HomeInterviewsSetting technology pace with new long hole rock drill prototype

Setting technology pace with new long hole rock drill prototype

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology understands that productive and accurate underground drilling is a crucial component in achieving production targets and meeting required advance rates.

It is this imperative that has led to the development of the latest generation of Sandvik’s ‘intelligent’ long hole drill rigs.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 9 2018

According to Sandvik underground drills business line manager Saltiel Pule, the new long hole drills will be equipped with the RD-series rock drills.

AUTHOR: Mining Review Africa’s senior deputy editor, Chantelle Kotze

These Sandvik rock drills are already featured in horizontal development applications namely the RD314, RD520 and RD525.

The next generation of Sandvik RD-series of rock drills are designed for up hole and down drilling applications and are essentially an upgrade to the existing HL series, which have been in the market for over 15 years.

Optimising your operation

Sandvik has developed and tested a prototype rock drill, the RD927L /RD925s, which is mounted on one of the I-series, or intelligent, drilling machines – the DL432i.

Sandvik began the development of the rock drill at its test mine in Tampere, Finland about two years ago with the view of creating a drill that can drill faster, more accurate holes of many varying diameters.

The prototype drifter has undergone a rigorous testing programme at Sandvik’s test mine after which it was then piloted at a mine in Portugal.

To ensure that the rock drill meets the requirement of the African mining sector, the rock drill will be brought to South Africa where it will be offered, on trial, to a hard rock mining company.

During this testing phase, Sandvik will work in close collaboration with the mining company to test its capabilities in working underground in an ‘intelligent’, highly automated underground mine to undergo a site acceptance test to check certain KPI’s in a certain time frame.

Accuracy is of utmost importance when drilling vertical long holes as an inaccurate or incorrect drill hole may lead to the sterilisation of an orebody.

“If you inaccurately drill and blast a vertical long hole, you may never be able to open up that stope, unless you do so through the costly exercise of establishing a new level and stope to access the mining pillar,” Pule explains.

Improving safety through automation

Sandvik i Series Long hole drill rigs will be automation ready through its patented AutoMine platform and OptiMine analytics software to enhance operation and safety performance.

Furthermore the long hole drills are equipped with various automation packages such as:

  • Drilling automation package (Platinum),
  • Data transfer,
  • Drill plan management,
  • Boom automatic positioning,
  • Fan automation.

Sandvik has developed an upgrade to the OptiMine Drill Plan Visualiser – ie Visual view for long hole drilling management system.

The upgrade enables the drill rig to visualization tool drill plans and for drilling reports.

“While automation acceptance is still hampered by the perception that automation results in reduced labour, the reality is that this equipment still requires human intervention to fully operate at all levels,” says Pule.


What automation technologies essentially do is reduce the room for error.

“Because machines can automatically respond and adapt to conditions ‘at the face’ – consumables and machine lifespans are extended, which in turn reduces costs.

It is Sandvik’s mission to ensure that its products evolve with changing technology, says Pule.

“We are also focused on continuously enhancing our understanding of the data analytics automated processes provide in better understanding our equipment and our systems,” he concludes.

You can read the full digital magazine here or subscribe here to receive a print copy

Chantelle Kotze
Chantelle Kotze is a Johannesburg-based media professional. She is a contributor at Mining Review Africa (Clarion Events - Africa) and has created content for the media brand over the past 6 years.