Epiroc’s new Boltec with Auto Bolt Reload redefines safety and productivity within rock reinforcement

Epiroc’s new Boltec with Auto Bolt Reload (ABR) is the first ever underground rock reinforcement drill rig designed such that the bolt type and machine work together in synergy to deliver optimal safety, performance and quality. With this innovation, Epiroc takes another significant step forward on rock reinforcement automation journey.

First-class operator safety thanks to automation

The main design feature of the Boltec ABR is the fully mechanized bolt reloading system. The system automatically feeds bolts from a large carrier magazine to the feed magazine, all while the operator remains safe inside the ergonomic cabin. This innovation removes the need for manually reloading the feed magazine, thereby insulating the operator from such safety risks as falling on the ground or tripping. The fast auto reloading sequence speeds up the production cycle. A total of 52 bolts can be installed in a heading before reloading of the carrier magazine is needed. The carrier magazine is mounted on a swing arm that lowers the magazine to ground level for ergonomic reloading behind the machine’s front support jacks.

By adding this mechanized and automated reloading sequence to the machine, we are keeping the operator away from hazardous areas. We are proud to introduce an industry changer in terms of safety”, says Sami Niiranen, President at Epiroc Underground division.

The Boltec ABR opens the door to other safety and productivity-enhancing autonomous functionalities that were previously not compatible with underground bolting machines. Tele-remote control and multi-bolt auto are now available options that can provide bolting potential during shift changes or when conditions preclude having an operator physically on the machine.

This combination enables improved operator safety for underground bolting operations”, says Peter Bray, Global Product Manager rock reinforcement at Epiroc Underground division.

Maximized productivity with pumpable resin

The combination of Self Drilling Anchor (SDA) bolts and pumpable resin is the core component of the Boltec ABR system. SDA bolts are not sensitive to varying ground conditions and will achieve consistently fast installation. This gives easier scheduling accuracy for mine planning and forecasting. The pumpable resin offers fast setting times and full bolt encapsulation, ensuring speed and quality of installation. An added plus with pumpable resin is its insensitivity to wet ground conditions, which can be a desirable characteristic for many operations.

Given that it is much cleaner and easier to use than traditional cement, the pumpable resin reduces hours spent on cleaning the machine. Hence, it is increasing productivity by providing more bolting time”, says Peter Bray.

The best option for challenging rock conditions

Mining operations are steadily going deeper as they develop existing and newly discovered ore bodies. Increased depth typically corresponds to increased rock stresses. This often results in more challenging rock conditions with fractured rock mass, rock burst, and squeezing ground, requiring more regular rehabilitation work. The Boltec ABR with improved operator safety, flexibility and productivity is the obvious choice for such conditions.

As an example, LKAB Kiruna mine, Sweden, had a significant seismic event during May 2020. Several areas underground were adversely affected and required rehabilitation with bolts and mesh to make them safe for production again. The Boltec ABR was the perfect machine for the challenge, it has proven to allow safer operation and significant productivity increases* when compared to LKAB’s conventional bolting fleet”, says Peter Bray.

This solution has made the impossible possible. We can now install bolts where it used to be extremely difficult. Giving some relief to the bottleneck that Rock reinforcement had become”, says Peter Bray.

*Up to double productivity gains were achieved in a trial with the Boltec ABR in LKAB’s Malmberget mine when compared to LKAB’s conventional bolting fleet.

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