Underground Drilling Simulators
MINING MAGAZINE – SEPTEMBER 2013
Drilling simulators – Training drill operators properly is very important, as poor drilling can have extensive safety and production implications. Correct drilling practice ultimately ensures that a mine achieves good-quality blasts and hence optimal ore extraction while maintaining a safe work environment. The best way to ensure this happens is a stringent, comprehensive training programme for all drill-rig operators, as well as all other vehicle operators and staff on the mine.
“Drill-rig crews are under constant pressure to maintain targets,” explains Greg Lew, executive vice-president, global business development at ThoroughTec Simulation. “A comprehensive training programme eases that pressure by producing competent drill-rig operators who create fewer accidents, who are more aware of their surroundings, operate their machines according to good practice and correct operating procedures, and are more efficient at operating their equipment.”
Simulator-based training has a number of advantages for operator training. The drill operators can train without the fear of damaging expensive equipment, and it frees up the equipment to be used for actual drilling.
“A major benefit of simulator-based training is the ability to replicate emergency scenarios that cannot be trained for on the actual drill rig.”
A major benefit of simulator-based training is the ability to replicate emergency scenarios that cannot be trained for on the actual drill rig, either because of the danger to the operator or damage to the machine. Examples of this include an engine fire, hose damage or boom collision.
Trainees can also be introduced to a wide variety of conditions, even those that might not be available for actual drill-rig training. Not only does this give trainees confidence in adverse conditions, but it also allows them to be trained in reacting to specific scenarios such as fissures behind the rock face, differing rock hardness and even or uneven rock faces. Instructors can also easily and quickly switch between drill bits if necessary.
All of these scenarios can be simulated time and again, with no cost implications, until the correct operator response becomes second nature.
Lew says: “This obviously has long-term safety benefits to the mine, but simulator training also positively affects mine safety in the short term. By removing trainee operators from actual OEM machines until they are competent in drill rig operation, operating procedures and emergency procedures, simulators reduce the frequency and severity of training accidents.”
Lew says: “Another feature unique to simulation is the ability the go ‘behind’ the rock face and measure the angle of the hole drilled. This angle determines the effectiveness of the blast, but is obviously impossible to do on the actual rig. Measuring and recording these angles gives the operator and instructor valuable feedback, which in turn leads to more accurate drilling.”
Different regions and different mine sites vary in the amount of training hours that a drill-rig operator requires, and in the different criteria that need to be met before an operator can be declared competent.
For example, rig operators in South Africa need a total of 150 hours of training; this is broken down into 30 hours of classroom teaching, 100 hours of on-the-job training and 20 hours of coaching. Of the on-the-job training, up to 80% (or 80 hours) can be performed on a simulator system, depending on in-house regulations. Training costs are greatly reduced by the reduced use of the actual drill rig.
ThoroughTec Simulation’s CYBERMINE4 drill-rig simulators feature a drill-pattern editor, which enables the instructor to create a custom drill pattern for each of the rock faces, as well as the optimum sequence for drilling. For novice operators, alignment guides assist in correct positioning of the drill boom.
As a result, the trained operator is able to exercise correct drilling techniques for each scenario and rock type. Instructors are also able to monitor a trainee’s yaw, pitch and drill depth for optimal drilling technique.
CYBERMINE4 simulator training also caters for standardised, quantifiable evaluation of every training exercise. Trainee operators can be evaluated against a benchmark standard, against their previous training sessions, and against their peers. Operator evaluation is also against a set of predefined checks for the cab type and each is categorised into affecting one of health and safety, machine use or productivity enhancement.
ThoroughTec recently evaluated drill-rig operators on the CYBERMINE4 simulator system at a Newmont Mining site in Nevada, US. The operators were required to drill a significant number of holes over a period of two days, and improvements in speed and accuracy were made by over 80% of operators.
Gold Fields uses ThoroughTec’s CYBERMINE4 drill-rig simulators at its South Deep mine in South Africa, and reports that it has experienced a significant reduction in the time taken to train an operator to full competency – from three weeks on the vehicle to one week of simulation and five days on the actual vehicle.
In addition, the company says that the simulator-trained operators are on average achieving better results than the rig-based operators, completing the training with higher proficiency levels. South Deep has also reduced its operating costs while training and production has improved since the introduction of the drill-rig simulator.
ThoroughTec also recently completed the installation of a number of new drill-rig simulator systems around the world. Hindustan Zinc in India recently took delivery of a Sandvik DD320 drill-rig simulator as part of a larger order, as did Yamana Gold in Chile. In the US, a Sandvik DD420 dual-boom drill-rig simulator was recently installed at Newmont Elko.
Murray & Roberts Cementation from South Africa has purchased a Sandvik DD320 drill-rig simulator, while Gold Fields’ South Deep mine will be taking delivery of extended functionality software for its Atlas Copco 282 rig simulator in the near future. Freeport McMoRan’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia is another mine that will soon be commissioning a Sandvik DD420 drill-rig simulator.
# Extracted from Mining Magazine