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SmartROC D65 with bakground in India

The SmartROC D65 offers precise capability in terms of providing the drilling data, enabling accurate drilling and blasting.

Productive partnership in idyllic surroundings

November 1, 2023

The iron ore mine at Noamundi, India, is taking productivity and sustainability to the next level with Epiroc’s SmartROC D65 surface drill rig and BenchREMOTE operator station.
Green landscapes, fresh air, a tranquil atmosphere, vast open farmlands followed by lush forest areas… the five-hour drive from Ranchi airport, in the state of Jharkhand, to the Noamundi mine is nothing short of a treat for the senses. Closer to the site, the surroundings are green and serene, seemingly unaffected by almost a hundred years of mining. For it was in 1926 that iron ore was discovered close to Noamundi, a town located roughly 130 kilometers from Jamshedpur. Today, Tata Steel, one of the top steel manufacturers in the world, produces about 30 million metric tons of iron ore a year from its ore mines and quarries division (OMQ), consisting of four mines; Noamundi, Katamati, Joda East and Khondbond. The Noamundi mine never ceases to operate, and activities are carried in three shifts each day.
BenchREMOTE operator and SmartROC D65

Thanks to the BenchREMOTE operator station, the drill rig can be safely operated from up to 100 meters away, eliminating the need for operators and surveyors to work in hazardous areas.

Much like any mine operator, Tata Steel rates equipment reliability, availability and productivity as success factors for uninterrupted mining. To ensure productivity and safety and enhance its digital mining capability, the company adopted Epiroc’s SmartROC D65 surface drill rig and the BenchREMOTE operator station at Noamundi in 2020.


Arriving at the mining site, you witness the sturdy SmartROC D65 in operation at the center of the captive iron ore resource – but no operator. He is seated in the BenchREMOTE operator station, approximately 100 meters away. While the SmartROC D65 provides high-quality drilling, enabling accurate blasting and fragmentation, the BenchREMOTE helps  enhance operators’ safety by keeping them away from any potential hazards surrounding the rig. It also drives productivity and elevates drilling performance.

“Since Tata Steel’s focus is digital, solutions like this help take the mine to the next level,” affirms Sanjit Kumar Adhya, Head of Operations at the Noamundi mine. “This rig [the SmartROC D65] can achieve a penetration rate of two meters a minute and an average drill rate of 35 meters per hour in hard sedimentary iron ore strata.”

"Since Tata Steel’s focus is digital, solutions like this help take the mine to the next level"

Sanjit Kumar Adhya , Head of Operations at the Noamundi mine
From interactions with the on-site team, and further delving into the automated rig’s advanced features such as Full Drill Cycle Automation and Hole Navigation System, AJ George, Head of Equipment Maintenance at Noamundi & Katamati Iron Mine, shares: “These features have helped our systems and operations group improve their performance.”
RCS Screen on SmartROC D65 at Tata Steel

Epiroc’s Rig Control System (RCS) is at the core of onboard automation solutions for surface drill rigs. The SmartROC D65 has a graphical interface with a touch screen inside the comfortable air-conditioned FOPS and ROPS-certified cabin.

The Hole Navigation System guides the machine, and the level of accuracy is so high it helps determine the rig’s position within 10 centimeters. Adhya adds: “The depth to which it’s supposed to drill is absolutely precise and detailed, and the benefit will actually be seen when we have a blast.”


Another important Epiroc solution is Measure While Drilling. A lot of data, including the properties of the rock, is generated while drilling, and several parameters are captured. With all data directed to one platform, it can be used for predictive analysis to identify areas that need attention. This feature also helps detect the precise location for drilling. Furthermore, a peek into the operator cabin reveals a touchless screen, which displays every minute detail about the drilling activity.

