Health and Safety CONFERENCE

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Automation: New Technology Protects Personnel

Tony Peirce
Exploration Superintendent; NBB Geosciences, Anglo American

Exploration activities within Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal Business Unit occur across all its mine sites and exploration tenure. Drilling is manually intensive and highly repetitive. The use of automated drill rigs reduces manual handling and removes personnel from potentially hazardous zones.

Analyses of drilling-related incidents since 2016, highlighted the need to move towards an automated drilling solution. Several manufacturers are involved in drill rig automation and in 2018, in conjunction with drilling contractor, Gas Field Services, Anglo American introduced a completely hands-free drill rig constructed by Boart Longyear.

The Boart Longyear drill rig and associated rod loader, called a Freedom Loader is engineered to eliminate manual handling of drill rods during the drilling process and locates the driller away from the rotating drill rods at the drillhole. The rig has a tilting top drive head which simplifies rod handling through in-built tools and added functionality. Additionally, clamping devices maintain constant pressure on the rods, reducing the likelihood of dropped rods, a further hazard in working around drill rigs.

The introduction of the rig is a major step towards the removing personnel from high risk environments and the reduction of repetitive, fatigue inducing manual handling tasks.