Tag Archives: Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology


Mine automation not only holds great potential in Southern African, but it is already seen by many mines as an essential element of their future productivity and commercial sustainability. 

According to Simon Andrews, managing director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa, his company has long been applying the world’s most advanced technologies on the sub-continent, with local skills underpinning its success.

“Our differentiator is that we can take state-of-the-art technology – the result of our global investment in research and development – and apply it to the needs of our local customers in their own backyards,” says Andrews. 

He disputes the view that the latest technologies are not applicable in Africa due to factors like skills deficits or infrastructure shortages. Rather, Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology has been leveraging local expertise through an ongoing process of upskilling and change management. 

“Automation is a journey that our customers embark upon over a period of time,” he says. “We support this process through our range of intelligent mining equipment, and through resources like our Fleet Data Management (FDM) system.”

The FDM allows mines to analyse operational data from Sandvik machines, such as pressures, run rates, hours worked and buckets loaded. This information can be used by management to improve the effectiveness of equipment, and to advance toward semi-automation and later full automation. 

The regional jurisdiction of Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology Southern Africa comprises South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar and Angola. Andrews highlights that automation has been an important focus of recent contracts in Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe – with intelligent models of equipment such as load-haul dumpers (LHDs), articulated dump trucks (ADTs), twin-boom drill rigs and roof bolters on the order lists. The automated applications range from platinum to copper and diamonds. 

He emphasises that the key to progress is close partnership between the technology provider and the mine. This, he says, ensures that technology is applied in a relevant and manageable way that suits each customer’s particular needs and capabilities.

“The capital outlay for automation-ready equipment is an important consideration for any mine, but the real ingredient for future success is the long-term commitment to rolling out the automation process,” he says. “This needs the support of the mine’s head office, its management and its operators on the ground.”

It is clear that mines see this route as increasingly necessary, with more interest forthcoming from the market. The ‘wait and see’ approach is waning, says Andrews, in favour of those who want to experience the benefits that technology offers. 

“Before, we had many mines saying they wanted to talk to us when every aspect of the automation process could be clearly demonstrated in practice,” he says. “Now, they are asking us to work with them to overcome the challenges as they arise. There are more customers wanting to take this journey with us.”

It’s all about the relationship between the customer and OEM, to make the automation process work, he concludes. 


The Top Hammer XL, released by Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, is a drilling innovation that challenges traditional down-the-hole (DTH) drilling on surface mines and large quarries.

It offers a faster, fuel efficient and cost effective method to drill holes from 140 from 178 mm in diameter – considerably expanding the hole size range of previous top hammer drills. The system comprises the new Pantera™ DP1600i drill rig, the new RD1840C rock drill and new LT90 rock tools. 

Chris van Tonder, product master at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says these three components – the rig, rock drill and tools – have been redesigned and mutually optimised to work together seamlessly for exceptional drilling results. 

“The proven carrier provides a solid base for the powerful rock drill, which generates an optimum pulse for the effective tooling system. This, in turn, transfers the high-energy shock wave to the rock, with minimum losses,” he explains 

The performance of the Sandvik Top Hammer XL system has been proven in several field tests, where it has drilled over 100,000 meters in challenging rock conditions. The results showed a 50% reduction in fuel consumption, 25% lower total drilling costs and a 15% increase in productivity compared with the DTH drilling method.

The Pantera™ DP1600i is the newest member of the Pantera™ DPi series family of intelligent top hammer drill rigs, achieving high penetration rates and offering advanced automation options for databased fleet management and optimised drilling performance. It is designed for large hole size drilling, and brings its practical intelligence and support for higher-level automation solutions.

With its 49kW of drilling power, the new RD1840C rock drill is also built for large hole drilling, boasting a robust design and well-balanced long piston percussion package for demanding conditions. Its new layout of pressure accumulators maximises efficiency and minimises hose vibrations. The Sandvik RockPulse™ tool stress monitoring system will be available as an additional option on the drill later in 2021. 

