Drill Impacts

How blasthole drills impact the costs of your entire mining operation 

 

“Drilling is where the whole mining value chain begins,” says Matt Jacobs, Commercial Manager of Caterpillar Global Mining. “That’s because drilling effectiveness has a profound impact on the cost of almost every other aspect of a mine site’s daily operations. It affects shovel and loader digging effort, truck fill factors and total payloads, crusher output and power consumption. You name it, and it all starts with drilling.”

Matt explains, “Blastholes have to be carefully engineered and executed with a high level of precision. Get it right and you end up with fragmentation that’s easy for a shovel or other loading tool to work with. One study showed shovel gains of 9% from improved drilling. That means the shovels can move the material faster and burn less fuel doing it.

“Same thing with your truck fleet,” Matt adds. “Smaller rock sizes leave fewer voids within each load, so you can get more material on board for every haul cycle. Good fragmentation makes crushing more productive and less power-hungry, as well.” 

Accurate Drilling Boosts Throughput and Reduces Secondary Rock Breaking

How much is drilling actually worth? “Add it all up,” Matt says. “And we’ve seen instances where better fragmentation alone can result in a substantial increase in total mine throughput—as much as 5% per year in cases where poor fragmentation was a real problem.”

Good blasting also demands less rework, he notes. “Secondary rock breaking is pretty much a necessary evil, but you can minimize it by getting your drill pattern right and executing every hole per plan—with the right diameter, to the proper depth and at the specified angle.”

Matt cites an example where a gold mine in South Africa cut secondary rock breaking down from almost 350 hours to less than 130 hours per month. “That means less fuel burned, less wear and tear on the rock breaking excavator, and fewer man hours devoted to rework. Those cost savings add up fast.”

There are other savings, too, like reduced costs for drill consumables. Matt says, “When it can cost money for every meter of blasthole depth you drill, the last thing you want to do is drill a hole in the wrong place, at the wrong angle or in any other way that requires redrilling. Poor drilling practices waste explosives, as well.”

Proper Machine Selection for Drilling Efficiently and Accurately

With all of that in mind, then, how do you make sure your drilling operations are as effective and as cost-efficient as possible?

Matt says, not surprisingly, that effective drilling starts with a good drill fleet. “Obviously, you need to have drills that are well-suited to the site conditions.”

He continues, “If you’re drilling larger diameter holes though quartzite on a diamond mine, you’ll need a big rotary drill. Your best bet is to get advice from your Cat® dealer. Cat dealers have lots of tools to help you size your drill fleet properly.”

Once you’ve chosen the right size and type of drill, you’ll want to look closely at the differences in long-term costs between various models and manufacturers. “Drills are like any other piece of mining equipment,” Matt says. “Purchase price is clearly a consideration, but it’s far outweighed by the need for high availability and low operating costs.”

For example, he points out the Cat MD6540C Rotary Blasthole Drill delivers a $35-an-hour advantage in average annual parts consumption, compared with one of its major competitors. “Over the course of a 6,000-hour year, that adds up to a savings of around $175,000. The MD6540C also delivers a 30% undercarriage life cycle cost advantage, better than 50% lower lifetime compressor costs and other savings that make it the clear leader in its class. You really have to pay attention to those long-term costs.”

Technology and Operator Comfort

Technology is another area to look at. “Today’s technologies are changing the drilling game,” Matt notes. “Technologies like Cat Single Pass Auto Drilling make drilling easier, more accurate and less tedious.  It automatically adjusts drill operations for optimal penetration rates through changing ground conditions and strata. 

“Cat Terrain is another cost-effective technology. It guides the operator to the precise location for each hole, then provides feedback on where, how deep and at what angle the hole was drilled. It helps to reduce rework, plus it warns operators if they’re about to drill into an existing hole. That can avoid a costly problem right there. These kinds of technology add a lot of value to any drilling operation.”

Matt says that the new technologies, combined with the improved comfort of modern drill cabs, produce another cost benefit: greater operation retention rates. “It costs several thousand dollars to train a drill operator and get him or her up to a skill level where they can be truly productive. You don’t want to waste that investment, so it pays to put them into as comfortable of a machine as you can—one that they’re happy to work in every day.”

“Cat drill cabs are designed to provide a safe, comfortable work environment. Plus, the technologies built into those machines help new operators get up to speed more quickly.”

From shovel and truck production to operator retention and total mine throughput, blasthole drills can have a profound impact on mine site operations. 

“All things considered,” Matt says. “Drilling deserves a lot more credit than it sometimes gets. When they go about their business like they should, you don’t really notice them. But look more closely, and you’ll see that they can play a huge role in controlling your overall costs. It all starts with drills, so it pays to start out the best way you can.”

 

Fragmentation cost savings: http://www.saimm.co.za/Conferences/SurfaceMining2008/113-136_Amiel.pdf


CAT® ROTARY DRILLS BY THE NUMBERS

Drills


Cat Rotary Drills are designed and built to deliver rugged durability, high availability and the lowest possible lifetime operating costs

SEE MORE

DRILLING ACCURACY MATTERS


There’s a lot riding on your drilling operations. Improvements in drill pattern accuracy can add real value to every step of your mining process.

