WesTrac and Thiess mark one million metres of autonomous drilling

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WesTrac, a distributor for Cat equipment, in collaboration with global mining services giant Thiess, has achieved drilling one million metres autonomously using the Cat MineStar Command Autonomous Drill System (ADS).

The company celebrated the completion of one million meters drilled autonomously last month at the Mt Arthur South site in New South Wales, WesTrac said in a media release.

Nakia Brewer, WesTrac Technology Solutions manager, emphasised the strategic deployment of technology to address operational challenges, highlighting Thiess’ pioneering approach to integrating technology with operational processes.

“When implementing new technology, it is crucial that there is a clear understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve – in this case it was to reduce operating costs and increase consistency of drilling,” he said.

Trent Smith, Thiess Head of Autonomy and Operations Technology, underscored the importance of seamless integration of technology with people and processes, noting the substantial performance improvements and fuel savings achieved since the program’s inception in 2019.

“Working in partnership with WesTrac and Caterpillar we took a drill that didn’t have any automation capability and went on the journey as a team to bring through what is now three drills running autonomously with a single controller,” Smith asserted.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Liyanage, Thiess Group Executive, lauded the company’s commitment to automation and autonomy, citing impressive performance enhancements and the profound impact on drilling operations at Mt Arthur South.

Throughout the million-meter journey, Thiess said it had proactively trained over 30 individuals at Mt Arthur South, equipping them with the skills to transition from traditional drill controllers to autonomous operators, alongside providing training for various support functions.

Moreover, Thiess has made significant investments in autonomous mining systems training for more than 500 employees company-wide.

Craig Morris, WesTrac NSW Mining Business Manager, praised the collaborative effort and effective change management strategies that underpinned the success of the autonomous drilling program, highlighting the growing demand for Cat-powered autonomous solutions in the mining industry.

“For WesTrac, it was fantastic to have a partner that wanted to prove out the concepts of the autonomous drill an ensure it resulted in a positive outcome,” he concluded.