FLEETS

Norrbottens Bergteknik taking in next-gen Epiroc SmartROC D65 rigs

Drilling, blasting and reinforcement contract firm Norrbottens Bergteknik has invested in four SmartROC D65 rigs to boost its equipment line-up as it advances drilling projects at Boliden's Aitik open-pit copper mine in Sweden

The down-the-hole SmartROC D65 rig has been designed for quarrying and mining

The down-the-hole SmartROC D65 rig has been designed for quarrying and mining

While no financial details of the transaction were released, Norrbottens Bergteknik supervisor Andreas Lundberg said two of the rigs were already in place - making it one of the first companies worldwide to bring them into service.

"We are really looking forward to testing the new rig in Aitik," Lundberg said.

"It's a site with the harshest conditions possible for this type of work: up to -40 Celsius, water and a lot of rock debris to handle. If it works in Aitik, it will work anywhere; there is no other site with tougher conditions."

The company is also looking forward to putting the rigs to work for automated drilling, as well as seeing their ability to work remotely via BenchRemote.

"It will be very different from the way it is currently done, not least with respect to safety," he added.

Is automated operation possible at Aitik? Lundberg said he was keen to witness the answer to that question.

"Aitik is extreme; you sometimes have to drill in over seven metres of overburden to get to solid rock," he said, pointing out that its crews will "work based on what we hear" in such scenarios.

"We listen and adapt the drilling according to the sound of the hammer. It takes a lot of experience to work this way. I'm cautiously optimistic that this new technology will be able to handle the tough conditions better than experience."

The Epiroc SmartROC D65s will help the operation to manage time much better than prior rigs, as utilising longer drill rods of up to 8m is now an option.

"With the new SmartROC D65, we just need to add one rod instead of two as before. We will save a lot of time, especially if there is water. It's really tough to try and join rods when there is a lot of water," he said.

Norrbottens Bergteknik is projecting a significantly higher production rate because the BenchRemote operator station will allow work from a safe distance and the operation of up to three rigs at one time.

"Production will improve greatly, but it all centres around being able to rely 100% on these new automated systems," the operator said.

"Naturally, we assume that everything will work out, and we are counting on this. We have been able to submit tenders for a significantly higher production rate thanks to our investment in the new SmartROC D65."

The down-the-hole SmartROC D65 surface drill rig has been designed for quarrying and mining and features improved fuel consumption and three different feed options: standard, long and XL.

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