Epiroc’s autonomous drill rigs have now reached the milestone of having drilled holes equivalent in length to the earth’s circumference. This achievement is also linked to lower emissions as part of the company’s aim to accelerate the transformation of the mining industry toward lower emissions, improved safety and increased productivity.

Epiroc’s drill rigs, used by mining and construction customers across the world, are increasingly operated autonomously. The company’s Pit Viper surface drill rigs have now drilled holes totalling more than 41 million meters, exceeding the world’s circumference of 40.1 million meters. The societal benefits generated so far are significant, including a reduction in CO2e emissions of more than 100 000 tonnes. An equivalent in effect would be to plant a new forest the size of the Swedish capital. The reduction in CO2e emissions is achieved through increased efficiency of autonomous drilling, higher-precision drilling and significantly less need for travel to the rigs, which can be at a far distance from the control room.

Similarly, the company’s autonomous underground rigs, such as the Simba production drill rigs, are increasingly used by customers. One of the company’s mining customers has drilled more than a million meters autonomously underground using a single Simba rig.

In addition to lower emissions, other benefits of autonomous drilling include a safer and more comfortable work environment for operators and higher productivity.

Epiroc Pit Viper 351 drill rigs. Image credit: Epiroc

Epiroc Pit Viper 351 drill rigs. Image credit: Epiroc

“Our autonomous drilling solutions are one example of how we are accelerating the transformation toward a more sustainable future,” says Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s president and CEO. “We have a rigorous innovation agenda, also within digitalisation and electrification, to find new ways to reduce the environmental impact, while increasing safety and productivity.”

Minerals such as copper and nickel are key to society’s transformation toward a more sustainable future as they are needed in electric car batteries, solar panels and other renewable energy technologies. A report by the International Energy Agency concluded that if the world is to meet net-zero as a global goal, the demand for clean-technology minerals, including copper and nickel, will increase significantly in the coming years.

The company has launched several initiatives to support the industry to extract the needed minerals in the most sustainable and efficient way possible. For example, Epiroc is working toward offering its complete fleet of underground mining equipment in emission-free versions by 2025, and its full fleet of surface equipment in emission-free versions by 2030. Another example is the partnership with steelmaker SSAB that began in 2022 to produce mining equipment using fossil-free steel.

Epiroc also supports the transition towards a circular economy by providing equipment and services that enable the recycling and reuse of materials. For example, the company’s hydraulic attachments tools are used by the construction industry to process concrete, asphalt, and other materials on site, reducing waste and improving resource efficiency.

In 2021, the company received validation from the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) for the 2030 targets to halve its CO2e emissions in own operations as well as from the use of sold products. The SBTi validated Epiroc’s climate targets as being in line with keeping global warming at a maximum 1.5°C, consistent with the latest climate science and the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing our world today, and we believe it is our responsibility as a global industry leader to accelerate the transformation towards a more sustainable future,” Hedblom says. “We are looking forward to continue supporting our customers, and society, on this journey.”