The cabin is air-conditioned and spacious enough for the operator to be comfortably seated, and operator safety is paramount. Senior Drill Operator Was Bira Soren confirms: “While the machines we used earlier had to be operated manually, the SmartROC D65 is supported by an automated system. The machine will drill to the meter setting. We feel safe to a great extent now, compared to operating manual machines.” Soren gets even more comfortable when he is seated in the BenchREMOTE, at a distance from the machine. The operator station has been prepped for one operator to operate three machines at a time, as they are in auto drilling mode.
 SmartROC D65 drilling at Tata Steel

While the machines used earlier had to be operated manually, the SmartROC D65 is supported by an auto system, where the rig drills just as per the meter set for drilling.

Intelligent and automated and with improved fuel consumption, the SmartROC D65 has features described as “a delight for the maintenance engineer and operator because the information is available online and, in most cases, real time,” by AJ George, Head of Equipment Maintenance.


There is no end to learning and training, and this holds true for Tata Steel’s operations at the Noamundi mine site, as well. Whenever there is a new product or technology available, training is mandatory. Here, too, training has been offered from the manager down to the line field operations team.


At 1:00 PM, a glance at the site, and it glitters and shimmers under the harsh sun. Yet mining activities are in full swing. While this might sound challenging enough, introducing and operating new technologies brings challenges, too, but the SmartROC D65 and BenchREMOTE were warmly welcomed by Tata Steel and its employees, as they would help enhance productivity and achieve higher safety standards.

For Tata Steel to get the most out of the equipment, Epiroc personnel is present year round at the Noamundi mine. Service Engineer Rahul Kumar, stationed at the site since 2020, is passionate and energetic, despite a long work day. “A major task involves addressing minor issues in the machines. Since this is the first of its kind in India, there could be operational challenges. To address them, we have trained the customer at different levels, including the operators. Problems are analyzed daily, and training plans are put together accordingly,” he says.
Epiroc service technicians at Tata Steel in India

Epiroc’s service agreement with Tata Steel, which involves a full maintenance contract for a period of 10 years, helps enhance and improve the drilling meterage per month.

To ensure best service and minimum downtime, Epiroc has developed several monitoring systems. Interact with the very approachable team on site and you will know how they function: the life of every component is measured, and parts are arranged for accordingly. This results in immediate replacement in the event of a breakdown of any component, be it in the rig or the BenchREMOTE. To ensure such timeliness, a service and maintenance team is visibly stationed on site and machines and components are serviced and checked. While this is located in the mine site area, it is still away from the main area of mining activity.

The service agreement involves a full maintenance contract for a period of ten years and has proved very valuable for Tata Steel. “This only helps in enhancing and improving the drilling meterage per month,” says George. In terms of maintenance, spare parts and inventory – and to ensure a smooth supply chain process – Tata Steel has also entered a Vendor Management Inventory (VMI) contract with Epiroc. Selling is a sacred trust between buyer and seller, and this is evident on site when you see the Epiroc and Tata Steel teams interacting with each other. No wonder this trust has prevailed between both companies for over 30 years. “There have been mutual discussions over the years to improve safety features,” confirms Atul Kumar Bhatnagar, General Manager, Ore Mines & Quarries, Tata Steel. Impressed by what he has experienced with the Epiroc equipment, he adds: “Tata Steel has moved one step ahead on digital and remote operations with the adoption of BenchREMOTE, and coming up next is how do we do such activities remotely from a workplace.


Kumar values the fact that Tata Steel demands and believes in innovative ideas. “This gives us several opportunities to act innovatively and increase the machines’ productivity and reliability,” he concludes, describing his experience with the customer in one word: “Enriching.”


Text: Shriyal Sethumadhavan

Photo: Gireesh GV



Tata Steel iron ore mine

Epiroc’s SmartROC D65 rig and the BenchREMOTE operator station have been enabling safe operations and enhanced productivity at Tata Steel’s Noamundi mine in India.

BenchREMOTE 2023 India Mining International Surface SmartROC D65 Surface and Exploration Drilling division Customer story

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