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Central Qld coal mine increases automation

Epiroc Pit Viper 275
Epiroc Pit Viper 275

A global mining services company is growing its fleet of autonomous machinery at a coal operation in Central Queensland’s Isaac region.

Thiess recently fitted a second Epiroc Pit Viper 275 (PV-275) autonomous drilling system at Jellinbah Group’s Lake Vermont Coal Mine in Dysart, 256km southwest of Mackay.

Australian first

The contractor, which is currently performing full-service mining at the site, revealed the decision makes Lake Vermont the nation’s first coal mine to have two multi-pass fully autonomous rigs that drill side by side.

Thiess promised the technology would improve safety, productivity, machine and autonomous utilisation. This is because guidance technology helps drill holes to the exact location and depth required by the drill plan, with a maximum depth of 59.4 metres and diameter of up to 270mm.

There is also potential to use the technology to drill holes up to 72 metres deep, and add a third PV-275 before Christmas.

Staff retrained

Affected drill and dozer operators, communication technicians and maintenance personnel have been offered further training as part of a “staged upskilling” process.

“We are currently operating in auto drill plan execution (fully autonomous), which allows us to efficiently and predictably operate the rig independently of manual operations through the entire drill cycle to complete the drill plan,” Thiess Lake Vermont operations manager and senior site executive Colin Mulligan said in a public statement.

“This enables improvements in utilisation with the PV-275’s capable of working for 11.5 hours of a 12-hour shift, compared with around 8.5 hours with manned operators.”

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Since introducing autonomous drills at the project, the contractor has drilled more than 3000 holes and a combined length exceeding 90km.

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