Thiess introduces second autonomous drill at Bowen Basin project

The Epiroc Pit Viper 275 at Bowen Basin Coal's Lake Vermont mine. Image: Thiess.

Thiess has mobilised a second Epiroc Pit Viper 275 drill fitted with an autonomous drilling system at Bowen Basin Coal’s Lake Vermont project in Queensland.

This makes Lake Vermont the first coal mining operation to have two multi-pass fully autonomous drill rigs working side-by-side.

Since introducing autonomous drills to the Lake Vermont project, Thiess has drilled more than 90,000 metres across 3000 holes.

Thiess Lake Vermont operators manager and senior site executive Colin Mulligan said his team at Thiess is providing profitable returns for Bowen Basin Coal, with the drill technology enabling one operator to control both rigs simultaneously.

“We’re currently operating in auto drill plan execution (fully autonomous) which allows us to efficiently and predictably operate the rig independently of manual operations through the entire drill cycle to complete the drill plan,” Mulligan said.

“This enables improvements in utilisation with the Pit Viper 275’s capable of working for 11.5 hours of a 12-hour shift, compared with around eight and a half hours with manned operators.”

The drills are also providing new training opportunities for Lake Vermont’s workers, according to Mulligan.

“Our approach to autonomy is to work closely with our team members and offer opportunities for upskilling,” he said.

“Already on-site we have a number of drill and dozer operators, communication technicians and maintenance personnel re-trained  to work with autonomous technologies.

“This is ensuring Thiess remains transformational and leads to higher-skilled workers and jobs.”

The Epiroc Pit Viper drills use guidance technologies to assist operators drilling to the exact location and depth specified by the drill plan.

Their multi-pass capability enables operators to drill holes up to 59.4 metres deep and 171 to 270 millimetres in diameter, with future development set to extend this depth capacity.

Thiess will continue to provide full-service mining operations at Lake Vermont, including a push for autonomous drilling and dozers as it extends its contract at the site by five years from 1 January 2022.

As part of this offering, the company will introduce a third Epiroc Pit Viper 275 to Lake Vermont later this year.

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