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TesMan develops data assisted drilling solution

Motion capture technology using cameras improves drilling accuracy

Cameras on jumbo identify the exact vertical and horizontal orientation of the booms.

A data assisted drilling solution developed by Sudbury-based TesMan Inc. is helping drillers at KGHM International’s McCreedy West Mine take out cleaner, more accurate rounds.

To date, data assisted drilling has relied on sensors and is only available on the most expensive jumbos. The TesMan motion capture solution is an optical system and can be used to retrofit any jumbo.

Cameras mounted above the jumbo identify the exact vertical and horizontal orientation of the booms.

“We take that information and extrapolate it on a touch screen monitor,” explained TesMan co-owner Rod Steele. “The operator uses the telescopic sights on the screen and orientates the booms so they are exactly where he wants them. This way, he ends up with the same grid on the toe (or end) of the hole as he has on the face.

“Sixteen-foot drill steel gives you a 14-foot, nine inch hole,” said Steele. “A good driller can get it within four or five degrees just by eye, but that’s up to a foot away from the actual target at the back of the hole. If the operator is off by 12 to 15 degrees, the toe can be off by two to three feet, so you can imagine what the holes look like. It’s like spaghetti.”

More accurate drilling can reduce the cost of development by 30 per cent or more, said Steele, a mining engineer who left Inco in 2007 to start TesMan with his wife Clara, a health and safety specialist he met earlier in his career during a stint at Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting in northern Manitoba.


“We can use the accuracy of the drilling to reduce the rework on a round that hasn’t come out well because of the holes being anything but parallel. With that comes a reduction of risk as well because, if your holes are parallel and you take the round out in a managed fashion, your walls are in very good condition.

“The entire round blasts out in one shot as opposed to falling short of the target, in which case you end up with bootlegs on the face –holes that were blasted that didn’t break.”

Bootlegs are a potential hazard if the holes still contain explosives, so drillers are required to mark them on the face and drill around them.

“Motion capture technology is great when understood fully and used consistently,” commented McCreedy West mine manager Roger Lichty. “High quality rounds are the result.”

The KGHM mine in the Sudbury Basin has three jumbos equipped with the TesMan solution.

Steele began working on the motion capture technology in late 2010 and completed development early in 2011. Trials were conducted at McCreedy West and, by August 2012, the solution was ready for commercialization.

Inquiries have come in from South Africa, the United States and across Canada, and a sales manager has been hired to market the technology.

TesMan also operates as a mining consultancy, developing innovative solutions to address challenges associated with underground mining. Working with mine management at Vale’s Coleman Mine, for example, TesMan used a digital video solution to give miners a close-up view of the face.

“These headings are 32 to 35 feet wide and 18 feet high,” said Steele. “When you get that size of an excavation, you have to bolt the top part of the face to make sure it’s safe, but the operator is 50 feet way trying to insert a six-foot aluminum bolt in a two-inch hole.”

Using a video camera with digital zoom and a monitor on the dash, the operator is able to drill and bolt the face with greater ease.

TesMan also helped uranium miner Cameco with the development of an inflatable pressure vessel to stanch a water ingress problem that resulted in the flooding of its Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan.

Another project, currently on hold, involved the development of an autonomous, camera equipped vehicle designed to fly through an ore pass to assess an obstruction and place a charge to clear it.

TesMan succeeded in flying its semi-autonomous vehicle underground in 2008, but put the project on the back burner to focus on more immediate revenue generating opportunities.

“We’re still working on it in the background,” said Steele. “We’ve completed some upgrades to the powertrain and we’ve identified a suite of sensors that we’ll need for longer range operation.”

A tracked or wheeled version of the unit can also serve as an autonomous mining platform for accessing hazardous areas or conducting mine rescue operations.

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