Epiroc unveils first fully autonomous surface drill rig

Epiroc has rolled out the SmartROC D65 surface drill rig, which enables drilling of entire drill patterns without the need for an operator.

The drill, which is being trialled in Canada, has been billed as the first fully automated surface drill, representing a significant milestone for the Scandinavian company.

In a similar fashion to automated haul trucks, removing operators from their cabins during drilling operations not only confers safety benefits during drilling, but also frees the operators up to attend to other tasks.

This automation is expected to increase productivity for mine sites as the machine can continue to operate without breaks and with less wear on drilling tools.

The drill incorporates existing Eprioc technologies such as its rod handling system (RHS), hole navigation system (HNS) and auto positioning, in addition to rig control system (RCS) scalability.

“To make this work we are using the smart functions on the drill rig that are already there,” Epiroc product manager automation, surface and exploration drilling Mayya Popova said.

“Since we developed these functions over the years we have a good understanding of how to incorporate them in the autonomous mode.”

The drill was created through a partnership between Epiroc and Newmont Goldcorp, which trialled the D65 at its Hollinger open-pit gold mine in Ontario, Canada.

The two companies worked together to optimise the machine’s performance and integrate it efficiently into the mine’s operations. Epiroc stated that it applied its ‘6thsense’ principle of combining digitisation and automation to boost the mine’s productivity.

“The Hollinger project is a perfect example of collaboration between a mining company and Epiroc, which demonstrates what our industry is capable of achieving,” Epiroc president of the surface and exploration drilling division Brian Doffing said.

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