Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank

The first autonomous drill rig – an Epiroc Pit Viper 271 – has broken ground at BHP’s South Flank project in Western Australia’s Pilbara
Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank Autonomous production drilling begins at South Flank

The Pit Viper 271 is the first of five autonomous drill rigs that will operate at South Flank

The rig is the first of five autonomous drill rigs set to start operating at South Flank, which is BHP's newest WA mine.

According to South Flank project director Simon Thomas, the Epiroc Pit Viper 271 is the first piece of South Flank kit to be remotely controlled from the BHP Integrated Remote Operations Centre (IROC) in Perth.

Thomas said four more drill rigs would arrive over the coming three years as the project ramps up to first ore in 2021.

"The South Flank Project is tracking well to meet all milestones with more than A$1.5 billion [US$1.1 billion] awarded in 177 contracts for bulk earthworks/concrete, non-process infrastructure, steel fabrication and machine fabrication/installation," he said.

"Importantly, 83% of those contracts have been awarded to WA-based companies and more than half has been awarded to Pilbara-based companies."