See How

How blasthole drills impact the costs of your entire mining operation 

 

“Drilling is where the whole mining value chain begins,” says Matt Jacobs, Commercial Manager of Caterpillar Global Mining. “That’s because drilling effectiveness has a profound impact on the cost of almost every other aspect of a mine site’s daily operations. It affects shovel and loader digging effort, truck fill factors and total payloads, crusher output and power consumption. You name it, and it all starts with drilling.”

Matt explains, “Blastholes have to be carefully engineered and executed with a high level of precision. Get it right and you end up with fragmentation that’s easy for a shovel or other loading tool to work with. One study showed shovel gains of 9% from improved drilling. That means the shovels can move the material faster and burn less fuel doing it.

“Same thing with your truck fleet,” Matt adds. “Smaller rock sizes leave fewer voids within each load, so you can get more material on board for every haul cycle. Good fragmentation makes crushing more productive and less power-hungry, as well.” 

Accurate Drilling Boosts Throughput and Reduces Secondary Rock Breaking

How much is drilling actually worth? “Add it all up,” Matt says. “And we’ve seen instances where better fragmentation alone can result in a substantial increase in total mine throughput—as much as 5% per year in cases where poor fragmentation was a real problem.”

Good blasting also demands less rework, he notes. “Secondary rock breaking is pretty much a necessary evil, but you can minimize it by getting your drill pattern right and executing every hole per plan—with the right diameter, to the proper depth and at the specified angle.”

Matt cites an example where a gold mine in South Africa cut secondary rock breaking down from almost 350 hours to less than 130 hours per month. “That means less fuel burned, less wear and tear on the rock breaking excavator, and fewer man hours devoted to rework. Those cost savings add up fast.”

There are other savings, too, like reduced costs for drill consumables. Matt says, “When it can cost money for every meter of blasthole depth you drill, the last thing you want to do is drill a hole in the wrong place, at the wrong angle or in any other way that requires redrilling. Poor drilling practices waste explosives, as well.”

Proper Machine Selection for Drilling Efficiently and Accurately

With all of that in mind, then, how do you make sure your drilling operations are as effective and as cost-efficient as possible?

Matt says, not surprisingly, that effective drilling starts with a good drill fleet. “Obviously, you need to have drills that are well-suited to the site conditions.”

He continues, “If you’re drilling larger diameter holes though quartzite on a diamond mine, you’ll need a big rotary drill. Your best bet is to get advice from your Cat® dealer. Cat dealers have lots of tools to help you size your drill fleet properly.”

Once you’ve chosen the right size and type of drill, you’ll want to look closely at the differences in long-term costs between various models and manufacturers. “Drills are like any other piece of mining equipment,” Matt says. “Purchase price is clearly a consideration, but it’s far outweighed by the need for high availability and low operating costs.”

For example, he points out the Cat MD6540C Rotary Blasthole Drill delivers a $35-an-hour advantage in average annual parts consumption, compared with one of its major competitors. “Over the course of a 6,000-hour year, that adds up to a savings of around $175,000. The MD6540C also delivers a 30% undercarriage life cycle cost advantage, better than 50% lower lifetime compressor costs and other savings that make it the clear leader in its class. You really have to pay attention to those long-term costs.”

Technology and Operator Comfort

Technology is another area to look at. “Today’s technologies are changing the drilling game,” Matt notes. “Technologies like Cat Single Pass Auto Drilling make drilling easier, more accurate and less tedious.  It automatically adjusts drill operations for optimal penetration rates through changing ground conditions and strata. 

“Cat Terrain is another cost-effective technology. It guides the operator to the precise location for each hole, then provides feedback on where, how deep and at what angle the hole was drilled. It helps to reduce rework, plus it warns operators if they’re about to drill into an existing hole. That can avoid a costly problem right there. These kinds of technology add a lot of value to any drilling operation.”

Matt says that the new technologies, combined with the improved comfort of modern drill cabs, produce another cost benefit: greater operation retention rates. “It costs several thousand dollars to train a drill operator and get him or her up to a skill level where they can be truly productive. You don’t want to waste that investment, so it pays to put them into as comfortable of a machine as you can—one that they’re happy to work in every day.”

“Cat drill cabs are designed to provide a safe, comfortable work environment. Plus, the technologies built into those machines help new operators get up to speed more quickly.”

From shovel and truck production to operator retention and total mine throughput, blasthole drills can have a profound impact on mine site operations. 

“All things considered,” Matt says. “Drilling deserves a lot more credit than it sometimes gets. When they go about their business like they should, you don’t really notice them. But look more closely, and you’ll see that they can play a huge role in controlling your overall costs. It all starts with drills, so it pays to start out the best way you can.”

 

Fragmentation cost savings: http://www.saimm.co.za/Conferences/SurfaceMining2008/113-136_Amiel.pdf