BHP buys autonomous upgrades for Atlas Copco drill rigs

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An Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271. Image: Atlas Copco An Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271. Image: Atlas Copco An Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271. Image: Atlas Copco

BHP Billiton has ordered autonomous upgrade packages for 18 Atlas Copco drill rigs to be used at its iron ore mines in Western Australia, following a two-year trial of the technology.

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Two heavy-duty Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271 rotary blasthole drill rigs at the Yandi mine have now operated autonomously for more than 15 000 hours and drilled more than one million meters.

The 20 autonomous rigs (including the two already equipped) will initially be controlled at BHP Billiton’s five iron ore mines in Pilbara, with the longer-term aim of remote operation from Perth, more than 1,000km away.    

"We are committed to delivering the most innovative solutions that enhance customers’ productivity, and our autonomous drill rigs are a fine example of that," Atlas Copco Mining and Rock Excavation Technique president Johan Halling says.

"We share a valuable partnership with BHP Billiton, and feel very proud to be able to provide the best solutions."

The Atlas Copco PV-271 rigs have a 34-tonne bit load capacity and can drill a 16.8m clean hole in a single pass.

The company says single-pass drilling yields higher drilling efficiencies (up to 25 percent when drilling in soft material) by eliminating rod change time and allowing more time for drilling.

"In addition to increased efficiency, eliminating rod changes also reduces the risk for operational errors." It says.

The 16.8m single pass tower provides a total depth capacity of 32m using a two-rod carousel holding four 7.62m rods.

Features include a ‘live tower’ design, which enables the operator to raise and lower the tower with the rotary head at the top and the rods in place, a patented high-strength cable feed system with automatic cable tensioning and hydraulic double-acting feed cylinders.


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