April 16, 2012
More and more mining companies are turning to Atlas Copco training simulators to optimize their training programs in the face of a growing shortage of skilled labor. BHP Billiton of Western Australia is one mining company that has adopted this method successfully and is reaping the benefit.
While the mining industry is enjoying a period of strong growth and expansion it also faces one of its biggest future challenges – a major shortage of skilled operators. There are many reasons for this, not least the need to hire large numbers of people for new mining projects, partly to meet the high demand for metals and minerals, but also to compensate for the loss of experienced “hands” that will soon move into retirement. In Australia alone, according to one report, more than 150 000 new jobs will need to be filled by 2015. Against this background, operators need to be trained faster, better and more cost-effectively than ever before – a fact that has not escaped BHP Billiton which is among those companies now using Atlas Copco drill rig simulators together with the training program Master Driller.
“We all have varying levels of experience; some have no big drill experience and others have only seen the levers in big rigs. I think this is great exposure to technology and I can see how the drillers’ skills have increased.”
BHP Billiton is going through a major equipment change at its iron ore mines, gradually moving from contractors’ equipment to its own fleet. In addition, the company plans to start up two new mines, one in 2012 and one in 2013, coupled with a far-reaching program of standardization.
There is a variety of drill rigs at the company’s six mine sites, but over the next few years the entire fleet is expected to consist of Atlas Copco Pit Viper 271 blasthole drills. In addition to the greater efficiency of these single pass rigs, the mine will achieve commonality of parts, consumables and human resources. Even before the first Pit Viper had been shipped to the first site, Yandi Mine, training was already under way in Perth using a simulator and the Master Driller program. In the classroom we met Dan Rolston, Drill & Blast Superintendent at the Yandi Mine, who, despite many years of drilling experience, was taking the course alongside drillers Ben Zeller, David Jack and Bill Thorpe. Rolston has even used a Pit Viper drill in the past, although not one with the Atlas Copco Rig Control System (RCS). He said: “We all have varying levels of experience; some have no big drill experience and others have only seen the levers in big rigs. I think this is great exposure to technology and I can see how the drillers’ skills have increased.”