Forestry Commission purchases second Sandvik DX800 drill rig for use in challenging terrain
THE UK’s primary timber producer – the Forestry Commission – is using a 15-tonne Sandvik DX800 drill rig to win valuable road-building rock in areas inaccessible to other drill rigs.
‘This is less of a quarry and more a rock formation, and we are required to drill and blast rock as we find it. We don’t have the luxury of well-maintained haul roads and managed gradients like traditional quarries,’ explained drill rig operator Walter Handley.
‘Every day is a new challenge. We have to manoeuvre over rocky outcrops and up and down seemingly impossible grades to drill and blast in order to create new access roads for the timber trucks. We are pioneering, and our DX800 is required to go where no other machine can go.’
Galloway Forest is Europe’s largest man-made forest, covering an area of almost 800 square kilometres in south-west Scotland. Established in 1947, the forest is a key provider of valuable timber for use in UK mills, and as its trees mature new roads are required to carry timber trucks deeper into the forest.
Fortunately, in addition to its extensive timber reserves, the forest also has huge reserves of granite and greywacke that are ideal for road-building applications, and which do not have to be imported from outside the confines of the forest. But while this rock is plentiful, it is also difficult to reach.
‘At first glance, the terrain looks quite smooth and gently undulating,’ said quarry manager Norrie Russell. ‘But when you strip away the overburden, the rock beneath is craggy, the gradients are steep, and there’s no clear pathway for men, let alone machines.’
Despite these geological and topographical challenges, the Forestry Commission still manages to run an effective drilling, blasting and quarrying operation, a fact that Mr Russell believes is due largely to the recent purchase of the Commission’s second DX800 drill rig.
‘Quite simply, the DX800 can access areas that no other machine of this type could reach,’ he asserted. ‘The independently oscillating tracks and the ability to tilt both the cab and the mast back and forth makes the machine incredibly manoeuvrable and stable on even the most difficult and arduous terrain.
‘Having looked at a number of different machines prior to purchasing our second Sandvik, I honestly believe that no other drill rig could work like the DX800.’
This view shared by operator Walter Handley who cited the DX800’s slewing upper-structure as another key benefit. ‘On terrain as difficult as this, it is important to keep tracking to an absolute minimum to avoid loosening the ground beneath,’ he said. ‘With the DX800’s 180-degree slew capability, I can drill five bores while keeping the tracks in a fixed position. It is safer and far more productive on terrain like this.’
According to Norrie Russell, the Sandvik DX800 regularly drills more than 200 metres of 102mm boreholes in an eight-hour working shift, despite the challenging terrain and variations in required drill depths.
‘Some of the bores at the front of the area to be blasted will be relatively shallow, maybe as little as 2.5–3 metres in depth,’ he said. ‘But the bores towards the back of the blast area will go down seven metres or more with a three-metre spacing between.
‘We tend to blast weekly and each blast will drop 5,000 tonnes of rock. That rock is passed through a jaw crusher to reduce it to –65mm, and then through a cone crusher to produce sufficient fines for road-building applications.’
As an existing Sandvik customer, Mr Russell said the company’s after-sales support capability was another factor in the Forestry Commission’s purchasing decision. ‘We buy all our drill bits and rods from Sandvik. They are generally available with a 24-hour turnaround and we have found them to be extremely hard-wearing and durable,’ he commented.
‘When you’re working in a location as remote as this, it is nice to know that a reliable source of parts and support is just a phone call away.’
Above all, however, Mr Russell says it is the machine’s mobility and manoeuvrability in difficult terrain, and the comfort it affords the operator, that makes it stand out from the rest.
‘There is not another machine on the market that could go where our Sandvik goes or do what our Sandvik does,’ he said. ‘We firmly believe that a comfortable operator is a productive operator, and in the DX800 our operator is well protected from noise, dust, vibration and the weather.’
Operator Walter Handley agreed. ‘I love this drill rig,’ he said. ‘Compared to competitive machines, the Sandvik DX800 is truly first class. No other machine can match it.’