The automation of drilling and haulage processes determines higher rates of productivity, safety, sustainability and profitability for mining operations, according to Christian Cano Salazar, Mining Technology Product Manager at Ferreyros.
In Heading to PERUMIN, he presented the topic "The value of autonomy in drilling and hauling processes for open pit mining", to explain that both activities continually face challenges that condition the efficiency and reliability of operations.
In this regard, he detailed that, in the area of drilling and blasting, the most prevalent challenges are the control of rock fragmentation, control of material dilution, cost reduction, control and monitoring of the hardness of the rock to be drilled, improving the drilling QA/QC factor, and improving the design of the drilling meshes.
In the haulage area, there are challenges such as increasing productivity based on optimization, control and monitoring of tonnage and ore grades, control and monitoring of the condition of the roads, proactive control of safety levels, and real-time monitoring of the health of the equipment based on predictive models.
"All these challenges have been pointing to a system that allows generating value to these areas and therefore to the entire operation, mainly from the point of view of productivity, safety, sustainability, profitability and availability," he said.
In this challenge of automation in the mining sector, Caterpillar developed the CAT Minestar Command platform, which works on four approaches to optimize the activities of shovels, drills and tractors, as well as improving the safety and health of the machines for a millimetric monitoring of their operating parameters and extending their useful life.
Drilling and hauling automation solutions
Based on this smart platform, Caterpillar has developed autonomous systems for drills and mineral haulage trucks.
Under this premise, Christian Cano argued that automation solutions for drilling rigs allow a single worker to operate up to three machines of this type close by, in another part of the mine or outside it. They are also available for the CAT 6310 and CAT 6250 diesel models (fully autonomous), and MD6440 electric (semi-autonomous).
Moreover, he explained that automation solutions for trucks reduce the exposure of workers to risk areas, minimize costs in control centers, reduce the times in shift changes, and enhance the talent of workers by assigning them new roles. This technology is compatible with all CAT diesel models and other brands.
Impact of automation on customer operations
To testify to the effectiveness of Caterpillar's automation solutions, Christian Cano cited the case of a copper mining customer in Canada. At this mine, nine semi-autonomous drilling rigs were installed and the results were a 20% reduction in the cost per meter drilled, two additional hours of drilling per day per rig, and minimized wear and tear on equipment due to consistency of operation.
Similarly, he revealed that Caterpillar has a fleet of 369 autonomous trucks in different parts of the world, which together achieved 3 million tons hauled and 107.1 million kilometers traveled safely, and with no reported lost time due to injuries.
"Our customers have recorded an additional 2.5 hours of use, 10 seconds of unloading time, 30% productivity gains and 20% cost reduction," he concluded.