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Putting rotary drilling into perspective
Atlas Copco’s largest drill, the Pit Viper 351E, operates on a blast pattern at an open pit copper mine. Rotary blasthole drills are the predominant method of drilling 9 inch (229 mm) diameter holes or greater.
Atlas Copco offers a complete range of rotary as well as DTH and tophammer drill rigs for most types of open pit mining and quarrying applications. But how do these technologies complement each other and how do drillers know which method to choose, and when?
drills. Ingersoll-Rand built air-powered rotary drills for many years prior to the introduction of their first fully hydraulic unit, the T4, in 1968.
about rotary drills
It is important to note that rotary drills are capable of two methods of drilling. The majority of the units operate as pure rotary drills, driving tricone or fixed-type bits. The fixed-type bits, such as claw or drag bits, have no moving parts and cut through rock by shearing it. Thus, these bits are limited to the softest material. The other method utilized by rotary drill rigs is down-thehole (DTH) drilling. High-pressure air compressors are used to provide compressed air through the drillstring to drive the DTH hammer (see illustration page 20). The primary difference between
a complete range
With the acquisition of IngersollRand’s Drilling Solutions, Baker Hughes Mining Tools (BHMT) and Thiessen Team businesses, Atlas Copco has a complete range of products to offer to large quarries and open pit mines. Much of the world’s mining output begins through drilling of holes with rotary
Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining
rotary drilling and other methods is the absence of percussion. In most rotary applications, the preferred bit is the tricone bit. Tricone bits rely on crushing and spalling the rock. This is accomplished through transferring downforce, known as pulldown, to the bit while rotating in order to drive the carbides into the rock as the three cones rotate around their respective axis. Rotation is provided by a hydraulic or electric motor-driven gearbox (called a rotary head) that moves up and down the tower via a feed system. Feed systems utilize cables, chains or rack-andpinion mechanisms driven by hydraulic cylinders, hydraulic motors or electric motors. The preference at Atlas Copco is to use cables for pulldown, as they are lightweight and inexpensive, and allow easier detection of wear to help avoid catastrophic failures.
though rotary blasthole drills should always operate on firm.000 lb).000 hours of use.000 kg (40. not only for blasting. In fact. The method is widely used for drilling long holes. the distribution of weight results in an overall machine weight that approaches or exceeds twice the bit load rating.000 lb) at the location of the drill string to avoid the machine “lifting off” the jacks. the Pit Viper 351 rotary drill rig weighs in excess of nine times that of Atlas Copco's largest DTH hammer drill rig. and some of the large blasthole drills have clocked over 100. This weight does add cost to the machine. Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining 20 . resulting in an efficient transmission of the impact energy and insignificant power losses with the hole depth. Down-The-hole method Rotary drilling method TONS Principle: The hammer is situated down the hole in direct contact with the drill bit. The laws of physics dictate that for every action. With a 200 mm (7-7/8 in) bit. there is an equal and opposite reaction. The hammer piston strikes the drill bit.000 kg (40. the weight of the machine must be over 18. To achieve a stable platform through proper placement of the tracks and levelling jacks. generating the pulldown required to give sufficient weight on the bit. In mining it is also developed for sampling using the reverse circulation technique (RC drilling).000 hours of operation. The actual weight on bit. More weight with rotary It only takes one look to see that the biggest DTH and tophammer drill rigs are very different than the biggest rotary blasthole rigs. flat benches. but the size of the components also translates to long life. the same force will push back on the unit. drill rods and cables.Talking TeChniCally Pulldown Pulldown is the force generated by the feed system. you could run about 18. that moves up and down the tower via a feed system. Rig design With the exception of one model. Take a typical medium formation tricone bit with a recommended maximum loading of 900 kg/cm of bit diameter (5000 lb per inch of diameter). called a rotary head.000 kg (40. but also for water wells. meaning that if you push on the ground with 18. the ROC L8.000 lb) of weight on the bit. Even smaller rotary blasthole drills are built to run 30. Principle: Rotation is provided by a hydraulic or electric motor driven gearbox. Yet the Pit Viper 351 is drilling a hole that is generally only twice the diameter. There-fore. Atlas Copco’s rotary blasthole drills are mounted on excavator-style undercarriages. shallow gas and oil wells. is the pulldown plus any dead weight such as the rotary head. or bit load. The tower supports the drill string during drilling as well as the rotation head and feed system. the rubber-tire mounted T4BH. Powerful hydraulic-drive systems allow the machine to tram over a variety of ground conditions. and for geo-thermal wells. Flushing of drill cuttings between the wall of the hole and the drill rods is normally done with compressed air.
