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It started as a team of five mining experts and one Cat® rotary drill in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, in the early 1990s. Today, that team has expanded, and that one drill has grown to many. In fact, most of the surface coal mines in the region run Cat drills. Why?
“It’s all about the support,” Nicholas Tschanter, Drills Application Specialist for Caterpillar, says. “We were a small team, but we were local – that was one of our big advantages.” At the time, Caterpillar was the only original equipment manufacturer (OEM) that could offer local support with a dealership in the area.
“Many of the NSW coal miners had friends at nearby sites, and the word of mouth spread. We were able to provide exceptional support, parts and troubleshooting help. We helped their uptime and their productivity. Plus, the Cat drills provided faster cycle times than any other drill available.”
Today, mines in NSW have several OEM options to choose from, many of which can now provide local support.
A rotary drill at a site in New South Wales, circa 1990s. Prior to Caterpillar's acquisition, the drills in the area were branded Reedrill Gardner-Denver.
Yet the vast majority of the surface coal mines in the area still often prefer Cat rotary drills to any other brand. “Caterpillar offers the total solution: powerful, productive equipment, backed by the expert support of WesTrac and other Cat dealers, and top-notch technology,” says Tschanter. WesTrac echoes the sentiment, attributing technology as one of the primary reasons that so many coal mines continue to select Cat drills.
All Cat drills are shipped from the factory in Denison, Texas, USA, with onboard Drill Assist functionality. Auto Level (with auto jacks retract) and Auto Mast are standard features within Drill Assist. Many mines opt for the additional Auto Drill functions, which enable automatic down-the-hole (DTH) and rotary drilling without operator intervention.
As the mining industry increasingly moves toward autonomous operations across the value chain, many sites also opt for a building-block approach to autonomy through Caterpillar’s mining technology suite — Cat MineStar™ Solutions. MineStar Terrain for drilling and Command for drilling offer incremental levels of autonomy to meet a customer wherever they are in their autonomous journey.
A Cat MD6310 rotary drill in operation at a coal site in NSW.
WesTrac has recently worked with multiple mine sites and contractors throughout Australia to help them further optimize their drill performance. As a result of that work, global mining services provider Thiess reported a 20% improvement in drilling performance at one of their customer’s coal sites in NSW after implementing two Cat rotary drills and Cat technology.
Together, Thiess, WesTrac and Caterpillar implemented Drill Assist and MineStar systems to enable increasing levels of autonomous functionality, helping the site:
In addition, the site leverages a remote operating station, which enables remote drilling without the need for physical operator on-board presence. As a result, the site reported that the drill operators’ ability to reduce travel and pre-start times during shift change is helping to steadily increase utilisation hours, with current operating times above 20 hours per drill per day.
Cat autonomous drills can also drive additional utilisation during inclement weather and are able to continue operating safely during severe weather alerts.
Thiess reports that drilling consistency has improved because of MineStar Command’s ability to help ensure every hole is accurately placed and drilled to the proper depth and angle, regardless of the operator’s skill level or operating environment.
In the last 12 months WesTrac NSW has supplied new drills to four different mine sites, with each mine site facing different challenges in their drilling and blasting processes (and downstream activities).
WesTrac has the experience and expertise to support you with Cat rotary blasthole drill solutions as well as implementation of intelligent technology such as Cat Drill Assist and MineStar systems.
Interested in a drill solution for your site? Contact us today.