For the past two years, BHP Billiton has been running a trial of Atlas Copco's autonomous technology on Pit Viper 271 rigs at the Yandi mine in the Pilbara region. The machines have operated autonomously for more than 15,000 hours and drilled more than one million metres.
As a result of the successful trial, BHP Billiton has ordered autonomous upgrade packages for 18 drill rigs, in addition to two machines that are already operating autonomously. The 20 autonomous rigs will initially be controlled at BHP Billiton's five iron-ore mines in the Pilbara, with the longer-term aim of remote operation from Perth, more than a thousand kilometres away. No financial details were disclosed.
Johan Halling, president of Atlas Copco's Mining and Rock Excavation Technique business area, commented: "We are committed to delivering the most innovative solutions that enhance customers' productivity, and our autonomous drill rigs are a fine example of that. We share a valuable partnership with BHP Billiton, and feel very proud to be able to provide the best solutions."