and procedures are identical to manual operation."

This includes remote 3D-navigation to precise hole locations, automated feed rail aiming and automatic one-hole drilling.

Safety advantages

Pulli said that with Sandvik Mining giving safety its top priority when designing equipment, AutoMine Surface Drilling had been built around thoroughly tested and proven technology. This includes a comprehensive evaluation program at the factory and in real mining conditions.

"Removing operators from the drilling area significantly reduces their exposure to risks related to the drilling operation, including ground collapses, rock falls, dust, noise and vibrations," said Pulli.

"In addition, by offering greatly improved visibility over the entire working area around the rig, unlimited flexibility in where the remote operator’s station is located and reducing fatigue, AutoMine Surface Drilling delivers significant operator health and safety benefits."
"And because the system allows drilling in areas inaccessible to manually operated drill rigs due to safety concerns, previously inaccessible resources can be more readily accessed, significantly adding to mine production levels."

Benefits of AutoMine Surface Drilling

  • Keeps operators out of hazardous areas
  • Better visibility over entire working area
  • Easy to install and move to new location
  • Easy-to-operate user interface, using familiar controls
  • Fully integrated with drill rig controls and components
  • Rugged, proven technology

"Sandvik Mining is the world’s leading provider of mine automation solutions with more than 16 automation systems deployed in seven countries around the globe," Pulli said.

"All Sandvik AutoMine products are built on the same core technologies providing configurable, expandable automation solutions to streamline and standardise workflows while increasing production."