Decline development in underground mines could soon get a lot faster and cost less thanks to the efforts of an Australian company. By Andrew Snelling.
Drillcube is the brainchild of Jason Wasley, a senior mining superintendent with 30 years of experience in the industry.
Wasley grew tired of drawbacks and flaws he saw in current methods used to align and mark up drill and blast operations underground.
While the drawbacks of traditional stringline methods are obvious, with mark ups taking the best part of an hour, more contemporary technology has also drawn Wasley’s ire.
According to the Drillcube managing director, one of the key problems with current laser technology is susceptibility to damage incurred from blast activity and/or passing plant and equipment.
“I was consistently going underground and finding the current products that were bent or broken or unable to be used, so that was an ongoing bugbear,” Wasley said.
“Or forever waiting for the survey department to get the headings marked up and online so that development could begin.
“What Drillcube has done is we’ve taken the design flaws that exist within the current systems and we’ve removed them.
“We’ve implemented a system which is capable of shooting up to 200m and we’ve got a 30-50mm deviation over the 200m, so it’s an engineered product to military standards.”
Similar to other lasers on the market in the way it’s used, the Drillcube laser consists of a housing drilled into the wall which then holds the laser pointed at the face to be marked up.
The extra distance, compared to its competitors, that the laser is able to cover means the housing can be set further away from the action, protecting it from blasts.
Despite this, the product has also been manufactured to withstand damage from blasts, with the face cap, which screws into the housing, able to withstand a direct blast without loss of integrity.
The product’s range also means the housing doesn’t need to be moved and reset as often while the decline advances.
As well as working out the kinks in the technology, Drillcube has also focused on bringing down the cost.
“We’ve lowered the price by about 30-40%,” Wasley said, referencing average laser prices in the market which he believes are prohibitive for miners.
Designing and manufacturing its laser in China has enabled Drillcube to offer the product at a lower price, but Wasley said the real money could be saved in improved operations.
“With this in place you can lower your overbreak percentage by probably 3-5% comfortably and therefore your cost over life-of-mine will be reduced dramatically,” he said.
“So the key thing is all-in sustaining costs can be lowered due to overbreak percentages being lower, resulting in productivity gains going up.”
With a majority of Australian underground mines using lasers in their development, Drillcube is confident that its product could be a game changer for miners seeking greater efficiencies.
The laser can now be manufactured to order and will be distributed in Australia through Drillcube as part of a national distribution agreement.