Ausdrill is using Cat MD6310 drills to improve safety and efficiency in drill and blast operations at the Middlemount coal mine in Queensland.
When drilling services company, Ausdrill, secured a three-year contract in 2019 to carry out drill and blast operations at Middlemount coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, the team was set in motion to source the right machinery to deliver the project.
Ausdrill decided to purchase two new Cat MD6310 drills to take advantage of the machines’ advanced drilling accuracy and scalability to remote and autonomous drilling.
Hastings Deering, in collaboration with Caterpillar, delivered the machines, which started a journey of approximately 100 days, travelling from the United States to Central Queensland to commence work earlier this year.
Building on the solid legacy of the MD6420C, the Cat MD6310 blasthole drill offers substantial technology, efficiency and productivity improvements. A key advantage of the machine, Cat electronics deliver advanced troubleshooting for efficient drill operation and scalable automation.
The building blocks include drill assist, semi-autonomous and remote control operation and machine health reporting to improve drilling accuracy, reduce fuel consumption and lower total cost of ownership.
Caterpillar’s Terrain for drilling system helps to guide the drill for greater pattern accuracy. This ensures that every hole is accurately placed and drilled to plan.
Cat Terrain is built around a high precision global positioning system (GPS) focussed on accurate hole placement, depth and angle. The advanced technology also feeds back crucial strata data to assist in accurate placement of explosives within the hole.
Ausdrill’s operations manager at Middlemount coal mine, Eric Gobbert, says as a leader in the industry, the mining services company is always looking at how technology can improve both safety and productivity to provide increased value for its clients.
“One of the things that attracted us to the Cat crawler mounted MD6310 drill was its advanced electronics, its ability to integrate with our systems and its scalable automation potential,” says Gobbert.
“Working hand in hand with the client’s database, along with our on-board system, the Cat Terrain system integrates all of the data and analytics that are required to manage the contract in a fluid and seamless way.”
The focus on accuracy in drilling and blasting helps to make every other aspect of the mining operation safer and more productive. Even minor deviation from the pattern can have a big impact, resulting in higher cost per tonne for the entire operation.
Gobbert says Ausdrill also plans to leverage the autonomous potential of the drills to improve drilling efficiencies and operational performance on site.
“Not only are these machines capable of reaching 74.6 metres in depth at a 270-millimetre diameter, but the technology provides us with the opportunity to improve safety and productivity,” he says.
“Caterpillar and Hastings Deering have a history of delivering successful machines and that in turn gives us confidence that we will be able to deliver the project for our customers.”
With high precision and more accurate hole tracking, Cat drills have been designed with autonomy in mind. Building on the precision of terrain for drilling, the MD6310 allows operators to choose the level of automation to suit the application.
Hastings Deering mining account manager Jason Garea says the drill comes out of the factory with basic functionality of the Cat electronic system, with all the building blocks to take on full autonomy.
“With one push of a button this machine gives the option to use auto drill functions, auto level functions and auto mast up, which protects the drill and decreases cycle times. This means more bottom-line dollars for the client,” says Garea.
“In terms of automation, we go from the semi-automated functions into line of sight operation, with both single and multi-pass drilling. The next block is to go to full autonomy where the machine will drill a whole row by itself. Eventually, we will then build the machines into a multi-pass, multi-row capability.”
With temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius onsite, the Hastings Deering team of assembly specialists, constructed the mast, calibrated the machine, and carried out the final commissioning of the machines in December 2019.
“The Hastings Deering team has supported us through this process and the transition on to site and we look forward to working with them together in the future,” Gobbert concludes.
This article will appear in the July issue of Australian Mining.