World-first use of tele-remote technology

Byrnecut and OZ Minerals successfully implement automation upgrade for Sandvik development drill despite challenges of COVID-19.

Leading contract miner Byrnecut Australia has become the first underground operator in the world to successfully use a new automation and tele-remote package for Sandvik development drills.

Byrnecut introduced a Sandvik DD422i development drill featuring the package to OZ Minerals’ Prominent Hill Mine south east of Coober Pedy in March. With COVID-19 travel restrictions preventing Sandvik staff from attending site, Byrnecut, OZ Minerals and Sandvik experts collaborated via phone, teleconference and email to complete remote commissioning of the rig.

The two-boom rig, which can be monitored and controlled from the surface and features a sophisticated boom-collision-avoidance system, has now been in operation for three weeks.

Autonomous operation over shift change

Byrnecut Australia Managing Director Pat Boniwell says the new automation features allow for enhanced drill operation across shift changes – historically a period when development drilling has stopped or been significantly reduced.

“We’re conservatively looking at a 10-percent increase in productivity with this machine through being able to drill extra holes and the machine being used more consistently,” he says. “It picks up on the deadtime, and if it does stop for any reason we’re able to remotely reset it.”

The new boom collision avoidance system means both of the rig’s drill booms can be left in operation during shift change – something that was previously not possible. In the first few weeks of operation, the drill has been able to drill 60-70 holes while being operated autonomously and remotely from surface.

Collaborative partnerships the key to success

General Manager of OZ Minerals Prominent Hill operations, Gabrielle Iwanow, says when Byrnecut approached her about trialling the upgraded development drill, she was immediately interested.

“OZ Minerals is a modern mining company,” she says. “We’re interested in innovation and looking for safer, faster, and more efficient ways of doing our work.”

Ms Iwanow says the commissioning of the drill in such trying times is a true credit to all those involved and the positive working relationship between OZ Minerals, Byrnecut and Sandvik.

Byrnecut Drill Master Noah Wilkinson says a solid working relationship with Sandvik and good communication contributed to the success of the commissioning.

“People from the Sandvik factory in Finland were able to remote into the machine over the internet and adjust settings that were stopping some of the functions from working,” he explains.

Features for social distancing

Sandvik’s Global Account Manager for Byrnecut, Andrew Atkinson, paid credit to Byrnecut’s openness to adopting autonomous technologies in areas including development drilling, loader operation, production drilling and ore trucks, which are all engineered for compatibility with Sandvik’s AutoMine® and OptiMine® products.

In addition to the collision avoidance and tele-remote capabilities of the DD422i, the new automation package allows for semi-autonomous bit changing. Another handy feature of the set-up during the current period of social distancing has been the virtual network computing (VNC) capability that allows the control panel of the drill to be viewed remotely on a tablet. This means that during operator training, the instructor need not be in the cabin with the operator.

For more information please contact

Emily Neil
Marketing and Communications Coordinator APAC
Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology

Sharon Lam
Group Manager - Communications
OZ Minerals


Byrnecut Australia is the leading mechanised underground mining contractor in Australia offering a professional, reliable service optimising the development and production of mineral resource projects.

Their large fleet of specialised underground mining equipment provides an efficient and targeted approach to all their underground contracts. This coupled with experienced employees at all levels of the business, results in sustainable quality and integrity throughout their operations. Byrnecut’s fleet of Sandvik technology on site at Prominent Hill includes DD422i and DD421 development drills, DL421 production drills, LH621i loaders and TH663i trucks.

Byrnecut Australia continually strives for excellence in its field and aims to grow both their reputation and operations through quality, safety and reliability. With an open approach to innovation and an adaptable approach to their contracts, Byrnecut offers a great service to any metalliferous underground mining project.

Prominent Hill is a copper-gold mining operation in northern South Australia that is solely owned by OZ Minerals. Prominent Hill produces one of the highest grades of copper concentrate traded on the open market.

Prominent Hill possesses highly competitive fundamentals. It is a large copper-gold resource, it is high grade, the ore is processed using conventional methods and there are significant opportunities for organic growth. Prominent Hill first came on stream as an open cut mine in 2009, fully transitioning to an underground mine only in 2018. It is a fly-in fly-out site.

Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is a business area within the Sandvik Group and a global leading supplier of equipment and tools, service and technical solutions for the mining and construction industries. Application areas include rock drilling, rock cutting, crushing and screening, loading and hauling, tunneling, quarrying and breaking and demolition. In 2019, sales were approximately 45 billion SEK with about 14,000 employees in continuing operations.