Exploration/Development, Features

Drilling into value gains

As the mining industry’s smaller players future-proof operations, FLANDERS is at the forefront of providing automated drill solutions.

With pressure on mining companies to drive down costs while increasing productivity, there is strong incentive to invest in automated solutions. 

Automation is being increasingly adopted, but the benefits and affordability are only now starting to trickle down to smaller companies. 

Australia’s border closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused major disruptions and labour shortages for operations across the country. 

To maintain production and drilling targets, automated solutions have been a saving grace for operators facing cost pressures.

FLANDERS automated blasthole drilling can unlock productivity and safety benefits for drilling operations with its ARDVARC control system. 

The system is compatible with any drill rig on the market through its open-architecture control system. 

FLANDERS offers the ARDVARC platform, which is scalable dependant on the mines readiness for automation. The first level, the ARDVARC Intelli-Rig system, provides more stringent data analysis and high-precision GPS blasthole positioning without automation. 

The second level is ARDVARC One-Touch, which provides touchscreen drilling that automatically configures drill settings hole by hole, automating the sequence.

“ARDVARC One-Touch unlocks the ability to get consistency in data out of drill holes, which ensures compliance to plan as well as consistency in data that comes out of the hole,” Flanders product development manager Josh Goodwin says. 

“It also provides efficiencies when aligning over the hole, which reduces the time taken between holes and increases the amount of production out of the machine.”

ARDVARC One-Touch also features a tele-remote system, allowing operators to control drills from a safe distance, keeping them out of the line of fire. 

“We then have our tele-remote system which allows the drills to be operated remotely via line of site or from a centralised location,” Goodwin says.

“It can bring operations outside the line of fire by getting them out of a hazardous operating area and keeping them in a safe zone.”

The third level, ARDVARC fully autonomous, provides complete automated control over drilling operations. 

This option increases productivity by up to 30 per cent by preventing human shift changes or stops during blasting operations. 

“ARDVARC fully autonomous allows operators to up to eight rigs at one time,” Goodwin says. “The automated drills can operate under the full drill sequence from drilling the hole to tramming to the next hole. 

“The benefit is increasing the number of utilised operational hours of that machine, improving production.”

With the industry facing labour shortages, ARDVARC fully autonomous requires fewer personnel on site to operate drill rigs, providing another production advantage. 

“By reducing the number of assets you’re reducing the overall costs because you don’t have to operate more assets,” Goodwin says.

“It can also reduce maintenance costs by continuously operating the machine within its operating parameters. Running the drill through the FLANDERS’ control system mitigates any human error that could damage the machine.”

While it’s not currently operating in the mineral exploration space, ARDVARC’s ground hardness index functionality could be used to detect orebodies. 

FLANDERS has partnered with Tribe Technology to move ARDVARC into mineral exploration by developing the world’s first fully automated RC drill.

“With Tribe Tech, we are shifting up the exploration mineral RC drilling market by creating a machine from the ground up with automation in mind using FLANDERS’ autonomous capabilities to bring that together,” Goodwin says. 

Goodwin says the Western Australia mining industry has widely adopted autonomous technologies. 

“In the past two to three years, we’ve seen a lot of Tier 2 and 3 miners taking advantage of the technology due to more acceptance and data showing the benefits,” he says.

“Whenever you have a real innovative technology there’s an acceptance curve with customers needing to have confidence in the technology, which we’re really seeing now.” 

To learn more about Flanders, visit https://www.flandersinc.com.au

This story also appears in the August issue of Australian Resources & Investment.

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