21 november 2023
At Aitik, a copper mine located one hour north of the Arctic Circle, deposits of copper ore, which contain copper, gold, and silver, are mined 24 hours a day. It is one of the biggest open pit copper mines in Europe. Since February 2020,
Norrbottens Bergteknik has been carrying out “contour drilling”, otherwise known as line drilling, on every level on behalf of mine owner Boliden. Before this assignment got underway, the company invested in four SmartROC D65 rigs of the latest generation from Epiroc. Kenneth Lindberg, Project Manager at Norrbottens Bergteknik, picks up the story.
Why did you decide to buy these new rigs?
“Because they have extra long feeds. The feed is so long that it can handle an eight-meter long drill rod, so despite the fact that the blasting depth is between 15 and 15.5 meters, only one threading is required. Otherwise, two rod changes would be necessary. This saves a lot of time. In addition, because so many mining companies in the region have chosen to invest in SmartROC D65 rigs, there is good access to servicing and spare parts."
How have they performed?
“Productivity has increased 10-15 percent, which we’re very happy about. However, we haven’t done much remote operation yet, partly because in certain parts of the mine there’s so much water that the rigs can’t be operated using BenchREMOTE, since we have to place out collaring pipe in each hole. With a new mine extension we’re blasting three bench heights, or 45 meters, and now we see good potential for use of the BenchREMOTE, since the rock does not contain as much water and since there is not as much rock debris. When we drill with SmartROC D65, the bottoms are made so even and fine that you can then place collaring pipes without any problem. One operator controls two rigs, increasing safety at the rock face for the operators.”
Your SmartROC D65 rigs have been equipped with new touchscreens.
“That’s true. Initially, we experienced a whole host of run-in problems. We agreed to pilot the new screen and, to begin with at least, it was so memory-hungry that the whole system slowed down.
However, since the software was updated everything’s run as smooth as silk. The operators are happy and are reporting that the screen is easy to use. They receive accurate and easy-to-understand information, and accessing menus is now simpler than ever before. It’s also easy to change settings."
How has the service and collaboration with Epiroc worked?
“We’re very satisfied. Epiroc has personnel stationed in Aitik, so help is available 7 days a week. It goes without saying that, during the pandemic, it has been difficult to obtain spare parts, but everyone has faced similar difficulties. In respect of service, we have a schedule based on a thousand hour cycle. This means servicing takes place at regular intervals, becoming more extensive during the cycle. Epiroc’s technicians are highly skilled."
• Build to face the toughest of conditions and loaded with intelligent features such as automated drilling and rod handling.
• One or more drill rigs can be operated remotely with the BenchREMOTE option.
• Extra long feed with 8 meter pipes makes it possible to drill 16 meter production holes with just one rod-adding.
• Possible to drill 229 mm holes (9 inches) thanks to the power of the COP M7 hammer.
• Uses 300 liters less hydraulic oil than previous versions and has fewer hoses and pumps.