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Codelco will convert its Radomiro Tomic copper mine in Chile to an automated drilling operation over three years, courtesy of US engineering company FLANDERS.

The first six drills are expected to start being converted in early 2022.

FLANDERS will help to complete the project using an automation system based on its ARDVARC Drill Control System.

The system enables Codelco to operate three EPIROC Pit Viper 351 electric drills in full automation mode and three SmartRoc drills in a semi-autonomous tele-remote operation.

Codelco managing director for the Radomiro Tomic mine, Lindor Quiroga, said the automation project would improve safety and productivity.

“We need to explore the automation of our mining equipment to continue our evolution, challenging our technical limits and eliminating the exposure of our personnel to health and safety risks,” Quiroga said.

“Our team members are in the process of adapting to these new times, acquiring technological competences based on a solid training program.

“By doing so we will not only have a healthier and safer work environment but also lower production costs due to higher throughputs.”

FLANDERS’ ARDVARC product suite is designed to allow customers to scale up automation at their own pace and covers all aspects of drill automation.

This ranges from semi-autonomous to tele-remote and autonomous operation of a single piece of equipment, to multi-machine control and full-fleet automation using Command Centre control capabilities.

ARDVARC Autonomous comprises a suite of tools for automating, analysing and optimising drilling production and processes.

The autonomous drill system will integrate into the existing fleet management systems at the Radomiro Tomic site, and all drill data will be provided to Codelco for its own interpretation and use in downstream processes.

FLANDERS regional director Martin Schäfer said Codelco was a good test of FLANDERS’ capabilities in automation conversion.

“Codelco is a strategically important partner for us. It’s fantastic to be able to work together on this project as our visions are perfectly aligned,” Schäfer said.

“Our aim is to deliver even smarter, safer, more productive mining through automation, and not only for its Radomiro Tomic mine but to those still to follow this path.”