The sound of silence

A new, innovative drill rig is allowing operators to work safer, longer hours.

What’s a Kalgoorlie mining contractor doing working on Brisbane’s major urban tunnel project?

The company, Avko Mining, is quietly adding a new and potentially significant string to its bow.

Avko is diversifying into the civil construction and quarrying markets. And it is doing so with the aid of advanced drilling technology from Atlas Copco.

Working with the Leighton Contractors and Baulderstone Hornibrook Bilfinger Berger Joint Venture on the $2 billion Brisbane North-South Bypass Tunnel (NSBT) project, Avko is using the first Atlas Copco ROC D9C Smart Rig, with silenced mast, to start work in Australia.

The “silenced drill” enables Avko to work longer during the day in a built-up urban area than it would be able to with a conventional drill rig.

It is using the ROC D9C Silenced Smart Rig to drill-out rounds for explosive charging in a vertical shaft development, and subsequently for ground stabilisation drilling.

Avko is working closely with Orica to ensure that drilling and rock blasting is carried out with maximum accuracy and speed, and minimal disturbance — particularly noise and vibration disturbance — on the Brisbane tunnel project.

The two companies have already collaborated, completing the tunnel portal works near Shaftston Avenue, Kangaroo Point, where electronic detonators and low-energy explosives were used to achieve a range of production, safety and environmental benefits.

The NSBT project includes a 4.8 km tunnel and associated road connections within about 6.8 km of overall development. It is scheduled to open in the second half of 2010.

Avko Mining project manager Dougal Guthrie said the company saw technology, coupled with the company’s preparedness to adopt innovative practices, as a means to develop a competitive edge in niche areas within the growing Australian civil engineering market.

In Brisbane, more than 20 km of underground tunnels are planned as the city refocuses urban transport network planning with a view to using more “underground space”.

Close to home

The Atlas Copco Silenced Smart Rig can work up to one kilometre closer to population centres than other similar rigs.

“Avko bought the silenced rig with the aim of getting ourselves more into the inner city construction and quarrying market where noise is obviously a consideration,” Guthrie said.

“In civil construction the ground is generally rock hammered. Drill and blast has become a poor cousin because of the amount of noise generated by drilling and because people are wary of explosives. But there are a lot of situations where it’s a better option and having this up our sleeve, a drill that’s a lot quieter, is going to make easier to break into those markets.”

“Another positive we’re seeing is that people working in close proximity to the drill are able to communicate more effectively. The boys from Orica have certainly been impressed by the fact that they can hear each other without having to use hand signals as they were before. So there’s a significant safety aspect.”

Atlas Copco delivered Avko Mining’s ROC D9C Silenced Smart Rig in November last year. It is due to finish work on the current tunnel campaign in the middle of February.

Atlas Copco Construction and Mining Australia Queensland regional manager Craig Marsh said as well as reducing noise by 10 dB(A) or more compared with conventional drills, the ROC Silenced Smart Rig used substantially less energy (up to 30% fuel saving) and featured a Hole Navigation System that allowed automated hole drilling after set-up.

“We’ve been using this drill for ground support holes too. There is a lot of call for that, and the same benefits are generated there — when you drill the hole you’re making half as much noise,” Marsh told Australian Mining.

“This machine is completely enclosed so none of the rotating parts are exposed. This gives the machine a whole new level of safety. Operators can work in and around the machine without concern.”

The machine comes with other added advantages including productivity.

“Because the machine is quieter than its competition, quarry workers can operate for longer as there is no need to shut down for noise restrictions.”

Craig Marsh

Queensland Regional Manager

Atlas Copco

07 3723 7181

Dougal Guthrie

Project Manager

Avko Mining

08 9021 5581

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