World leading drill and blast specialist puts new Sandvik drill rig to the fore

World leading drill and blast specialist puts new Sandvik drill rig to the fore

The EPC Groupe is one of the world’s leading companies in explosives manufacture, storage and distribution. Specialists in drilling and blasting, the company has developed a reputation for delivering innovative, efficient and safe solutions wherever it operates. Focusing on its customers’ requirements, EPC-UK has recently taken advantage of one of the latest surface drilling developments from Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology by investing in 3 Leopard DI550 drill rigs.

For over 120 years, the EPC Groupe has enjoyed a reputation for delivering effective solutions, technological innovation and high-quality customer service. Today, it manufactures and supplies a range of commercial explosives and tailor-made services to a customer base that includes many of the leading names in mining, cement, aggregates, civil engineering and defense. Working in some of the most demanding fields in the world, the company’s operating ethos is aimed at providing its customers with solutions that are not only effective, but are safe, secure and ethical, thereby providing the highest standards of professionalism and care.

Blasting services for the UK’s needs

With over 100 years of experience, EPC-UK has prided itself on providing a ‘one stop’ solution for drilling and blasting services. It now provides one of the most comprehensive ‘rock on the ground’ services to the mining, cement and aggregate industries. This is accomplished in no small way through its unmatched experience, expertise and professionalism making it one of the leading names in the industry. Its services also include consultancy, training or assistance with unusual projects, as well as contracting enabling it to meet and solve any challenge.

Many of its initiatives are leading the field in modern blasting; these include 3D imaging and high-speed video analysis to full-duplex wireless communication system, which ensures the safe and reliable link between truck operator and shot-firer for up to 200 metres apart. In fact, EPC-UK places operational safety and competency as its number one priority, bringing the highest level of professionalism and customer focus to everything it does.

Safety – a core competency

Operational health and safety is central to all aspects of EPC-UK’s work. While many companies make similar statements, 91% of all EPC-UK employees confirmed this in a survey undertaken in 2014. This culture is essential: EPC-UK operates within the explosives, chemical, civil, quarry, mining and demolition sectors, and these industries require a meticulous ‘safety first’ approach helping ensure a safe working environment.

The company is registered with LRQA and assessed against the Occupational Health & Safety Management Standard OHSAS 18001. Internal audits are constantly carried out across all activities to ensure that operations continue to be safe. For EPC-UK the option of ignoring safety at any time does not exist. It is incorporated in to everything that the company does and is a fundamental cultural value that is reinforced constantly and consistently.

Operating two upper tier COMAH sites and several lower ties sites within EPC-UK requires a meticulous approach to delivering safe manufacturing and storage environments. From design, through commissioning, operating, decommissioning, decontamination to dismantling and disposal of assets, the hazards must be identified, appropriate control measures implemented and the risks managed. People, plant and processes are considered throughout the cycle to ensure a safe working environment is established, monitored, developed to continuously improve upon safety performance.

This business philosophy is also essential in the field. Operating on customers sites throughout the UK is both a privilege and a responsibility. Quarries, where the majority of drill and blast activities are undertaken, can often be hazardous locations. Through providing these services to customers means that it is imperative for that the very highest levels of safety competence are delivered ensuring that any hazards met during blasting and drilling are managed by competent personnel who are able to ensure that the activities undertaken do not cause harm to personnel.

A like-minded partner

A core facet of EPC-UK’s service is providing specialist drilling and blasting, the company has been keen to take advantage of some of the most recent developments in surface drilling technology. As operational safety is seen as endemic to its operations, EPC-UK was keen to form a relationship with companies who share a similar approach. Hence, with the development of its latest line of surface drill rigs, a mutually beneficial relationship with Sandvik has developed in recent years.

Sandvik’s commitment to improved safety has shown itself in new and interesting ways; specifically in the development of new products and services which have allowed solutions to be provided that encompass changing requirements. At the forefront of Sandvik’s focus is an increasing use of “Intelligent solutions” that has opened new avenues in the improving of service to customers, which at the same time improves safety, and minimizes emissions thereby benefitting the environment.

One of the latest developments from Sandvik, which proved very much to the liking of EPC-UK, is the Leopard DI550. It proved to be the perfect ‘next generation’ surface drilling solution, ideal for EPC-UK’s versatile customer driven solutions. So much so that following the acquisition of two such rigs in 2014, a further Leopard DI550 was added in 2016.

Ian Davies, General Manager EPC-UK, comments, “When looking at next generation surface drill rigs for our blasting operations, we didn’t just look at the machines themselves. Although we were, and are, very impressed by the features and performance of the Sandvik drill rigs, we wanted a supplier who is as committed to safety as we are.”

New generation surface drilling solution

The Leopard DI550 itself is the first of Sandvik’s new generation down-the-hole drill rigs, designed for large and medium-sized quarries and contractors. It matches perfectly with 4″ and 5″ hammers, making the rig uniquely productive and keeping fuel consumption and operating costs as to a minimum. Equipped with the latest technology, it provides EPC-UK with great usability, efficient rig operation and low operating costs.

With its 328 kW diesel engine and a 24.4m³ compressor airflow at 24-bar pressure, it is a perfect match for the 4″ and 5″ DTH hammers. All power is fully utilized, translating into low energy consumption, low operating costs and maximum productivity. The rig performs efficiently and economically also with 6″ hammers. On top of high performance and productivity, the machine provides a first class operator environment enabling the rig operator to handle drilling with the automation of the Leopard DI550 taking care of all machine controls. EPC-UK’s operators have specifically noted that the intuitive joystick and other cabin controls facilitate highly effective drilling operations, in a safe, comfortable and productive manner.

Support when required

In order that its customers get the most from its investment, a training course on the Leopard DI550 was held in Doncaster for EPC and Sandvik personnel. This enabled the EPC-UK operators to become familiar with the new rigs, whilst at the same time developing close working relationships with the Sandvik personnel who will support the equipment in the field. As part of this ongoing support each drill rig has received an onsite inspection from Sandvik before it has been put to work, with further support being delivered through an onsite service contract.

A strong working relationship has developed between EPC-UK and Sandvik. Rig Maintenance Manager, John Mellor, has been quick to praise the support EPC-UK has received, “Sandvik has supported our rigs which has enabled us to get the very best out of them. They’ve help to train our operators in pro-active maintenance, and assisted us whenever we’ve needed it. Sandvik’s Stuart Sievewright has been immense, and almost feels like part of our team.”

John’s view is also held by the most important person in the field – the rig operator. “I can only say that the DI550 is a joy to use. Its highly productive, efficient and its ‘intelligence makes my job easier, and vitally, safer,” says EPC-UK drill rig operator Jason Wanford of his experience of using the Leopard DI550. He adds, “What also proved to be of great benefit is that Sandvik made sure I was familiar with the rig before it was sent out into the field for the first time. I was shown how to get the very best out of the rig as well as pro-active on-site maintenance.”

The new Leopard DI550 drills are now working at various EPC-UK customer quarries, on a variety of materials. The features found on the equipment have enabled EPC-UK to deal with whatever has been required, efficiently, productively and safely. In addition the support provided by Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology also allowed the company that extra peace of mind knowing that should the unforeseen occur, or problems arise, Sandvik will be able to assist the EPC-UK operation through advice and support whenever, and wherever it is required.

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