Minera Spence, a BHP-owned copper producer located in northern Chile, has just commissioned its first autonomous drilling rig. The milestone marks the beginning of various autonomy projects that seek to contribute to making Spence a safer, more competitive and sustainable mining site.

The activity, which was attended by BHP executives and local authorities, began with a walk through the site facilities, including a visit to the control room and the drilling yard from where the autonomous equipment is operated remotely, and to the drilling yard of the Perforadoras Autonomous.

The event was attended by the national director of SERNAGEOMIN, Alfonso Domeyko; the Seremis of Mining, Alex Acuña; of Labor, Álvaro Le Blanc; and of Environment, Gonzalo Bravo; as well as the general manager of the Antofagasta Industrial Association (AIA), Fernando Cortez, among other technical and political authorities.

President of BHP Pampa Norte Cristián Sandoval said, “With this first autonomous drilling rig, Spence is starting the journey toward the mining of the future, a mining that seeks to be safer, more competitive and sustainable. These first steps, with the challenges, obstacles and successes, are key to advancing the excellence of our operation, and the projects to come.”

Sandoval took the opportunity to congratulate everyone who was part of the process, especially the workers for participating in the early conversations and the open recruitment and selection processes for the new roles that drilling rigs require. “It is a relevant milestone for the future plans of our operation, which opens opportunities for our host communities and for the Antofagasta region,” he added.

Meanwhile, the head of Autonomy of BHP Minerals Americas, Pedro Hidalgo, said, “At BHP, we are looking to implement solutions that are benchmarks in the industry to move toward the mining of the future. This program was created to service the needs of the operation and comes to respond to the challenges that the industry currently presents in environmental matters, safety and competitiveness.”

For his part, the national director of SERNAGEOMIN, Alfonso Domeyko, indicated that “this important technology, such as an autonomous drilling rig from BHP Spence, is the first of this type and its implementation is the result of the work we have carried out in conjunction with the industry to generate an operational guide that allows approving and operating autonomous machinery, regulatory advances that allow workers to be withdrawn from risk areas and where we are also fostering a new inclusive mining. This is how many women have joined the industry and can operate within these processes. This is the mining of the present and of the future, this is the mining that makes our country more developed.”

The project considers the operation of five autonomous drilling rigs that will be put into operation gradually. The company expects to have an entire 100% autonomous drilling fleet. This project also considers a 14.1% increase in the use of the equipment and a 1.7% increase in drilling rigs availability to improve both, the health and the safety standards of the operators.