High-Tech Q&A on DTH

Down-The-Hole (DTH) drilling is integral to a successful materials processing. Wolfgang Tronegger, product manager, DTH Surface Drilling, for Sandvik, addressed some questions about drilling operations.

What is the biggest challenge for aggregates producers in the area of drilling?
Drilling is seen as a necessity, thus limited focus is put onto that process in general. Challenges include safety, operating costs, productivity, hole quality and time.

Do most quarries contract out drilling services, or are there still a fair number of operations that keep it in-house?
It differs. We see waves in one or the other direction. For constant and predictable output, mines can easily outsource; in case of selectivity or required flexibility, mines prefer to have their own equipment.

What should a quarry look for if purchasing a DTH drill?
Safety first, then operating costs, productivity and flexibility.

Talk about the importance of proper blast hole drilling with regard to the success of the blast.
Production drilling is one of the first steps in the process chain. If the quality of this work is good, it supports all the other processes and overall cost is low. Or vice versa. There is a balancing act between how much money is spent for production drilling (number of holes, hole diameter, quality) and the positive or negative effect on the successive processes. Rule of thumb: the more you save upfront, the more expensive it will get later on.

How is Sandvik utilizing high-tech tools to make drilling more efficient?
With the mining industry moving toward increasing levels of automation and process optimization, combined with demands for larger, higher-capacity equipment, our new equipment has been specifically designed to address trends which are essential to the future of mining. Sandvik is introducing automation on the drills to minimize the human factor/errors. This is especially important for customers who are operating in areas where experienced personnel is:

  1. Hard to get.
  2. Very expensive.

Other tools include a surface study program to calculate the overall performance in a mine-control system. Due to standardization and modularization we make it easier for operators/maintenance personnel to work on our drill simulators. With the new Pantera drill we are heavily pushing simulator training.

How do Sandvik bits contribute to the rotational torque and pull-down force that makes a successful borehole?
Most important is that the bits are designed to transmit the energy to break the rock into the rock. Therefore you need feed, rotation and flushing. In order to increase productivity you need to optimize drilling by using automation but also the tools play a vital role. More powerful rock drills/DTH hammers require new bit designs as well as new tubing systems on the hole.

How do today’s “smart drills” generate useful data that helps aggregates operations in their drilling and blasting planning efforts?
Smart drills produce a lot of data. The challenge is to utilize that in an effective way. It’s about integrating the drill into the overall mine-management system with two-way communication. Successful mine management requires certain information such as positioning of the drill, drill plan, production data, scheduled maintenance.

The next steps are to deliver:

  1. Measure While Drilling (MWD) data.
  2. On-line and on-board samples analyzing results. Both are ongoing projects.

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