Anglo American launches world-first remote multi-pass drill

Dawson Mine’s multi-pass drill rig drilling its first hole. Image: Anglo American.

Anglo American has developed the world’s first remote multi-pass drill at the Dawson coal mine in Queensland as it transitions to controlling the site from a remote operations centre.

It is the first known rotary blasthole drill rig that has enabled Anglo American to complete multi-pass operations at the Dawson mine remotely.

This was driven by Anglo American’s commitment to make open cut mining safer as it removed operators from the field, with the rigs used as part of the drill and blast process that enabled excavation activities.

Anglo American’s Dawson mine general manager Clarence Robertson said the drill was testament to 18 months of tireless work by the Dawson team.

“Our project team did an incredible job upgrading the D90K drill rig by giving it a new control system and mechanical modifications,” Robertson said.

“This allows the drill rig to continually add and remove multiple drill rods during the drilling process without operator intervention, making it more efficient and consistent.

“Most importantly, the innovation is improving safety by removing our people from an operational area where they could be exposed to noise, dust, vibrations and vehicle movements.

“They now work from a site office environment, where a remote operations centre has been a step up for them to use new one-touch drilling technology.”

The multi-pass drill can reach six times deeper than a standard single-rod drill for both angled and vertical holes, allowing Anglo American to reach coal seams more easily.

The achievement has led Anglo American to receive the JCB CEA Innovation (Miner) Award at the 2020 Queensland Mining Awards.

Anglo American chief executive of Metallurgical Coal business Tyler Mitchelson said the project was an example of positive impacts innovation and technology could have on daily operations.

“Congratulations to our team from Dawson mine on their achievement, which has made a significant impact on the way we operate,” Mitchelson said.

“The remote multi-pass drill is a strong demonstration of how technology, digitisation and remote operation can come together to make our operations safer, more sustainable and more productive.”

Anglo American now plans to automate two more drill rigs over the next six months.