A Sneak Peek at the Future of Drilling Data

Drilling is the first step in an optimized mine value chain, so it is crucial to get it right.

But beyond optimizing the drilling process itself, there’s a whole world of opportunity to use data collected during drilling to impact every step of the downstream mining process.

Based on years of in-field experience and hundreds of thousands of data points, CR Powered by Epiroc is forging a path into the future of drilling data: optimizing blasting, enhancing fragmentation, and improving dig performance, all while reducing costs and emissions.

Getting the Foundation Right

When drill holes are spaced according to pattern and drilled to depth, explosives can properly fragment the rock as per the blast design, neither too large so as to damage machines, increase dig energy, and lower production, nor too small, incurring excessive blasting costs.

It’s a crucial step, but many miners still use surveyors to mark holes manually. Not only are there safety risks with surveyors in the pit, but markers can easily get missed or moved, affecting the drilling pattern and resulting in suboptimal fragmentation.

The solution: use a GPS navigation and measure while drilling system. For drills without these systems installed, Thunderbird 1110 is a high-precision GPS and rock strata measurement system designed to be retrofitted on rotary blast drills.

The system integrates surveying into any drill, improving the accuracy of drilling operations. By sending drill patterns directly to Thunderbird, your operators know precisely where to drill, without any need for surveyors on the ground.

Once operators start drilling, Thunderbird provides target depth guidance with measure while drilling, so you can minimize over and under-drilling. Efficient drilling results in less fuel used, reducing emissions up to 445 tonnes of CO2e emissions per drill each year.

The benefits extend beyond optimizing your drilling. As drills progress down each hole, StrataSense sensors collect data, reporting rock hardness at 10cm increments down the drill hole. By understanding each layer of rock, you can blast intelligently to the exact fragmentation you need.

The result: optimal fragmentation, plus reduced costs and emissions.

As Thunderbird measures and records drilling results, it feeds that data into a full suite of business analytics tools, including pattern compliance, hole locations and depth, and rock hardness.

This data from drilling can be used to predict and optimize outcomes further down the mining value chain.

On Demand Data

As machines generate more and more data, it can quickly become overwhelming without a structure and system to map, organize, and extract value from the data.

Our robust data governance policy has three core elements: security, health, and accessibility.

Data Security

With stories of data breaches and cyber security crises headlining the news, keeping data safe must be a high priority for any company.

We host our data in industry-leading Microsoft Azure, leveraging its more than US$1 billion investment in security R&D and 3,500 cyber security experts to keep our customers’ data secure.

Data Health

Data analysis quickly loses value if the data cannot be depended on to be accurate and up-to-date.

Once data from your assets enters our system, we protect your data and reporting, so it’s always available and reliable.

We use health dashboards to monitor data pipelines and ensure they are healthy. Infrastructure monitoring triggers rapid response protocols if any issues arise, so an expert is never far.

Increasing use of automated data monitoring tools enables timely notification of data quality issues.

Data Accessibility

Before cloud computing, miners struggled with syncing mobile assets to reliable communications. Even when they succeeded, there were issues in maintaining the communication network and ensuring data made its way back to a central database intact.

We’ve been at the forefront of developing mobile equipment-specific communication methods for years. We rely on Microsoft Azure’s data warehouse to store data, which is optimized for large amounts of data and ensuring ready access from anywhere in the world.

Storing data in the cloud for easy accessibility gives your operations two significant benefits: integrations and reporting.

Data in the cloud can be shared across silos, regardless of your mine site’s technology stack, from CR Digital’s products to third-party software and OEMs. Sharing data from different parts of your value chain enhances productivity and efficiency. For example, Thunderbird can feed rock hardness data into your blast design packages, improving your drill and blast process.

Accessible data is also data that can be readily and easily interacted with to create visualizations and dashboards – enabling you to extract value from the data. We put years of experience with the data from our systems to work building world-class data analytics business tools for our customers to gain more valuable insights than they could get anywhere else.

Machine Learning: the Next Frontier

Machine learning enables computers to understand and develop on their own by gathering and analyzing data via algorithms. The more data you feed the algorithm, the better the results.

Once you have collected data from machines and it’s accessible in the cloud, machine learning is the logical next step to extract more from your data. It can integrate data from every part of your mining operations to get insights into operating more efficiently, productively, and sustainably.

Drill data can be used to optimize blasting for dig performance and predict extraction outcomes, finding the sweet spot between blast energy and dig energy to reduce your emissions and costs.

Imagine this: using your drilling pattern data combined with rock knowledge to blast smartly, varying the density of emulsions throughout the depth of the hole to precisely match explosives to the geological characteristics of the rock.

This would allow miners to use the minimum amount of explosives necessary to get the correct fragmentation, saving money while getting a similar fragmentation outcome. With blasting sitting at 15-20 percent of overall mining costs and two percent of emissions, this represents a significant opportunity for miners to optimize their operations.

Better fragmented rock reduces the energy required to move it, resulting in fewer emissions (from both diggers and haul trucks), reduced equipment damage, and enhanced throughput.

Combined with our Titan 3330 payload management system to provide real-time feedback to operators on improving technique and reducing payload variation, the results can be exponential.

That is the future of optimizing your drill and blast process for dig performance.

Read the full article originally published by GeoDrilling International.