First publishedin Aggregates Business Europe
Photo by Ole Henrik Kalviknes
Atlas Copco SmartROC T45 rigs are proving their worth as premium hard-rock drilling machines in the stunning western Norwegian fjords. Andreas Høy Knudsen of Nyhetstjenester AS reports, accompanied by photographer Ole Henrik Kalviknes
Booming thunder cuts through the quiet fjordscape arriving in Jelsa, a small, picturesque community clinging to the shoreline in Ryfylke, western Norway.
Cargo ships ploughing the dark fjord surface look like miniature models against the backdrop of giant wooded ranges. These mountains hide vast amounts of granodiorite, a granite variety being quarried in the millions of tonnes from a large open pit. It takes a lot of effort, but it is a blessing to the community.
“As a landowner, you would get paid just a dime for a tonne of rock, but you would still end up with millions,” says Geir Natland, CEO and owner of Natland Graveservice. “Our job is to drill every single dynamite hole that keeps this quarry expanding.”
Natland Graveservice is a local business based in Jelsa where it has 20 employees. The company owns three Atlas Copco SmartROC T45 drill rigs and one Atlas Copco SmartROC T40 along with excavators, dumpers, and trucks.
Its main assignment is at Mibau Stema Group´s open pit quarry, producing granodiorite for construction.
“I´ve been operating the SmartROC T45 on this spot for two months already”, says Morten Natland, son of the boss and a seasoned rig operator.
Geir Natland started his business with an excavator and a truck in 1989. Photo by Ole Henrik Kalviknes
The fixed-boom rig, equipped with a 4” drilling bit has a computer screen in the cabin that keeps record of every hole, its position, depth and angle. Even though the automatic drilling function handles most tasks during drilling, the operator must keep his eyes and ears open.
“You must listen to the sound of the hammer in order to know how the bit is working its way through the rock,” says Natland.
Beginning with an excavator and a truck in 1989, Geir Natland built his own business through continued hard work. The digging of every plot and ditch was important, and soon his fellow villagers granted him their full trust. The first excavator grew into nine. Dumpers and more trucks added to the machine park, and the drilling rigs started to arrive as the granodiorite quarry required Natland’s services. Workers were hired, both skilled and trainees, and Natland Graveservice became an important local contractor.
“I like to deliver good work every day and I expect the same from my own suppliers. Whenever needed, I make sure everyone delivers, make no mistake about that,” says Natland.
Mibau Stema Group, one of Northern Europe’s largest aggregate suppliers, runs the giant quarry operation at Jelsa, where the international operator offers production, logistics and sales.
Natland Graveservice, with its SmartROC T45 drill rigs and SmartROC T40, drills up to 100 holes a day on dayrock and benches. The rocks are carried by large dumpers to an on-site stone crusher plant before the custom-sized gravel is loaded onto Mibau Stema Group´s own cargo ships for delivery to customers.
“This pit will provide work for generations to come,” says Natland, standing at a viewing point on a shelf high above the pit´s bottom, which is 55m below sea level.
“They´ve got permission to dig 110 metres, so we are in for the long run.”
The SmartROC T45 drill rigs have turned Natland Graveservice into a high-tech drilling company. Each morning the operator gets his drilling plan on a memory stick, and after transferring the coordinates to the rig’s computer, the operator can engage various automatic drilling procedures to settle in for a comfortable work day. The cabin provides an air-conditioned, low-noise environment, with an ergonomic chair and two multi-joystick operation.