Epiroc leads an evolution in drilling

Epiroc has unleashed the fangs of the Pit Viper PV-231 rotary blasthole drill in Australia with Ozland emerging as the first buyer of the machine. 

When choosing a new drill rig, the key demand is simple: how can you put a hole in the ground as efficiently as possible? 

Epiroc recognises this need and has applied the approach to its newly launched Pit Viper PV-231 rotary blasthole drill. 

The single pass drill represents a new chapter in the Epiroc drill portfolio, with the ability to be used in rotary and DTH (down-the-hole) drilling applications. 

It can be configured with a 435 PSI compressor that features low pressure loss. 

Epiroc has designed the drill to provide minimal pressure loss between the compressor and the hammer – something that’s allowed the Pit Viper PV-231 to harness the power of higher range drills within its mid-range, cost-effective package.

“In Epiroc’s matrix, the PV-231 falls under mid-range in terms of price and size, but its capabilities are geared towards the large range of the market,” Epiroc product manager – surface division Milan Ivovic tells Australian Mining. 

Its minimal pressure loss allows the drill to handle the demands of any original equipment manufacturer (OEM) hammer. 

This also allows the PV-231 to be more fuel efficient to save on operating costs, while reducing the carbon footprint of the drill. 

To further improve energy efficiency, the PV-231 can be configured with Epiroc’s new generation hydraulic operation clutch to reduce between 5 and 20 per cent of the drill’s fuel consumption.

The PV-231 has a 16-metre reach in a single pass, which was previously not seen in its predecessor, the Epiroc PV-235. 

“We have learnt where there are some areas of improvement from the PV-235,” Ivovic says. “The PV-231 is an evolution of that model.” 

The PV-235 is trusted by many operators across the globe due to its productivity and efficiency gains, with the PV-231 designed to build upon that reputation. 

Epiroc business line manager Alex Grant says the OEM’s competitors need to use a larger size drill to achieve a 16-metre single pass. 

“We’re the only one to do a 16-metre single pass in this class of rig with technology capability,” Grant tells Australian Mining. 

“Most competitors would have to go to a larger size to get that same depth for one piece of drill steel.”

Epiroc has also designed the PV-231 to be autonomous-ready. This means customers can purchase the drill for manual operations and use Epiroc’s plug-and-play technology to upgrade its automated capabilities. 

“Because with autonomous drill you’re not abusing the machine; the machine is instead data driven, allowing it to understand on its own the resistance of the ground to adjust accordingly and perform with a longer life,” Ivovic says. 

“Rather than people guessing what is that optimum range, automation allows drilling to take place and do the same job at any time of the day or year.” 

A formidable partnership

To ensure the PV-231 is up to standard, Epiroc trialled the machine at a gold mine in the United States for 18 months. 

Epiroc also reached out to drill and blast services provider Ozland to give one of its long-time customers an opportunity to be the first to use the PV-231 in Australia. 

The two companies have been working together for 11 years with Ozland buying its first Epiroc machine nine years ago. 

“We thought Ozland was a good partner to bring the first in country,” Grant says. 

“We like someone who represents the product as well. They have been successful with our PV-235. That’s why they were a good choice for us.”

The Epiroc Pit Viper PV-231 can be used in rotary and down-the-hole drilling applications.

According to Ozland director – operations, Greg Morris, the drill and blast company has continued to trust Epiroc’s machines and support services 

“It’s mainly their technology, fuel efficiency and parts and technical support, too, across regional areas of Western Australia,” Morris says. 

“One of the most valuable aspects of our relationship with Epiroc is their flexibility. They move with us when we need to move. If we ask them to do something, they partner with us and meet demands.

“We have a good personal relationship with their management team and advisors as well.”

According to Ozland director – plant, Kevin Fitzgerald, the PV-231 has saved the company significant costs during operation. 

“It’s less capital intensive compared to the 271 and gives us the same depth through single pass,” Fitzgerald says. 

“We’re first adopters of a lot of Epiroc’s machines. We’ve previously been test adopters of the D65 and T45 drills and we’ve pushed their hole navigation system really hard.”

Fitzgerald appreciates the speed of Epiroc’s services and delivery of equipment due to the fast-paced nature of the mining industry. 

“We don’t get a lot of time to mobilise, our clients leave contracts to the last minute, so the time it takes is important,” Fitzgerald says. 

Epiroc key customer manager Tony Sorgiovanni says the company’s relationship with Ozland is a testament to its industry partner’s enthusiasm for adopting advanced technology.

“Ozland has been pleasantly surprised with the performance of the PV-231,” he says.

“The rig does everything that they thought it would – it meets the production levels they require, and the redesign of the machine’s layout has also been praised.”

Ozland’s fleet of Epiroc machines also includes automated models, including the SmartROC D65 surface drill rig, which can deliver automated drilling and rod handling. 

The drilling and blasting services company also uses Epiroc’s SmartROC T45 tophammer drill, which offers similar capabilities.

“It is rare for contractors to be as open to automation and innovation in a way that Ozland has embraced it,” Sorgiovanni says. “They are willing to promote the benefits of automation.”

Sorgiovanni expects the PV-231 rig to be popular in the Australian market because of its appeal to the mid-tier market of drilling rigs. 

“The PV-231 is the evolution of the PV-235,” he says. “Due to its affordability and performance capabilities, we think this machine will be a volume seller here for sure.”  

This article also appears in the July issue of Australian Mining.

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