Developed to match the other components in the Top Hammer XL system, the LT90 rock tools consist of a shank adapter, MF tube rods and drill bits, offering the best possible drilling dynamics and rock breaking efficiency. The tools increase productivity, improve hole straightness and provide great coupling characteristics and a long service life.


Globally, the quarrying sector is embracing a trend in the automation of surface drill rigs; operations in sub-Saharan Africa are not expected to be left behind. 

Vanessa Hardy, business line manager surface drills at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says she looks forward to growing interest especially in Southern Africa, with many quarry customers already owning Sandvik drill rigs which are automation-ready.

“The move towards autonomous drilling will be increasingly difficult to resist, especially as more users see the benefits in terms of productivity and cost-saving,” says Hardy. 

She highlights that Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions offers a high level of flexibility, allowing customers to select the level of automation that best suits their operation. 

“Where the customer still wants an operator in the cab, for instance, there are various one-touch buttons to improve performance and accuracy,” she says. “These functions include the rig being able to level itself before operation, to automatically bring the drill up into a drilling position, and to auto-collar the drill.”

The on-board technology also allows the operator to set, store and recall operating ‘recipes’ for different drilling applications. These recipes – which apply a certain predefined combination of rotations, pressures and other variables – can be automatically implemented at the push of a button.

“We have made safety, efficiency and productivity the main focus areas of our iSeries range of intelligent drill rigs, and these all help customers reduce operating costs,” she says. “Our automation technologies have also opened doors for remote working; this may involve an operator standing on the bench while watching the rig, or working from a control room far from site.”

She emphasised that the key advantage of these remote operation options was to enhance operator comfort and safety, while at the same time raising the performance of the machine. The sensors and automatic settings also protect the equipment from being pushed too hard, reducing the total cost of ownership by bringing down maintenance costs.

“It is important to remember, though, that the automation journey is not simple – and usually means many organisational and other challenges,” says Hardy. “With our experience in this field, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions commits to work closely with customers to ensure a positive outcome to this journey.”


Simon Andrews, managing director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, is thrilled to announce that Sandvik AutoMine® and OptiMine® have been recognised by the 2020 Global Autonomous Mining Solutions Product Leadership Award by Frost & Sullivan.

Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service and strategic product development.

”Sandvik is the only mining equipment and solutions company that was awarded in our 2020 Class of Top 50 Digital Best-practitioners across the Industrial and Energy Space,” says Rohit Karthikeyan, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

The AutoMine® system is an innovative automation solution that comprises AutoMine® Underground and AutoMine® Surface Drilling, enabling customers to scale up the mining automation at their own pace. 

The AutoMine® Underground product family includes the sub-products AutoMine® Tele-Remote, AutoMine® Lite, AutoMine® Multi-Lite, and AutoMine® Fleet. AutoMine® Surface Drilling is an automation solution available for a wide range of Sandvik’s iSeries top hammer, down-the-hole and rotary drills.

“One of the biggest competitive differentiating factors is that Sandvik is a mining equipment/mining process and digital solutions provider,” says Karthikeyan. “This expertise in technical, industrial and digital domains enables it to deliver compelling offerings that outperform peers’ products to the market.”

Riku Pulli, President, Rock Drills and Technologies Division, Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, says: “We are continuously developing innovative technologies that benefit our customers’ operations and this award indicates the success that Sandvik has achieved with our automation offering over the years.”


The astute application of digital tools is the key to continuously improving efficiencies on underground mines, according to Niel McCoy, business line manager for automation and digitalisation at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions.

McCoy says that the choice of digital tools needs to be based on each operation’s key performance indicators (KPIs). This is because the solutions that are implemented will be focused on monitoring and managing those KPIs. He then recommends a phased approach to introducing digital tools to an operation. 

“The starting point is always machine telemetry and basic production or productivity reporting,” he says. “From there, the solutions can be expanded.”

Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has extensive global experience in designing and implementing digital tools, including equipment health monitoring and process management. Its AutoMine® automation offering operates on 59 mining sites globally, while its OptiMine® suite of digital solutions is active on 66 connected sites. The ‘My Sandvik’ customer portal, a web-based digital hub, serves 214 sites and its Newtrax technology in wireless IoT connectivity is operating on 115 sites.

“Monitoring equipment health through My Sandvik Digital Services Solutions allows users to draw down telemetry data from their equipment in real time,” he says. “The data is automatically compiled into the required report format for quick analysis and response.”

The next aspect to be addressed is the actual management of the process being monitored, he says. This is where Sandvik’s Task Management and Scheduler – part of its Optimine® suite of digital solutions – can be applied. 

“This allows a tablet to be fitted to an item of equipment so that an underground operator can accept tasks and provide real-time progress reports on those tasks,” he says. “The more advanced the equipment, the more data can be extracted and communicated automatically without operator intervention.”

The solutions allow for data to be recorded on equipment’s key operations – such as the weight of loads in a loader bucket. Telemetry on the equipment gives valuable insights into the equipment’s availability and performance – so that management can respond. 

“When starting digital journeys, the focus must be on improving current operations,” says McCoy. “This means getting work started on time, for instance, before moving onto optimisation efforts. Most digital implementations will battle if the starting point is trying to increase productivity before getting the basics right.”


Partnership will be the watchword in the technological collaboration between global diamond leader De Beers Group and engineering group Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions on the Venetia Underground Project (VUP).

South Africa’s largest diamond mine, Venetia has been mined as an open pit since 1992. De Beers Group is investing ~$2 billion to start mining underground from 2022, extending the mine’s life beyond 2045. The VUP represents the biggest single investment in South Africa’s diamond industry in decades.

Allan Rodel, Project Director of the VUP, says that the use of technology is critical in building the mine of the future and will ensure the safety of its people, as well as create unique employment opportunities. He adds that the successful implementation of technology holds the key to further improve the mine’s productivity and cost effectiveness, enabling the quality and accuracy required for precision mining. This will also provide real-time geospatially referenced data that supports digitalization of processes and provide a wealth of data for analysis and continuous improvement.

The underground mine will use sublevel caving to extract material, from its K01 and K02 ore bodies. Initially the ore will be hauled to surface using a combination of underground and surface haul trucks. As the operation matures the hauling systems will transition to an automated truck loop in combination with vertical shafts for steady state production.

Prioritising safety and productivity, the VUP will leverage the technology achievements of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, having ordered 19 units of high-tech equipment from the company.

According to Simon Andrews, Managing Director at Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions Southern Africa, the company will supply a range of intelligent equipment including load-haul dumpers (LHDs), articulated dump trucks (ADTs), twin-boom drill rigs, roof bolters and cable bolters. Amongst the advanced models are 17 tonne LH517i and 21-tonne LH621i LHDs, 51-tonne TH551i ADTs, DD422i face drills, DS412i roof bolters and DS422i cable bolters.

“As important as the equipment itself is, De Beers Group was looking to partner with a company who would support them through the VUP journey,” says Andrews. “Taking a mine from surface to underground has many challenges, including the change in operational philosophy.”

Andrews highlights that change management processes are as crucial to success as the capacity and performance of the mining equipment. The implementation of the new technology is seldom a straightforward process, and always requires a collaborative effort.

“The expectation of the customer is for a strong relationship with a technology partner who will help them to apply, develop and fine-tune the systems they need, over a period of time,” he says. “This way, the technology is assured to deliver the safety, efficiency and other positive results that the new mine will demand.”

Andrews believes that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology leads the pack from a technology point of view, having introduced its intelligent i-Series machines to enhance remote operation capability. This advanced range combines automation with powerful data management capacity, aligning with the philosophy that De Beers Group has applied to this world-class operation prioritising the safety of its people.

