BOART LONGYEAR’s semi-autonomous drill increases productivity by 13.5%

BOART LONGYEAR, [BLY-ASX] headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, US, got its start in the diamond drilling business in 1890 when Edmund J. (E.J.) Longyear sank his first diamond drill hole. Today, Boart Longyear not only manufactures and markets drilling equipment and tooling but also offers drilling services to customers worldwide, with offices and operations located in Asia Pacific, North and South America, Europe and Africa.

The company’s long experience and expertise has resulted in the development some of the most advanced drilling technology in the industry. Boart Longyear released the diamond drilling industry’s first wireline core retrieval system over 50 years ago. They were the first US company to utilize sonic equipment utilizing “high frequency resonance to eliminate or minimize the friction between the subsurface material being encountered and the tooling/core barrel.”

More recently, Boart Longyear developed and implemented the Drill Control Interface (DCi) to increase the efficiency, productivity and safety of the LM™ series of underground diamond core drill rigs. The company describes the DCi as a “fully electronic interface that allows one operator to control both the drill rig and the rod handler while providing real-time feedback on drilling conditions. The DCi incorporates CAN bus (Controller Area Network) technology to enable communication between the drill rig, the rod handler and the DCi to self-monitor and semi-automate most drilling operations.” The DCi also increases driller safety by moving the driller away from hydraulic hoses. The DCi interface is compatible with all Boart Longyear™ underground coring rigs that use a 700 series or 1300 series feed frame: the LM™75, LM™90, LM™110, and the MDR700.

The DCi allows drilling to continue during crib breaks (meal breaks) and shift changes. The company states, “This is possible because the DCi incorporates a programmable logic control (PLC) system where a supervisor can preset parameters for drilling. These parameters create a semi-autonomous drill system allowing the LM75 to achieve a three-metre run in absence of a driller.” Supervisors can set drilling parameters for inexperienced operators. If the parameters are exceeded, or the programmed drill run completed, the drill rig will automatically shut down. Also, laser proximity sensors will shut down the rig if a worker triggers the sensor keeping drillers at a safe distance at all times. The company explains, “The DCi PLC system results in fewer hoses, less leaks and clutter around the drill.”

Boart Longyear provides diamond core drilling services at the Olympic Dam Mine site which is owned and operated by BHP Billiton. The Olympic Dam is Australia’s largest underground mine site with more than 450 kilometres (279 miles) of underground development. The mine produces 10 million tons of ore per year using the sublevel open stope mining method.

Diamond drilling is employed at the Olympic Dam Mine to extract rock samples (core) for analysis in order to study and better understand the Olympic Dam ore body’s geometry and to collect geochemical information. This information is also used to create block models for mine planning and the eventual extraction of ore.

Boart Longyear continues to work with BHP Billiton to improve productivity and safety for mineral exploration and the exploration drilling.

At the Olympic Dam Mine, over a six-month period, Boart Longyear used an LM™75 drill rig with the DCi to drill a total of 5,726.3 metres. Boart Longyear reported this was an increase of 907.7 metres drilled over the previous six month average. This resulted in a unit cost savings of $2.90 per metre average and monthly productivity increase of 13.5% .

The DCi interface is fully electronic making the control cabinet 50 kilograms (110.23 lb) lighter and more portable compared to a conventional system with hydraulic controls. With only three plugs to disconnect from the DCi and no hydraulic hoses, a lighter cabinet with fewer components means the entire rig can be more quickly and easily moved.

According to the company, “The DCi provides real time key performance data which is recorded, stored and easily downloaded for quick analysis. This current information allows a driller to make adjustments to the drill rig, increasing productivity on the go. Because the DCi provides significant instrumentation data, a system diagnostic can be run to determine rig performance, operator performance and can detect early equipment failure.”

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