Choosing A Mining Drill For Maximum Long-Term Value

Choosing A Mining Drill For Maximum Long-Term Value

“Drilling comes down to three things,” says Caterpillar Application Specialist Greg Scott.“Accuracy, productivity and reliability. Find a machine that can deliver all three and you’ve got a winner.”

As he stands at the rear of a Cat® MD6420C, Scott notes that two of those three attributes require some explanation. “Accuracy is not just about hole location and angle, it’s also about drill bit pressures and speeds that will create a quality hole that won’t cave in. Those considerations affect how fast you can realistically drill a given blasthole, but at the end of the cycle you need to move from hole to hole quickly to maximize productivity.“


Durability In the Details

Reliability is the constant, he says. “Because drilling is at the top of the value chain, a drilling rig needs to be ready to go when you are or the entire mining process is disrupted.”

To maximize reliability, Scott’s advice is to start by looking for a drill with rugged structures. “You want to look for a reinforced mainframe and a heavy-duty undercarriage, like on this Cat drill. Look up top and you’ll also see a beefy mast with double-cut lacing in the hot zones. The MD6420C has a low center of gravity, too, for better stability and mobility, which helps get you from hole to hole quickly.”

Details like carefully routed hoses make a difference, as well, he says. “Little things can make a big difference in the amount of abuse a drill can take, and also add to the drill’s overall productivity.”

Crouching behind the drill, Scott points to a set of four leveling jacks. “Using four jacks gives you a stable base and a better center of gravity. Plus, they put less torsional stress on the main frame and the mast for longer service life.“

“And you’ll see that there’s no jack on the centerline, so you won’t crush the hole you just drilled if you have to back up and relocate. That saves rework and speeds up pattern completion.”

Other details below the deck include large enough fuel and water tanks to ensure that the drill will go through at least a full shift. “Possibly even two,” he says. ”Reducing daily service requirements.”


Maximizing Production 

Scott adds, “Even the dust curtains can be raised as the drill moves from hole to hole, so you won’t push cuttings back into the hole you just drilled. A large chamber for cuttings also reduces the risk of fallback.”

He points out additional features to watch for as he climbs up to the drill deck.  “What you want up here is easy access to the cab and the mast, no matter what angle the mast is at. Cat drills like this one have a fixed drill deck that provides stable footing. Operators can easily enter or exit the cab with the mast at any angle. It makes mast maintenance access easy, too.”

The makeup of the power train is important, as well. “It has to be powerful enough to do the job but also durable enough to stand up to the pounding that it will take in a drilling application,” said Scott.

The inline powertrain arrangement on the MD6420C includes a reliable Cat engine with a Flexdrive coupling between the engine and hydraulic pump drive. “The advantage of the rubber-mounted coupling is that it reduces shocks between the engine and pump drive for improved service life,” he explains. “It also results in one less maintenance point. Once it’s installed and aligned, no one needs to touch it until the end of its service life.”

At the other end of the driveline is a dual-stage air compressor. “The compressor has to deliver plenty of air to keep the hole clear, and like the drive line, it has to be durable enough to last in a tough application,” said Scott


Rugged Pipe Handling

He adds, “The same thing goes for the pipe handling system. This drill uses a really durable carousel pipe rack. It’s a four or five pod, live-tower arrangement that can be operated with a full pipe rack and a full drill string hanging from the head.”

Scott says the Cat drill features a hydraulically operated breakout wrench for breaking pipe joints. “That’s great because operators don’t have to waste time trying to break an overly-tight connection. They just sling in the wrench, use it to break the joint apart, pull it out of the way and go on with normal operations.”


Applying Technology For Accuracy

As he steps into the drill’s cab, Scott says, “In here is where we deal with the accuracy of the whole drill platform.”

The cab is simple, comfortable and well laid out. He points to a touchscreen display. “What really steps up this drill’s accuracy is the technology on board. With Cat Terrain for drilling, the operator gets GPS guidance that delivers four times the hole location accuracy of manual surveying, without the need for surveyors to actually work on the bench.”

He points out that Cat Auto Drill Assist features are available to take over leveling, mast positioning and drill cycle management for the operator. “Those technologies boost process consistency for quality holes every time. And today, Caterpillar offers a range of semi-autonomous and semi-autonomous with remote operator station drilling options that take drilling efficiency and accuracy to whole new levels.”

Climbing down off the Cat MD6420C, Scott says, “We’re really proud of the new improvements to the Cat drill line. It touches all the bases for accuracy, production speed and durability. We’ve put a lot of research and development into building drills that put everything you need in a durable, reliable package.”

He smiles and concludes, “I’m biased, for sure, but I can confidently say that if you know what to look for in a mining drill that deliver real, long-term value, you’ll find it all on this one.”


Cat Rotary Blasthole Drills are designed, built and supported to deliver a lifetime of exceptional value.


Caterpillar provides the broadest line of surface & underground mining equipment in the industry. View our wide range of mining products including mining trucks, hydraulic mining shovels, rotary drills and motor graders.

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