Domestic drilling rig positioning system tested at Skalisty mine

Domestic drilling rig positioning system tested at Skalisty mine

March 14, 2024

Pilot tests of a unique positioning system have started at Skalisty, the deepest mine in Eurasia.


“The project is called Automation of Face Travel and Precise Navigation of Self-Propelled Drilling Rigs. The initiative for precise navigation itself is based on the fact that at a mine there is always difficulty in driving mine workings. You need to get to the desired point in three coordinates X, Y, Z. Initially, this direction is laid down by the surveyor in the program, on paper, and all this should be implemented by the driller during drilling. He should understand where the machine is, how it stands, imagine how the workings are located in space and how to tilt the booms”, said Anton Maksimov, the Nornickel’s Polar Branch innovation department’s chief manager.

The concept of underground navigation for the Nornickel’s Polar Branch was developed by specialists from the Tomsk company MTR LLC, which uses its own development and domestic equipment. This is the first experience of this kind for the contractor. The software code, like most of the equipment, is Russian.

“The project on a global scale is unique. No one has implemented such systems before us. The drilling rig generally has a built-in navigation system, but it is based on other algorithms and equipment that is not currently supplied to Russia. This is the know-how, that the program code is completely Russian, and all the equipment is produced in our country, in our own production. We have developed other algorithms – with good accuracy, working in real time”, said Alexey Kochetkov, the MTR LLC’s navigation systems and robotics department’s head.

Tomsk specialists began working on the project for Nornickel in August 2023, but the software has been developed since 2015. A professional team of 20 people worked on the project.

This is the second test. Initially, experts checked that the system worked in the mine conditions. After this, the specialists, having collected the customer’s requirements, developed an interface for the operator, which is installed directly in the cab. The second tests took place in operating conditions, not on isolated equipment, but on a full-fledged complex that is being prepared for implementation.

Special flashing beacons were installed along the perimeter of the mine, and a navigation unit was installed in the self-propelled drilling rig, which, “clinging” to these beacons, allows the machine to position itself, giving out coordinates in space.

“That is, it gives out coordinates, we compare them with the coordinates measured by the surveyor. In theory, everything should come together, which means that our navigation block shows exactly where our drilling rig is located in the ore body. At the same time, the driller on the screen, now a laptop, displays a schematic image of the drilling rig and the angle relative to the mining project”, explained Anton Maksimov.

Orientation in space is an extremely important parameter, because when a driller starts working, it is difficult to understand whether the face is going left or right, up or down. The angle between the SPDR and the excavation axis alone will not provide a complete picture for orientation, but after modification, the implemented system will become an excellent tool for a more accurate drilling process. In the target version, a laser installed on the drilling rig will show the design mine center on the face bottom.

“By taking a step towards import substitution, we will be able to achieve a significant economic effect: we will help the driver in excavation, because he will go strictly according to the project, without “grabbing” waste rock, thereby gaining the potential to improve the mined rock mass’s quality”, noted the Nornickel’s Polar Branch’s innovations department’s chief manager.

Specialists from several divisions of the company were involved in the work on the project: first of all, the mine itself and the drilling areas itself, the center for surveying work and the innovation vertical of the head office in Moscow and the Polar Branch. As a result, everyone expressed their interest and willingness to help and participate.

“The whole result of the project is to tell the hole driller exactly how and where to drill. And we expect to get away from checking the accuracy of the excavation according to survey data with the help of a mining foreman. We can say that this is such an old-fashioned method. Always working analog. Nothing will affect it. But there are some errors there. We will try to do this more accurately and more simply”, emphasized Anton Maksimov.

In the summer of 2024, it is planned to begin pilot testing and test the system in action not in one day, but over a long period of time.

Earlier, Skalisty found an unconventional way to increase the mined ore volume. This Is Taimyr also wrote that Nornickel launched a remote drilling system at the Norilsk mines.

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Text: Angelika Stepanova, Photo: Nornickel’s Polar Branch’s press service

March 14, 2024

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