In the middle of Sweden, in the small town of Garpenberg, a wide mining area spreads out. With a depth of 1510m, this is the oldest mining area in Sweden still in operation, operated by Epiroc's long-term partner Boliden. Complex ores containing zinc, lead, silver, copper and gold are mined here.
In 2014, Boliden started an automation project to make the Garpenberg mine more operationally reliable, eco-friendly and cost-effective.
Epiroc and Boliden started a collaboration project in Garpenberg
One of the project's challenges was the changing of drill bits - both from a safety aspect for the operators but the frequent bit replacements also impacted the overall equipment efficiency and was a problem for the automation and tele remote implementations.
Reducing the number of bit changes was key to moving the operators away from dangerous areas but would also help increase productivity with fewer interruptions per drilled metres. By moving the operators into the control room, they would also be able to manage several rigs at the same time and let the rigs continue drilling during breaks.
"Boliden has a long-term goal to increase the level of automation so that the operators can manage more rigs at the same time and keep the machines going through shift changes. Changing drill bits is time-consuming and a safety risk for our operators, and we wanted to find a drill bit that we could trust to drill more metres than a standard bit, allowing us to keep the operators in the control room for longer periods of time. End game being to increase our production," Karin Fjärsmans, production technician at Boliden, said.
To help Boliden accelerate its automation journey, Epiroc introduced it to its diamond technology, where the drill bit buttons are protected by diamonds. The companies agreed to run trials on the drill bits called Epiroc Powerbit X and asked Boliden's operators to put it to the test.
"Epiroc and Boliden started a collaboration project in Garpenberg with the aim to increase and optimise the usage of the Boomers' automation features. Another objective for the project was to prepare for the use of tele remote control. At a point in the project, it was recognised that the frequent bit replacements in certain parts of the mine was not only problematic for our efforts but an actual showstopper," Jonas Falkeström, Strategic Business Development Manager, Epiroc Rock Drilling Tools, said. "The Epiroc Powerbit X was proposed to be included in the project with the objective to last for a full face. In the beginning, there was some initial scepticism if the bit would last, but we believed the diamond technology was the right choice for the challenge."
The trials started in May 2022 and continued over the following four months. During this time, Epiroc continuously supplied one of the development drill rigs of the Boliden fleet with Epiroc Powerbit X.
In addition to the bits, Epiroc also supplied the compatible Epiroc SR35 drill string, including rods, shanks, couplings and reamers to optimise the system performance.
Throughout the trial, Epiroc application specialists, as well as engineers, supported the customer's project team. After learning more about the rock conditions at Garpenberg mine, product improvements were tested to increase the bit performance.
The joint project has been beneficial for both companies, and the Epiroc Powerbit X did not only drill one face but was able to drill several faces during the trials - exceeding all expectations.
The tests have helped Boliden to increase its understanding of how drill bit performance can accelerate and support its automation implementation in face drilling application. Epiroc has learnt what it takes to further develop PCD technology as a solution for demanding rock conditions as well as supporting the customer requirements for automation and tele remote operations.
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