November 1, 2023
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"
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.
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.
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