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The strongest lasts the longest: Legendary Pit Viper rig celebrates its 20th Anniversary

November 11, 2020

In an industry where sustainability and reliability are key benchmarks for success, a drill that can confidently stand the test of time is an advantage to any ongoing project. The Pit Viper is a rig that is synonymous with increased productivity for operations that include large blastholes in their overall production plan.
The first production Pit Viper drill

The first Pit Viper, PV-351, was sold to Canada in the year 2000 shortly after making its debut at the MINExpo International trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that same machine still successfully operating on site in British Columbia – an achievement that speaks to the durability and effectiveness of this rig design.


The machine started its journey at the Kemess Mine, an open pit copper and gold mine in the Omineca Mountains of Northern BC.  


Since its arrival in Canada two decades ago, the PV-351 has now logged in excess of 96,000 drilling hours and continues to deliver results as an asset of the Copper Mountain Mining Corporation.

Walt Halipchuk, Director of Administration & Energy Management at Copper Mountain, speaks on how this machine has affected their operations throughout the years.


Why did you decide to go for the Pit Viper?

We were familiar with the strong components in the rig and their proven reliability, so it removed any mystery about performance capabilities. The total cost of ownership and the strong financing opportunity was also attractive. Another reason was the willingness of the manufacturer to stand behind the product, which de-risked our investment.


What does this drill mean to your operations?

Drilling is the first step of the mining operation, so guaranteeing high availability and performance in drilling is critical to the overall success. The Pit Viper drill represents cost effective drilling and a low life-cycle cost. The flexibility of the low carbon option with the electric power drill is a benefit. As a group, we are eager to reduce greenhouse gases and have the option of a drill that is electric-powered.

"The PV-351 has always stood out as the premier rotary blasthole drill in the world because of its capabilities."

Walt Halipchuk, Director of Administration & Energy Management, Copper Mountain.

What is unique about the Pit Viper?

The rig’s mass and pull-down force is especially effective along with the compressor and the mobility of the rig. It is dependable with a strong design, it is easy to maintain and has proven components that can be easily serviced to achieve longevity.


What is most impressive about the drill?

I love the name (smiles), but mainly the productivity.


What makes the Pit Viper successful?

The machine is robust and easy to maintain. The strong technical support available contributes largely to the success of the rig. In September 2020, the drill was running at 92% mechanical availability, which is a credit to the entire team maintaining the drill and the operators in the cab! In addition, there has always been a commitment of Epiroc’s management team to ensure the drill was successful, which required a true partnership and major changes from traditional mining supplier-customer relationships going back over 20 years ago.

The Pit Viper 351 has become a flagship drill for Copper Mountain and it routinely delivers the highest productivity on site. Since the mine prioritizes the upkeep of the drill to avoid costly downtime, Epiroc’s service team has allowed for consistent predictive maintenance: “A crucial element to the success of this rig has been the collaborative efforts of our service team and the Copper Mountain personnel on site. Our united approach has ensured that the PV-351 continues to deliver and we look forward to more milestones to come,” said Jamie Charland, Regional Manager Western Canada.

"We are proud to see the PV-351 has remained an integral part of Copper Mountain’s operations over the years. The machine’s longevity can be attributed to its robust design, but also to the partnership between Copper Mountain and Epiroc that has allowed it to operate at its full potential. We look forward to continuing this relationship that has stood the test of time."

Jason Smith, General Manager Epiroc Canada.

International Surface Epiroc Drilling Solutions Open pit mining Customer story Rotary blasthole drilling rigs