November 8, 2021
Well into May, the snow still lingers over parts of the Kaunisvaara open pit. April was cold this year, Magnus Aittamaa explains. Since his drilling career took off in 2012, he’s mostly been operating the Epiroc SmartROC D65.
“After Northland's bankruptcy, and before Kaunis Iron started, I drilled a few years for LKAB in Svappavaara, using top hammer rigs and such. But wherever the location, I have always operated Epiroc,” says Magnus Aittamaa.
Through the years, he’s experienced a few D65 updates and thinks the rig has constantly improved. Not least since Kaunis Iron was selected as the test facility for its new touchscreen. The screen is 15 inches and has a new graphical user interface.
"All operators enjoy the latest stuff, as we always look for improvement. Having a touchscreen in the rig is great, we have longed for that. And it works very well too."
He especially likes that the new screen makes the drilling so easy to overview. Unlike the previous screen which only showed numbers, the update includes MWD, live measure while drilling. A graphic image of how the drill string performs.
“The MWD allows us to see the position we are in during drilling. An image in front makes a huge difference compared to just seeing a bunch of numbers for meters and parameters.”
Another advantage is the displaying of the rear-view camera on the screen, and it is also easier to switch between different menus like the drill plan and the drilling menu – the ones that are most frequently open. Magnus elaborates:
“You only had to push a button before as well, but now it’s easier to quickly see where to press. It may sound silly, but when you drill and want to change or check something, it really is a matter of seconds. It must be quick and easy. And now it is.”
Going from the old screen to the new one required some learning, but Magnus Aittamaa still thinks it has been relatively easy, much thanks to the touchscreen being so user-friendly.
“For someone who is new to the profession, it is probably much easier to learn this screen than the old one,” he adds.
Service technicians from Epiroc are on site in the Kaunis Iron mine. Together with the engineers at Epiroc’s Örebro office, they have helped Magnus Aittamaa and his colleagues when things have gone wrong during the start-up of the new screens.
“As so often with completely new things, the screens did not work flawlessly from the beginning. But Epiroc listened to our input and has made some updates since we installed them a few years ago. Now, I think the screen is very good,” Magnus explains.
To him, it’s clear that Epiroc takes an interest in hearing what they can improve.
“They want to solve problems when they arise, which instils confidence.”
Magnus Aittamaa enjoys his profession. Especially as he can once again work in the open pit in Kaunisvaara under the Kaunis Iron flag. The mine is located a little closer to his home village of Tärendö than LKAB's mine in Svappavaara.
“Many people believe that drilling is always the same thing day in and day out. But there are new challenges all the time. I also enjoy working as productivity-oriented as we do here, that we set clear production goals. That requires that the equipment works too, and it does. In fact, if it wasn’t for our D65s, I don’t think the mine would have grown as much as it has in recent years. They produce well and are good machines.
Photo: Hans-Olof Utsi