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Ausdrill gets hands on with hands-off-steel diamond drilling tech

Ausdrill gets hands on with hands-off-steel diamond drilling tech • Ausdrill New LF160s Freedom Loader

We recently added a Boart Longyear LF160 drill rig and FL262 FREEDOM™ LOADER combination to our diamond drilling fleet in Australia as part of our ‘hands-off-steel’ initiatives.

The newest coring rig – capable of pulling a 4.5 m sample – comes with a tilting top drive head to simplify rod handling, a foot clamp and braking device, and visible wireline. This is the second LF160 in our portfolio, and a third rig is on the way. Meanwhile, we are actively exploring a similar system capable of offering 6 m samples.

One rig is currently active at a Queensland coal operation, with the second at a nickel operation in the Goldfields of Western Australia. The third rig is expected to go to the Pilbara iron ore sector.

It is the combination of the LF160 with the FL262 FREEDOM LOADER that is bringing safety benefits to us and our clients. With totally hands-free rod handling, the combined rig and loader require no intervention from the driller’s assistant to trip in and align the rods or connect to the top drive head – thus offering greater freedom to drill by reducing the risk of hand and back injuries while handling rods. This freedom of movement comes as a result of the FREEDOM LOADER’s remote-control panel, which allows drillers to move to – and work from – a safer location away from the risks of moving rods.

This new diamond drilling technology was deployed as part of our commitment to developing the mines of the future in partnership with our clients. Our technology roadmap strives for continuous safety and production improvements.

Exploration drilling is an obvious place for Tier 1 miners to look to for safety improvements. A manual and repetitive job, traditional diamond drilling comes with many injuries as a result of drillers and offsiders removing and inserting heavy drill rods into the rigs.

“While automating part of the exploration drilling process may not provide the same financial payback as automating haul trucks or blasthole rigs, it does significantly reduce risk to personnel. If you look at the drill inserts and the ongoing safety risks associated with being a driller’s offsider, or drilling in general, reducing the whole hands-on steel process and going down the automated or autonomous path makes sense. It is improving safety that is the real aim of leveraging such technology, said Eric Gobbert, Ausdrill Senior Operations Manager, Exploration.

“De-risking the manual handling component is the real winning aspect of this. We all want to achieve our business aims, but more importantly ensure our staff and our client’s staff are safe in the process. And, by reducing these risks, we are ensuring continuity of operations, with personnel less likely to obtain the injuries that so often come with diamond drilling”, said Gobbert.

Safety has always been at the centre of Ausdrill technological drive – we understand that a safe project is a successful project. This is not our first foray into hands-off-steel diamond drilling. Drill Rigs Australia, our subsidiary up until July, previously engineered a similar style rod presenting system on one of its rigs at a Tier 1 client’s operation. The rig is still successfully operating – a full five years on.

We have a 30+ year history of designing and customising fleet to suit the needs of our clients and the swiftly-evolving market. Today, we work in partnership with our clients, OEMs and third-party tech service providers to bring a bespoke combination of fleet and equipment, geared specifically to the needs of each project. Our project success and notable safety records showcase just how well we are delivering on our intentions, and tracking along our technology roadmap.