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Pit Viper 271. Image: Epiroc

Rio Tinto has ordered multiple drill rigs from Epiroc for use at its Pilbara iron ore mines in Western Australia.

They include Pit Viper 271 and SmartROC D65 drill rigs, valued at more than 130 million SEK ($20 million) and booked in the first quarter of this year.

Epiroc president Helena Hedblom said Rio Tinto was a long-standing customer of Epiroc that was highly focussed on innovation and sustainability.

“Epiroc is proud to be able to support the company on its continuous journey toward higher productivity and optimal safety,” she said.

Epiroc calls the Pit Viper 271 rotary blast hole drill the most productive drill available for rotary tricone and down the hole drilling of 171-270-millimetre holes, with up to 18 metres clean hole single pass capability.

It has an option for both diesel and electric power plants and provides on-board automation capability.

The optional BenchRemote package also allows one operator to run one or multiple units.

Fully autonomous drilling can be achieved without any human interaction with the drill via the rig control system.

The SmartROC D65 surface drill rig also features automated drilling and rod handling.

Its automation-ready platform includes an Auto Feed Fold option, allowing the operator to fold the feed for tramming or position it for drilling in a single action.

Rio Tinto reported progress at the Koodaideri iron ore mine in the Pilbara was on track for a production ramp up in early 2022.

The company still expects to reach first ore at the Robe River joint venture (JV) project this year.

Rio Tinto has continued exploration activity at its mine leases in the Pilbara and lifted its exploration expense during the first quarter to $157 million – $13 million higher than the prior corresponding period.