Also included in the package for VUP is the Sandvik OptiMine® control system which enables continuous process management and optimisation, focusing on key areas such as face utilisation and visualisation of the operation in near real-time. Utilising data generated by the i‑Series machines, OptiMine® helps mining operations to achieve the lowest operating costs and highest levels of productivity.

Andrews notes that Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is not new to the Venetia site, having worked with Venetia’s surface operations for some years, providing tools for drilling as part of a performance contract.  

“We’ve been following the VUP with great interest and were ideally placed to contribute as we have extensive South African experience with mining customers in transitioning from opencast to underground,” he says. “This has involved providing equipment, implementing the systems and getting a full operation running with the latest equipment.”

Andrews emphasises the extensive global footprint of Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions, and its significant investment in ongoing research and development. This allows it to help customers push technological boundaries for efficiency in their operations.

“Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions has successfully completed numerous large and ambitious projects, and it reflects our experience in applying automation technologies from first principles,” he says. “The learnings from these projects will be seen in the VUP as the mining systems are rolled out. We will take the very latest technology and assist the mine to implement it in an underground environment through a collaborative approach using local skills and supporting it from a local base of expertise.”

He emphasises that the automation will be applied through a phased approach, beginning with manual operation and closely monitoring performance through data analytics. Automation can be gradually introduced with the necessary training and experience, ensuring consistency of operation which is the key to success.

“This will allow costs to be driven steadily lower, using the data from the operation of the fleet to guide the transition to automation,” he says. “We will work with the mine to introduce automation and further data management as work progresses deeper into the mine, and as mine employees become more comfortable with this way of working.” Sandvik Mining and Rock Solutions is geared to support the trackless systems implemented at the mine through the full lifecycle of the machines by supplying spare parts, tooling and components from an on-site Vendor Managed Inventory stockroom and its other South African based facilities.


Despite the travel restriction difficulties associated with COVID-19, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology has found novel and innovative solutions to overcoming these challenges which has ensured the company maintains its leading position in the fields of both automation and digitalisation.

Considering Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology first introduced automation solutions into its product offering some 15 years ago, and digital technologies 10 years ago – the company has been leading the way in helping the mining industry adopt and embrace the modernisation revolution.

“The African mining industry has traditionally shied away from embracing new technologies, but COVID-19 has been the push factor in accelerating the necessity to adopt change, and this has happened rapidly as mines have had to learn to operate remotely and with limited resources owing to COVID-19,” starts Simon Andrews, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology Vice President for Sales in Southern Africa.

The adoption of new technologies however is no longer the primary objective. Finding ways to implement them remotely has now become the primary focus, Andrews continues.

With the philosophy of working towards finding a solution for any challenge, Sandvik Mining & Technology has done just that, and introduced a headset which enables it to walk and talk anyone through the process of commissioning a machine and associated software without having ever seen it before. “This offering removes all barriers associated with the inability to connect physically on the ground and is a mechanism of training in itself,” says Niel McCoy, Automation Business Development Manager for Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology.

Coupled with this new skill set and offering is Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s ability to better utilise its highly skilled personnel. “Our top level experts within the business are no longer time restricted by travel and are able to utilise their skills set across multiple mines on a more frequent basis, something we had never considered in the past but is an exercise already reaping great success,” McCoy points out.

As a result of the company’s efforts in ensuring digital technologies and the implementation thereof remain a top agenda for clients – regardless of remote working conditions, lockdown restrictions, etc., Sandvik has established a new communication repertoire with its clients. “Never before have we communicated so effectively or as frequently with our clients as we do now. We know more about our sites now than we ever did before, which naturally provides us with the ability to better assist our clients in any areas that we can contribute towards and give input on,” Andrews concludes.


Surface operations can now be operated with higher levels of safety and productivity, with the recent launch of Sandvik’s automation system, AutoMine® Surface Drilling for Boom Drills.

