Straight down to business
Archean rock in eastern Finland is rich in metals, but also in challenges. SmartROC CL has proven it can withstand the harsh conditions of the Terrafame mine and drill the straight holes required for successful blasting.
February 15, 2023
There is intense activity on our visit to the mine. On a ledge, six Epiroc rigs are drilling 15–17-meter-deep holes for the week’s blast. Drilling is a precision job that creates the conditions for successful blasting.
“SmartROC CL is in a class of its own when it comes to making straight holes and optimally positioned blast charges. Successful blasting also facilitates the quality sorting and loading of ore in the next stage,” says Jarkko Lappalainen, Drilling Supervisor at E. Hartikainen Oy, which is responsible for drilling, loading and hauling rock masses in the Terrafame mine.
The company is one of many subcontractors working together in the field with mine owner Terrafame..
“The entire operation at Terrafame is characterized by systematic and long-term planning. The mining field is huge as is the amount of mining done there. This is probably one of the neatest in Europe,” says Lappalainen.
Communication is a central part of the operation, and all processes are updated in real time in a cloud service. The information is available to the various companies working in the field. Here, the smart drill rigs from Epiroc also provide important information.
“SmartROC CL is automated and equipped with advanced features that collect accurate information on rock quality and water presence in different drilling locations. This enables us to identify demanding sections, plan future work with our partners, and improve workplace safety in the entire field,” says Lappalainen.
E. Hartikainen Oy is one of Finland’s largest contractors in mining and construction and was an early user of Epiroc's COPROD system. It has also contributed to product development through its experience with tough conditions. According to Lappalainen, Epiroc’s COPROD system, with a hydraulic top hammer, has proven to have several advantages in this mine, compared to DTH rigs.
"The strength of the COPROD-system is evident when you take into account total drilled meters. The difference is huge when you consider that E. Hartikainen Oy has drilled 6 000 kilometers of drill holes at Terrafame so far."
The comparatively low fuel consumption of SmartROC CL is also a big advantage.
“We are buying the most affordable equipment in the long run. In our experience, fuel savings can be in the vicinity of ten percent, depending on the rock material,” says Lappalainen.
The company also used SmartROC CL in the Siilinjärvi mine and bought more of the same model when it was awarded the contract at Terrafame. E. Hartikainen Oy also mainly uses Epiroc consumables.
“Thanks to SmartROC CL and its accessory equipment, we get high and consistent quality drill holes, even in difficult conditions. At the same time, operators get a good working environment.”
Henry Posio, an experienced operator, pulls up the drill, stops the engine and exits the cab of his SmartROC CL rig. He has operated the rig type since it came out on the market and is more than pleased.
"The controls are easy to operate, the automatic drilling works fine and I don’t have to step out of the cab to make various adjustments."
Like the other drillers in Terrafame, he works every other week and has 11½-hour shifts when on the job. In other words, workdays in the cab are long, but he is happy.
“The soundproofing in the cab is excellent, and I listen to audiobooks a lot.”
Posio usually has the rig set to automatic drilling, but there are times he needs to take over the controls.
“Automatic control is faster than manual, but sometimes I encounter water or porous parts of the mountain. Then I need to drill manually. The drilling slows down, but the machine can handle it.”
Maintenance of the company's own machinery at Terrafame takes place in E. Hartikainen Oy’s own workshop in the field. The drill hammers are sent to Epiroc’s workshop in the Helsinki area for service, but workshop manager Tero Leskinen and his staff take care of everything else, from drill bits to drill rigs. In the big hall, two older Epiroc drill rigs undergo 20 000-hour service. Leskinen opens the door to a hall where one of his fitters is placing a new tip on a worn drill bit.
He describes Epiroc’s equipment as durable and easy to keep in good working condition through regular scheduled service.
The conditions at Terrafame are demanding, with large temperature swings, humidity, vibrations and varying rock types. In the past, hose damage to the drill rigs was a recurring problem in the winter, but electric lines have largely replaced liquid hoses on the newer models, and that has significantly reduced the amount of technical failures. Now, we can keep the machines up and running all year, with maintenance at regular intervals.”
He sees the low fuel consumption of the SmartROC CL as a trump card to keep costs and emissions down.
“Fuel consumption is becoming an increasingly important issue for the future. In the long run, we can assume that drill rigs will also be powered by electricity,” says Leskinen.
He and E. Hartikainen Oy know where they can find nickel and cobalt sulfide for the batteries.
Text: Johan Svenlin
Photo: Joona Raevuori
• One of Finland’s largest mining and construction companies, with more than 400 employees and operations throughout the country.
• At Terrafame, the company carries out drilling of 165 mm blast holes, for blasting 52 million tons /year and the shipment of 24 million tons/year of aggregate.
• Uses SmartROC CL from Epiroc and has been an important partner in the development of this drill rig.
Terrafame owns Europe’s largest nickel deposits, in northern Finland. Nickel, cobalt, zinc and copper are extracted through energy-efficient bio-leaching, where microbes do the work. In the area is one of the world’s largest production lines for battery chemicals, where nickel and cobalt sulphates are the main components. Zinc and copper sulfides are filtered and resold for processing.
Terrafame is active in the transition from fossil to renewable and aims to make all of its activities climate neutral by 2039. At the same time, the company supplies nickel for one million electric car batteries per year.