The future of mining is not just automation, it's also opening up new areas that manned mining simply could never before reach.
Narrow vein mining has been touted by many as the future for mining, particularly in Africa, although it is unlikely to become a major component of the Australian hard rock mining industry in the near future.
Speaking to contractors at a recent mining event, they told Australian Mining that as mines get deeper and more expensive and higher grades are harder to come by many miners will turn to narrow vein mining to cut costs and operate more efficiently as tunnels no longer have to be as large.
Seeing this trend as becoming more globally widespread in the future, Sandvik have released a new underground narrow vein development drill.
According to the company, the DD211 has been designed for narrow vein applications in hard rock mines, and features safety upgrades and more automated processes for greater efficiency.
Johannes Valivaara, the product manager for underground development drills at Sandvik explained that the drill has been primarily developed for the American and CIS markets, although it does have the same safety features as the rest of the company's drills.
Valivaara stated that "a major feature of this new rig is the electro-hydraulic controls, which are designed to enable more accurate drilling performance in a wide range of rock conditions".
It uses a single SB20 boom THC651 electro-hydraulic control that incorporates constant speed drilling controls, stop and return automatics, and air-mist flushing with rock drill return.
The boom provides a maximum coverage of up to 26 square metres.
The DD211 can also be fitted with the new SB20NV boom, which incorporates a CFX 6/12 telescopic feed, and is designed for applications where extremely high levels of manoeuvrability are required when drilling up-holes and cross cuts in the smaller, compact space environments underground.
Seeing the DD211 during a trial at Sandvik's test mine, the machine was able to take extremely tight turns at a fairly moderate pace.
"The carrier has been designed for 2.5 metres by 2.5 metres tunnels, providing fast tramming (of up to 7 kilometres per hour) and precise steering functions," Valivaara said.
"At the same time, its turning radius has been reduced to just 2.5 metres, enabling the rig to negotiate tight curves," which it did during the test showing, taking a tight 90 degree turn in front of a large crowd.
During the event Australian Mining was told that it operates at a higher frequency, and is 30 per cent faster than the previous model.
"While it is smaller, with the new rock drill it will have a greater impact," Australian Mining was told.
The drill has a ROPS and FOPS compliant hydraulically operated canopy as well as upgraded braking systems, automatic fire suppression and indicator lights for both front and rear jacks.
"Operator comfort has also been improved through the use of a more ergonomically designed seat, including the ability to turn the seat for drilling, and low effort joystick controls."