One operator can now control multiple drill rigs simultaneously. They can work from a comfortable location within line-of-site of the rig, or from a control room in a remote location. This means less exposure to noise, dust and vibration – and removes the hazard of working close to highwalls.

Automated onboard functions allow the rig to work autonomously. The operator monitors at fleet level and takes control only when required. The onboard automation functions of Sandvik’s iSeries surface boom drill rigs form the basis for the remote operation, minimising the risk of human error. The fleet view shows all the connected rigs and allows the operator to easily switch control between machines on the large touch screen.

This complete view of the drilling operation is made possible through multiple cameras, mounted on critical positions on the rig. The drilling main camera can be controlled remotely by using ‘shortcuts’ or with a dedicated joystick. There is even a high-quality audio feed to improve drilling performance.

The AutoMine® system helps the operator to use the drill rig’s full design potential, ensuring accurate and efficient drilling operations. The essential information on each rig is made available to see at a glance.

Designed for ease of use, the system also facilitates fast start-up under any conditions. It comes standard with a simple and reliable stand-alone network or can be integrated to a mine’s existing network solution. Network communication is established automatically creating a user friendly, reliable and ergonomic operating environment.

With operator safety being central to all mining operations, AutoMine® includes a safety system designed in accordance with international functional safety standards.

The AutoMine® Surface Drilling automation system can be employed on Sandvik’s Pantera™ DP1100i and DP1500i top hammer drill rigs, as well as the Leopard™ DI650i down-the-hole drill rig. The company also have a similar offering for its range of rotary drills.

Intelligent Sandvik drill rigs equipped with AutoMine® come with a range of onboard automation features and options to ensure optimal drill performance and minimise the possibility of errors. Among these features are feed auto-aligning and positioning, which ensures quick and accurate alignment and positioning according to the drill plan.

It also boasts an intelligent collaring sequence to make sure the hole start is perfect. The iTorque drilling control system ensures optimum drilling parameters for different rock conditions. Pipes are added and removed efficiently by the automatic pipe handling system.


The Covid-19 pandemic means less people in the mining area, working to achieve the same output; this makes digitalisation no longer a nice-to-have but a vital efficiency mechanism for survival.

This is according to Niel McCoy, business line manager for automation and digitalisation at Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology, who explains the challenge is that digital strategies often fail due to lack of a vision.

“Most mining companies have for years been working to digitalise their operations, but the difficulty is to know exactly what this process is meant to achieve, and where managers want their mines to be in the future,” says McCoy. “Bringing in new technologies means fundamentally changing the way your operation runs, so you need to be ready for the change management that this will require.”

The result is that many mines are still struggling to develop and apply digital strategies. Effective digitalisation, he says, involves nothing less than moving away from the traditional style of management. It means bringing everything towards a more centralised point.

“Digitalisation allows the whole underground mining operation to become visual – as if the ‘roof’ has been lifted off the mine – and to be managed from an operational management centre,” he says. “This gives management a view of all operations in real time, and the ability to optimise the various processes.”

Before any implementation can begin, the goal must be clear in everyone’s minds – a picture of what their ‘mine of the future’ looks like. Failing that, he emphasises that the effort becomes extremely difficult to implement and success is not likely. This will then guide the roadmap to be followed for adoption of digital tools. There is a clear journey to follow to be successful in digitilisation.

“Without an end in mind, this will become just another initiative,” he says. “Operations people will be unable to contextualise what the digital solutions mean within the big picture, and how it will improve their day-to-day activities and outcomes. This is mainly due to the data not being used in day-to-day management and decision making. It can never be a side project.”

McCoy emphasises that digital solutions are not just for managers to see more clearly what is happening on their mines, but is vital for the people on the ground to run their operations more effectively and efficiently, There needs to be full buy-in from the start if the intended efficiencies are to be realised in practice.

