Champion Iron Ltd. signed a Letter of Intent with Caterpillar to implement artificial intelligence (AI) based advanced drilling technologies on Cat equipment at its Bloom Lake Mine mine. Located approximately 13 kilometers (km) north of Fermont, Québec, Bloom Lake is an open-pit, truck-shovel operation with a concentrator, and it ships 4 million metric tons per year of iron ore concentrate from the site by rail.

Improving mining practices and reducing waste and energy use is the foundation of this collaboration, said Champion CEO David Cataford. “The entire Bloom Lake team has already demonstrated its ability to operate at a consistently high level, since commissioning the mine in 2018,” Cataford said. “In doing so, we have continuously strived to improve operations using the best existing and new prospective mining technologies. Drill-to-mill aligns with our core value of respecting the land that we exploit, as it will enable us to responsibly extract non-renewable resources using the best means possible.”

The project will upgrade the drilling fleet to remote-controlled, semiautonomous and fully autonomous systems, using technologies engineered, designed and integrated by Cat. The two companies hope to improve productivity and reduce energy consumption, while demonstrating advanced drilling technologies. A Drill-to-Mill strategy (D2M) is expected to be deployed, driven by Cat MineStar solutions, designed to optimize the drilling, loading and hauling processes. D2M is focused on delivering improved milling performance by supplying optimized mill feed, while contending with dynamic operational conditions.

Using real-time data, AI and analytics, the plan is to deliver a fully integrated drill-to-mill technology solution powered by data connectivity and advanced analytics to improve workflow between the mine and plant, providing a more efficient end-to-end enterprise process that delivers more consistent raw material for final product specification requirements, according to Champion.