Advancing automated drilling solutions in COVID times

Image: JSW Drilling

COVID-19 has forced industry to do things differently and the METS sector has been no exception.

To maintain and continue to win business, contractors and suppliers have had to think outside the box.

For a number of years drilling contractor JSW has been developing its solution to the mining industry’s collective goal to improve safety in the form of its customised BBURG HD2500 Reverse Circulation drill rig which aims to get more personnel off the drill pad.

The rig has been operating at Fortescue Metals Group’s Solomon iron ore mine in the Pilbara since July 2020 in conjunction with JSW’s project joint-venture partner and traditional owners, the Eastern Guruma people.

“To date, it’s been producing exceptional outcomes in terms of safety, noise reduction and productivity,” JSW chief executive officer Warren Fair says.

“We believe it’s truly on the pathway to automation.”

Implemented with wireless remote control and developed specifically to handle the challenging terrain at Solomon, the rig’s design and automation capability is subject to ongoing advancements led by the JSW team at its Perth office.

BBURG, the rig manufacturer, however, is in Germany.

“The impact of Covid on import time frames made it clear we had to find another solution,” Fair says.

“We needed a viable plan to facilitate local manufacturing to meet time and budget constraints.”

JSW engaged leading manufacturing consultant TXM which introduced lean manufacturing concepts to map out a manufacturing pathway that would make local production economic. An agreement with BBURG for component supply and the application of quality control measures ensures technical assembly standards are adhered to.

“The initiation of this in-house capability not only provides huge benefits to our clients in terms of timely deliveries and problem solving capabilities – it’s also creating jobs,” Fair says.

“Building the HD2500RC rig in Perth means that JSW has employed another 12 personnel as a direct result.

“Our plan is to retain the local manufacturing of the drill, applying the Kaizen continuous improvement methodology and utilising ongoing support from our manufacturing consultant to maintain production economics.

“We’ll continue to develop the drill’s capability, particularly in the areas of automated sampling and carbon neutrality as we seek to reach our own milestones and support our clients’ mandates in two areas that will continue to be a key focus within the industry.”

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