“The only way of making mining operations more efficient is to understand what is happening and where, and to react accordingly as quickly as possible,” he says. “One of the main shortcomings with traditional, hard-copy reporting methods on mines is that it simply takes too long for managers to sort through the raw reports from each shift and identify problems in time to make a meaningful intervention.”

This means that operations can never be properly optimised. Digital tools play a valuable role in addressing this challenge, helping mines achieve their key performance indicators.

“A good example of a KPI in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic is this: How do we get the best out of a reduced workforce?” he says. “Once a mine has clarified how it plans to approach this, it can start selecting the appropriate digital tools to achieve its goals.”

Change management is at the heart of the process, based on short interval control and process management. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s core focus in digitalisation is process management and optimisation, through its Optimine® product.

“There are five different modules within OptiMine® that we offer customers, depending on their digital requirements,” he says. “Further digital solutions are also available, relating to aspects including telemetry of non-Sandvik equipment, face utilisation, ventilation monitoring, personnel tracking and ventilation-on-demand through our Newtrax platform.”

McCoy highlights that Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s experience in this field is substantial, demonstrated by the fact that OptiMine® has been installed at about 66 sites worldwide. He also emphasises that, while industry technology providers have their own specific focus areas, mines need to ensure that the different systems integrate effectively.

“As a manager on a mine, you don’t want to have dozens of different log-in points and dashboards to manage your operational data,” he says. “Rather, you want just a few key interfaces from which you can gather the overview you need. That is why it is so important to have your digital vision and understand what solutions you will require to achieve this vision.”

Inter-operability is therefore a vital aspect of the digitalisation planning. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s leading inter-operability policy commits the company to working with any other type of information system that a customer has on site. This is to achieve the effective transfer of data between systems, to make it more useful for the customer.

“We are very proud of this policy, and are one of the first original equipment manufacturers to make such a policy public,” McCoy says. “It shows our understanding of the bigger digital picture and our role within it – aimed at ensuring that the customer is empowered use their data the way they choose.”


Southern African mines will soon begin the transition from diesel-driven to battery-powered drill jumbos, with the introduction of the world’s first highly-automated underground electric drill rig by Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology.

According to Saltiel Pule, Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology’s business line manager for underground drilling in southern Africa, the Sandvik DD422iE rig has already seen enthusiastic take-up in mining countries with strict anti-pollution regulations. The innovation has been in development for the past 3 years.

“The key benefits of the battery concept in underground drill rigs are zero emissions and much less heat, making for safer and healthier working conditions,” Pule says. “There are many other advantages to this technology, however, including increased drilling productivity, reduced operating costs and better energy efficiency.”

The Sandvik DD422iE’s electric driveline, with an electric motor mechanically connected to axles for high torque and high efficiency, allows the rig to tram independently between working areas. The unit’s high-precision inverter delivers exact control of the tramming speed.

“The rig only needs to be connected to mains power during the actual drilling, at which point the electric motor is connected onto hydraulic pumps,” he says.

Improved drilling power of up to 20% is achieved by an active power compensation system which draws reserve power from batteries during peak loads. Battery charging is done during those phases of the drilling cycle when power intake is low, such as during boom movements. There is therefore no waiting time to charge up batteries.

In pursuit of zero-harm safety standards, the unit uses sodium nickel chloride (SoNick) technology – regarded as the safest battery system for underground conditions. Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology also offers a battery rental option to customers, taking responsibility for battery inspection and maintenance, as well as responsible disposal at the end of battery’s life.

“The battery therefore becomes an operational cost for the mine, rather than a capital expense,” Pule says. “This option also gives the customer the certainty of predictable operating costs while adopting a new technology.”

In addition to zero emissions and less heat generation, the electric drill rig produces less noise, making communication easier and working conditions less stressful. There is a reduced risk of fire, as there are no fuels exposed to hot surfaces – as is common with diesel engines.

“The range of indirect savings that customers achieve when they move from diesel to electric includes lower ventilation costs underground, no need for diesel storage and diesel pipelines, and more control over operating costs,” Pule says.