known as annular area. The importance of air A key parameter of rotary drilling is flushing the cuttings from the hole. In most rotary blasthole drills. It is important to have sufficient clearance between the wall of the hole and the drill rods in order for such large cuttings to pass. However. Sufficient air volume is required to lift these cuttings. Even when electric power is available. 21 . The key component of a rotary blasthole drill is the tower. is not sufficient. which is sometimes referred to as the derrick or mast. no refueling requirement and less maintenance. This design yields large cuttings which increase drill speed and reduce dust. many customers avoid electric drills as the trailing cable used to provide power makes it harder to move the unit between holes or patterns. Many types of tricone bits have been developed to meet various drilling needs. open front structures in which the rotary head slides up and down via a guide system. electric power Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining is preferred on large single-pass units used in major open pit metals mines where electric shovels are employed. along with the air compressor.Talking TeChniCally The drilling platform is supported by a crawler undercarriage except during drilling when it is raised up by hydraulic jacks. If this clearance. Atlas Copco towers are four main member. Electric powered units offer some advantages such as lower power cost (in most areas). cuttings are lifted between the wall of the hole and the drill rods by compressed air. the cuttings The ability to carry long drill rods up to 70 feet provides more time for drilling. is a diesel engine or electric motor. Most rotary drills are diesel powered for good mobility. Most drilling functions are hydraulically driven. Generally. though electric power is now available on smaller units such as the Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271. Powering these hydraulic systems. Pit Viper 275 and DML. The length and weight of the tower ultimately dictates the size of the mainframe and undercarriage. some operations are not setup with the proper electrical infrastructure or staffing to run electric units. Softer formation bits are built with long carbides with wide spacing on the face of the bit. no diesel emissions.
such as this Pit Viper 275. and the drill rate may even drop. resulting in fewer holes drilled. This is obviously much easier than getting a larger air compressor by retrofitting or purchasing a new machine. Rotary drilling with tricone bits is the most cost efficient method for large hole diameters. many operations have tried to increase uphole velocity by increasing the diameter of the drill rod. Unfortunately. In some conditions. However. Bailing velocity A traditional rule-of-thumb is a minimum of 1.Talking TeChniCally will be ground between the wall of the hole and the rods or by the bit itself (called regrinding) until they are small enough to exit the hole. To control the dust. 1.525 m 3/min (5000 cfm) of uphole velocity. some soft material can be drilled effectively with only 915 m 3/min (3000 cfm) uphole velocity. Conversely. and where the rod comes through the deck by a rod wiper or dust seal. yield blast patterns with wider burden and spacing. Dust hoods are sealed on the sides by dust curtains. Dense cuttings as found in iron ore mines will settle much quicker than lightweight overburden in coal mines and thus need more air coming up the hole to lift them. Whatever the application. thus yielding smaller chips. it is critical to have proper bailing air. harder material is generally drilled with hard formation bits that utilize shorter cutting structures. This results in excess dust and accelerated wear on the bit and drill rod.525 m3/min (5000 cfm) may not be enough. the speed at which air exits the hole. The two most popular types of dust control are dry dust collectors and water injection. 22 . The actual amount of air required will vary widely based on the density of the material and the size of the cuttings. but more often. Dust control A necessary evil created by the air compressor in drilling operations is the generation of dust. the reduced annular area results in increased wear and dust. A dust control system must be used in conjunction with the dust hood and curtains. the area surrounding the hole is enclosed by a dust hood. To control the dust. the area around the hole is surrounded by a dust hood. this strategy works. Dust collectors are essentially large vacuum cleaners that pull the dust away from the dust hood and run it through a collection of filter Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining Large diameter holes produced by rotary drills.
In some cases. drilling below 152 mm (6 in) is best accomplished with tophammer units. the pressure will only build to 23 bar (325 psi). There are certain limitations imposed on each method of drilling. This is particularly a problem if the wet material freezes in the system. but their maximum hole diameter is limited by the volume of air. Dust collectors offer a productivity advantage. Take for example a Secoroc QL80 203 mm (8 in) DTH hammer that is designed to operate at 25 bar (350 psi). For information about the range of smaller surface rigs visit www. especially at deeper depths when percussive energy is successively reduced with each new rod connection. DTH is often faster than pure rotary drilling if provided there is enough air pressure on board. elaborate heating systems must be used. To build the air pressure that translates directly to impact energy. so we cannot say that there are particular breakpoints where you should transition between drilling methods. but the introduction of water into the hole can slow down the drilling process by increasing the density of the cuttings at the bottom of the hole that the air compressor must move. Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining Generally. For most large diameter blasthole drilling. When rotary is better Every drilling application is different. Simply looking at our product range (see above) gives an indication of which methods are commonly used for the different diameters found in construction and mining. unconfined compressive strength (UCS). With tophammer percussive drills. the power of the rock drill itself limits the ability to transmit adequate force to larger diameter bits. Down-the-hole (DTH) tools solve this energy loss problem.450 cfm). it is typically done with a rotary rig. but they can become plugged if not turned off when wet material is encountered. Even with our largest high pressure compressor 686 41 m 3/min (1. Rotary drilling is still the predominant method of drilling 230 mm (9 in) diameter or greater.surfacedrilling. there is simply not enough air on-board for a DTH to be as cost effective as rotary drilling with a tricone bit. Water injection systems inject a fine amount of water into the air stream. Water injection systems require frequent refilling of the water tanks. although tophammer units are doing some of this work effectively with the introduction of larger platforms and more powerful rock drills. this method will still outperform rotary drilling. In real terms. and in freezing conditions.Talking TeChniCally Dimension Stone Industry Construction Aggregate Industrial minerals (Cement & Limestone) Gold Coal Copper Iron 6" 152mm 7" 178mm 8" 203mm 9" 229mm 10" 254mm 11" 279mm 12" 305mm 13" 330mm 14" 356mm 15" 381mm 16" 406mm 1" 25mm 2" 51mm 3" 76mm 4" 102mm 5" 127mm Pit Viper 351 DM-M3 Pit Viper 275 Pit Viper 271 Pit Viper 235 DML DML-SP DM45 T4BH DM30 DM25-SP ROC L8 ROC L825 CM 785 ROC P65 ROC L7CR ECM 720 30 ROC L630 CM 765 25 ROC L6 CM 351 CM 348 ROC P55 ROC 203 DTH BVB 25 DTH ROC F6 ROC L7 ROC F9CR ROC F9/F9C ECM 660 ROC D9/D9RRC/D9C ROC D7/D7RRC/D7C ECM 590/592 ECM 585 ECM 580 CM 470 ROC D3 ROC 203 BVB 25 ROC T15 40 Atlas Copco large rotary and DTH drill rigs are included in this book. say above 100 MPa (15. thus providing less impact energy. a certain volume of air is required. Above this diameter. elements. each blow of the piston is about 45 kg (100 lb) less than it is designed for. This is driven primarily by the current limitations of 23 . Water injection is the more effective solution for ensuring dust is minimized.000 psi).com or contact your Atlas Copco representative Rotary Rotary / DTH DTH DTH / fully pneumatic COPROD Tophammer Tophammer / fully pneumatic Rotary drilling with tricone bits is the most cost efficient method for large hole diameters. For harder material.
12. it creates a very unpleasant environment for the operator.00 10000 $4. and possibly capital cost.000' bit life Great Bit Life $1.00 0 $- tophammer units and rig air systems. These higher loads translate to improved drill rates. At the largest open pit mines. cost/ton. rotary units are drilling 20 m (65 ft) deep holes in a single-pass to match the bench heights dictated by the large electric shovels that can dig a 17 m (55 ft) bench.Talking TeChniCally Total Drilling Cost (TDC) related to bit life and productivity 14000 Footage/24 Hours Bit Life (ft) Overall Cost/Ft $6. but more importantly. Brian Fox Blasthole Drilling in open pit Mining Total Drilling Cost/Foot . maintenance and power. The unit cost per hour includes labor. Large electric units normally have a machinery house to protect the electrical drive components. tophammer or DTH crawler drills use drill steel that is generally 6.00 4000 2000 74 ft/hour. You generally want to push the rig harder to reduce the cost/foot. etc…). should be considered. the components on rotary rigs are often not enclosed. Unlike crawler rigs. The vibration causes increased wear-and-tear on the rig.00 Footage/24 Hours & Average Bit Life 12000 $5. 1500' bit life High Production 218 ft/hour. Smaller rotary blasthole machines utilize 9.1 meter (30 ft) length rods. 5300' bit life Lowest Cost $2. By comparison. Some operations limit bit load and rpm even if there is no vibration in order to improve bit life. However.00 8000 $3. Smaller crawler rigs are more flexible with many advantages such as articulating and extendable booms and guides that allow drilling at many different angles. Further.00 6000 299 ft/hour. This is often the wrong strategy as the overall drilling cost per unit. Productivity versus cost Studies have shown that pure penetration rate will increase linearly with increased pulldown. TDC is calculated using the bit cost per meter/foot and the total rig cost per hour. What invariably happens is that the operator reduces the weight or rpm until the vibration returns to a comfortable level. For the large scale open pit operations that yield a high percentage of the total worldwide mineral production. Another advantage of rotary rigs is the length of the drill rods that can be carried on board. The general trend for 165 mm (6-1/2 in) or less is towards the smaller.7 meter (35 ft) or 12.2 meter (40 ft) rods. large versus small There are some drawbacks to rotary rigs. They are mounted onto the frame in an open layout that makes them extremely easy to service. The drilling speed really doesn’t impact this cost-per-hour figure. while larger units are capable of running 10.1 meters (20 ft) or less in length. life and simplicity of the larger rotary rigs for these small diameters. Longer rods mean fewer connections. but there will be a point where the rig overloads the bits (see diagram). some rotary rigs are large enough to handle a long tower that enables drilling of the entire bench height in a single-pass. What it does impact though is the cost per unit produced (cost/meter/foot. and newer midrange sized blasthole units such as the Pit Viper 235 have the option of a machine enclosure. many large scale quarries and small mines still favor the durability. higher pulldown and rpm usually results in increased vibration and lower bit life. Tricone bits also become more cost effective as the larger bits are equipped with larger bearings which in turn can handle higher loads. it is anticipated that rotary drilling will remain the primary method for years to come. more flexible units. also known as Total Drilling Cost (TDC). So why doesn’t every operation use more of each? Unfortunately. The same has also 24 been said of rotation speed.
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