Underground drill deepens mining automation

Image of Sandvik's AutoMine concept underground drill

Sandvik's AutoMine concept underground drill

3rd November 2022


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A fully autonomous, twin-boom development drill rig capable of drilling without human interaction, is seen as a major step towards autonomous mining.

The AutoMine concept underground drill is a cabinless battery-electric drill that can plan and execute the complete drilling cycle from tramming to the face, setting up for drilling, drilling the pattern and returning home to charge for the next cycle, says Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.

The company says it has expanded its vision from autonomous mucking to autonomous drilling with the introduction of its new drill concept.

“We chose a development drill as our next Concept Vehicle to demonstrate that autonomy can also work effectively in a mine’s development phase, in constantly changing environments,” said Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions automation VP David Hallett.

The fully functional concept drill is said to showcase next-generation intelligent automation and other new technologies and features that will be introduced for current and future Sandvik offerings. Some features will be available as standalone products and others as upgrades or options for existing products or equipment.

“Our AutoMine Concept Underground Drill is not intended to be introduced as a commercial product,” said Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions product development and product management VP Johannes Välivaara. “Rather, it will become our in-house platform for testing and developing new technologies our customers identify as crucial to their operations.”

The removal of an operator cabin from the drill design creates space for onboard water and battery storage and eliminates the need for supply cables or water hoses during operation. The self-contained drill is engineered to use and optimises power and electricity based on need, aimed at making onboard supply last longer.

The company explains that the drill only needs to know which tunnel and face it should tram to and it can plan the rest of its mission autonomously, using data from mine planning software. Tunnel lines and profiles planned and defined into drilling and blasting patterns in iSURE help ensure optimal hole placement, detonation and profile quality. The drill also has access to 3D models of a site, which are automatically merged from survey and mapping results. It can update and optimise the 3D model of the mine in real time based on feedback from its onboard cameras and scanners.

The drill is designed to learn and adapt to the ever-changing environment in a development heading to safely complete entire missions from entry to exit. It is able to navigate tight spaces with agility, enabling effective use of large machines in small spaces. Once it has arrived at its destination, it uses automatic drill plan adjustment to optimise the drilling pattern and drill the full round.

During drilling, the AutoMine Concept Underground Drill uses an artificial intelligence- (AI-) guided automatic drill bit changer to identify when bits are worn and changes them automatically. The drill is also equipped with a lifter tube installer that is said to simplify the face charging procedure. Drilling data is reported back to iSURE or Deswik for further optimization. The drill also uses Rock Pulse AI for continuous rock mass feedback to optimise drilling performance.

Sandvik says that its AutoMine Concept Underground Drill is compatible with traditional safety gate systems and is also capable of working without area isolation. It asks for assistance when re-filling consumables and recharging, and can request intervention by an operator if it is unsure of changes to its environment, explains the company.


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