FUTURE TECH REPORT: Heavy Duty Drills
Mining Global conducts an in-depth study about the future of heavy duty drills and the technology that will be revolutionizing mine-site operations in coming years
The mining industry is witnessing a technological boom. The once archaic sector is rapidly upgrading, implementing bigger, faster and smarter equipment. Companies like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which burst onto the scene with the first driverless trucks, have shown the future of mining leads to automation.
The concept of autonomous drills isn’t new. Mining companies like Caterpillar, Sandvik and others have been configuring the idea for quite some time. It’s what those companies are creating for the future that will really revolutionize mining operations for years to come.
Automated drilling features a remote control system that allows operators to mechanically load and unload the drill rod from the tower frame at a distance and without any physical contact.
Rio Tinto and equipment manufacturer Sandvik have been working together since 2008 to develop technology for its Mine of the Future. The mining company has been testing the technology at its Pilbara operations in Western Australia.
According to Rio’s manager for mining disciplines, Charles McHugh: Atlas Copco and Rio Tinto worked together to ensure that the tasks assigned to the drill could be received and carried out in an automated fashion with the drill operator located in the office. We expect benefits both from a single operator being able to operate multiple drills and from flexible operation, which will be possible between operators and potentially between operating sites.”
He adds, “We are also seeing improved drill utilization and consistency in drill outcomes, providing more accurate information for mine operation.”
One important element of autonomous drilling is the software. Utilizing an internal computer frame, the system relates to the human senses – monitor for eyes and speakers for ear.
Sean Masse, mine manager at New Gold’s New Afton mine explains how their autonomous drilling works: “Our surveyors will draw up a design for how the drilling should go, and then we put that card into the jumbo’s computer, and the jumbo will automatically take the drill-bit to where the hole is supposed to be on that pattern,” says “The only thing the operator does is make sure it’s not going to drill into where there’s a remnant of the last (explosive) round.”
Benefits of automation
The benefits of automation are unanimous.
Everything from single operator, consistency in drilling outcomes, multiple autonomous rig drilling systems and reduction in training time, provide massive amounts of advantages to miners.
Automated drilling is precise. It’s been proven to enhance drill pattern accuracy and improve efficiency of drilling operations. Automated drilling also provides real-time feedback on materials being drilled that can aid in ore sampling and more precise hold loading. By fine tuning the ever varying stream of ore, companies can maximize recovery while utilizing less energy, water and time.
Another added benefit to autonomous drilling is safety. Companies can execute drill plans more safely by keeping operators out from harmful areas as well as reducing human error. Mack Metroliner of Plantman Equipment believes the safety benefits of autonomous drilling are unparalleled.
“The development of semi-autonomous mining equipment has created considerable benefits for operator welfare and safety in other high risk jobs but, until now, not for the manual and labor intensive process of winching drill rods into drill rigs.”
“The manual handling of drill rods is considered one of the most dangerous activities on mine sites,” Plantman said.
Today’s drills are also built to withstand almost any terrain platforms including the harshest environments. Remote locations are no match of automated systems as technology has advanced to allow miners to communicate anywhere in the world.
Next generation mining
As the mining industry continues to expand, the future is leading to integration of autonomous systems. By combining the power of all automated programs, mine sites can grow to become systematic operations with less error, more productivity and less costs.
Caterpillar’s Cat MineStar System, which integrates all automated systems in one, incorporates machine data, tracking and management information that provides an overall “big picture” of the mine site.
The system enables users to implement remote control, semi-autonomous or fully autonomous mining equipment. The Mine Star System makes next-generation mining a reality with systems for drilling, hauling, dozing and underground operations.
Another company integrating autonomous systems is Sandvik. The company’s AutoMine® Product offer automation for both surface and underground mining applications. The system covers fleet automation, single equipment automation, process management including manual production and equipment monitoring for whole equipment.
AutoMine® has the proven capability of operating single heavy-duty machines for surface or underground mines. It can simultaneously monitor movements of a fleet of driverless loaders or trucks hundreds of miles below surface.
Automation continues to reshape one of the world’s most labor-intensive industries and the future lies in integration.
Net zero benefits the mining industry and the environment
How do we get the world to net-zero faster?
Emitwise’s founders, Mauro Cozzi, Eduardo Gómez and Ben Peddie, approached a network of more than 100 of the world's largest enterprises and asked their CEOs, CFOs, and sustainability managers the big question: How do we get the world to net-zero faster? The challenge many shared was the lack of timely and accurate emissions data to enable strategic decisions. Companies often relied on annual audits of their carbon footprint for carbon accounting purposes. However, static yearly results were outdated upon publishing.
Emitwise saves companies an average of 260 working days a year by automating their scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions data. With the added benefits of clean audit trails and auto-populated accounting reports in line with GHG Protocol, all at the click of a button. Their easy to use solution enables businesses to quickly identify the carbon hotspots to target, and the precise real-time data empowers teams to remain agile and respond effectively, making achieving those goals possible.
Unique AI Technology
Emitwise’s unique AI technology empowers businesses to automatically measure, report and reduce their carbon footprint across their operations and supply chain, future-proofing companies for a zero-carbon world. It is the only solution that enables companies to fully automate their carbon accounting across all business units and suppliers, therefore liberating them from the drudgery of collecting and processing emissions data.
By using artificial intelligence to precisely measure emissions in real-time, businesses can identify and tackle carbon hotspots swiftly, enabling them to devise a trackable roadmap to net-zero carbon. At the same time, accurate audit trails and auto-populated annual reports ensure that companies comply with international reporting requirements, and align businesses with global climate targets to mitigate risk across their operations and supply chain.
The Oren Marketplace
Environmental management, social license to operate, safety, renewable energy to lower emissions and operational efficiency for mining can be supported by a range of digital solutions enabling dynamic operations. To address these issues, Shell and IBM joined forces to create the Oren Marketplace – the first B2B solutions platform for the mining sector.
With the adoption of many of the digital solutions offered through Oren, mining companies can adapt in real-time to risks or adjust plans ahead of a problem occurring. The goal is a shift towards proactive management as the optimal outcome for all stakeholders – community, shareholders, and employees.
Emitwise was founded with the goal of helping industries across all sectors reduce their carbon footprint. Similarly, Shell aims to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050, or sooner, in step with society and its customers. And Oren is focused on offering innovative products and services that can help mining companies track and reduce their emissions.
“Oren is the starting point for how we help our mining customers to de-carbonise,” explains Carol Chen, Global Lubricants Marketing, Vice President, Shell. “It’s our ambition to work with sectors like mining to help them find their own pathway to net-zero emissions through collaboration. The Oren marketplace offers a great opportunity for collaboration between the miners and technology companies that are joining this digital marketplace.”
Emitwise will be showcasing its vision for a net-zero future live from Lisbon at this year’s Web Summit. Bringing together the people and companies redefining the global tech industry, the online event welcomes 100,000+ attendees from around the world to hear from more than 800 speakers and view offerings from 2,500 startups covering a vast range of topics from Data Science and Climate Change to AI and Machine Learning. To find out more and book your ticket visit
Emitwise is one of many solutions providers on the Oren platform seeking to address the pain points and environmental concerns of heavy industries like mining. To discover a range of solutions that can further support your operation’s digital transformation and commitment to sustainability, visit the