Like all industries, the mining sector can benefit greatly from implementing operational optimization as a strategy, particularly here at home. This technique is extremely valuable. It can speed up the drilling process, reduce material costs, improve communication between employees. It also helps diversify the workforce, making more jobs available to women. Recently, the autonomous drill rig has arrived on the market, proving its power through its many benefits and advantages.
MBI and Rouillier Drilling have been collaborating to develop the VersaDrill Canada autonomous drill rig since 2014. Over two years of testing, the equipment has benefitted from our drilling expertise and has been perfectly adapted for mining operations. Developed by drillers for drillers, the tool made its commercial debut in 2023. It’s called autonomous because, in addition to being equipped with artificial intelligence, its automated functions reduce the need for manpower. A single worker can operate the machine and carry out light manual work while remaining in contact with the team on the surface. Furthermore, it collects data completely autonomously.
Using the autonomous drill rig provides far superior working conditions for workers when it comes to both health and safety. First and foremost, the rig takes on a large part of the manual labour, reducing the need for intense physical effort from workers. With less effort required, there is less risk of fatigue or injury from handling heavy loads.
The drill also features several safety devices to protect workers from potential hazards. These include a programmed optical guard that detects obstacles and stops automatically, an inner tube puller that makes removing excavated material easier, and a single-wire control panel that provides more room to work. A direct LTE communication tool between the underground driller and the surface team also contributes to the machine’s added value. “Whether you’re here in Val-d’Or, Montreal, or Quebec City, you can monitor its activity,” says Mario Rouillier.
In short, the arrival of the VersaDrill Canada autonomous drill rig is a boon for our clients, reducing operating costs and simplifying the hiring process.
The main advantages of the autonomous drill rig are related to the primary resources of any business: time and money. Thanks to its operator-friendly electronic interface and the short time needed for training, this equipment accelerates the learning curve, which is particularly useful given the current labour shortage. Furthermore, it guarantees a seamless workflow, facilitating the transition between day and evening shifts without any interruptions.
In addition to saving time, the drill is smart, constantly learning and adapting to the drilling environment. As it works, it learns to recognize specific types of rocks and surroundings, leading to greater productivity and precision. “It predicts the rock formation coming up ahead and adjusts accordingly. It also protects itself, so it breaks much less often than a traditional drill,” emphasizes Mario Rouillier. Access to real-time data helps us catch potential breakdowns early, target trouble areas, maximize machine use, and provide prompt assistance if problems arise. All of this makes for much more efficient and
Although the innovation involves a change in work methods, we firmly believe that the autonomous drill rig is a considerable asset not just for the company, but also for our employees’ well-being. Its benefits include a diversified workforce, better health and safety for our employees, and more precise performance. Using it means implementing methods that are pleasant, efficient, and safe.