March 31, 2023
In the middle of Sweden, at the small town of Garpenberg, a wide mining area spreads out. With a depth of 1 510 meter, this is the oldest mining area in Sweden still in operation, operated by Epiroc’s long term partner Boliden. Complex ores containing zinc, lead, silver, copper and gold are mined here.
In 2014, Boliden started an automation project to make the Garpenberg mine more operationally reliable, eco-friendly and cost-effective.
One of the project’s challenges was the changing of drill bits – both from a safety aspect for the operators but the frequent bit replacements also impacted the overall equipment efficiency and was a problem for the automation and tele remote implementations.
Reducing the number of bit changes was key to move the operators away from dangerous areas but would also help increase the production with fewer interruptions per drilled meters. By moving the operators in to the control room the operators would also be able to manage several riggs at the same time and let the riggs continue drilling during breaks.
"Boliden has a long-term goal to increase the level of automation so that the operators can manage more riggs at the same time and keep the machines going through shift changes. Changing drill bits are time consuming and a safety risk for our operators and we wanted to find a drill bit that we could trust to drill more meters than a standard bit, allowing us to keep the operators in the control room for longer periods of time. End game being to increase our production."
"Epiroc and Boliden started a collaboration project in Garpenberg with the aim to increase and optimize the usage of the Boomers’ automation features. Another objective for the project was to prepare the use of tele remote control. At a point in the project, it was recognized that the frequent bit replacements in certain parts of the mine was not only problematic for our efforts but an actual showstopper. The Epiroc Powerbit X was proposed to be included in the project with the objective to last for a full face. In the beginning there was some initial skepticism if the bit would last, but we believed the diamond technology was the right choice for the challenge."
The trials started in May 2022 and continued over the following four months. During this time, Epiroc continuously supplied one of the development drill rigs of the Boliden fleet with Epiroc Powerbit X. In addition to the bits, Epiroc also supplied the compatible Epiroc SR35 drill string including rods, shanks, couplings and reamers to optimize the system performance.
Throughout the trial Epiroc application specialists as well as engineers supported the customer’s project team. After learning more about the rock conditions at Garpenberg mine, product improvements were tested to increase the bit performance.
"The trails went very well, and the results exceeded our expectations. We drilled more meters than we had hoped for, and we almost eliminated bit changes during an operator’s shift. The Epiroc Powerbit X really opens opportunities for us to continue our automation journey, moving the operator from the drilling area into the control room."
"We chose an area where it is extra hard conditions to drill with both the Epiroc Powerbit X and a standard bit that we usually drill with. To document the test, we placed a GoPro camera at the top of the rigg.
The overall result was successful and when using the Powerbit X we didn’t have to change bit during the whole face.
This meant that I didn’t have to go in and out of the cabin during the shift, making my job safer. Another benefit is that you can easily carry two drill bits in your pockets down to the shift instead of carrying the bit baskets as we usually do - and the re-grinding stopped completely."
The joint project has been beneficial for both companies and the Epiroc Powerbit X didn’t only drill one face but was able to drill several faces during the trials – exceeding all expectations.
The tests have helped Boliden to increase their understanding of how drill bit performance can accelerate and support their automation implementation in face drilling application. Epiroc has learnt what it takes to further develop PCD technology as a solution for demanding rock conditions as well as supporting the customer requirements for automation and tele-remote operations.
The companies look forward continuing collaborating together on the Garpenberg mine’s automation journey.
This customer story is also available as video. See below.
For further information please contact:
Strategic Business Development Manager at Epiroc Rock Drilling Tools.
Project Manager – Brand Communication at Epiroc Rock Drilling Tools