Tag Archives: Boart Longyear

Ausdrill gets hands on with hands-off-steel diamond drilling tech

With Ausdrill having recently added a Boart Longyear LF160 drill rig and FL262 FREEDOM™ LOADER combination to its diamond drilling fleet in Australia, IM caught up with Eric Gobbert, Senior Operations Manager, Exploration, to find out more about the company’s ‘hands-off-steel’ initiatives.

The newest coring rig – capable of pulling a 4.5 m sample – comes with a tilting top drive head to simplify rod handling, a foot clamp and braking device, and visible wireline. This is the second LF160 in Ausdrill’s portfolio, and a third rig is on the way. Meanwhile, the company is actively exploring a similar system capable of offering 6 m samples.

One rig is currently active at a Queensland coal operation, with the second at a nickel operation in the Goldfields of Western Australia. The third is expected to go to the Pilbara iron ore sector.

It is the combination of the LF160 with the FL262 FREEDOM LOADER that is bringing safety benefits to Ausdrill and its customers.

With totally hands-free rod handling, the combined rig and loader require no intervention from the driller’s assistant to trip in and align the rods or connect to the top drive head – thus offering greater freedom to drill by reducing the risk of hand and back injuries while handling rods. This freedom of movement comes as a result of the FREEDOM LOADER’s remote-control panel, which allows drillers to move to – and work from – a safer location away from the risks of moving rods.

“It’s a good innovation and has enabled us to provide a much-needed solution,” Gobbert said.

Ausdrill, a Perenti company, was encouraged to adopt this new diamond drilling technology as part of its own commitment to developing the mines of the future in partnership with clients. “Most companies have technology roadmaps with a strong safety vision. These roadmaps outline the future expectations for increased safety of exploration drill rigs,” Gobbert told IM.

Exploration drilling is an obvious place for Tier 1 miners to look to for safety improvements. A manual and repetitive job, traditional diamond drilling comes with many injuries as a result of drillers and offsiders removing and inserting heavy drill rods into the rigs. While automating part of the exploration drilling process may not provide the same financial payback as automating haul trucks or blasthole rigs, it does significantly reduce risk to personnel.

Gobbert agrees: “If you look at the drill inserts and the ongoing safety risks associated with being a driller’s offsider, or drilling in general, reducing the whole hands-on steel process and going down the automated or autonomous path makes sense.”

It is improving safety that is the real aim of leveraging such technology, according to Gobbert.

“De-risking the manual handling component is the real winning aspect of this,” he said. “We all want to achieve our business aims, but more importantly ensure our staff and our client’s staff are safe in the process.”

And, by reducing these risks, companies are ensuring continuity of operations, with personnel less likely to obtain the injuries that so often come with diamond drilling.

“Safety has always been at the centre of our technological drive – we understand that a safe project is a successful project,” Gobbert said.

This is not Ausdrill’s first foray into hands-off-steel diamond drilling. Drill Rigs Australia, an Ausdrill subsidiary up until July, previously engineered a similar style rod presenting system on one of its rigs at a Tier 1 client’s operation. Gobbert says the rig is still successfully operating – a full five years on.

“Ausdrill has a 30+ year history of designing and customising fleet to suit the needs of our clients and the swiftly-evolving market,” Gobbert says. “Today, we work in partnership with our clients, OEMs and third-party tech service providers to bring a bespoke combination of fleet and equipment, geared specifically to the needs of each project. Our project success and notable safety records showcase just how well we are delivering on our intentions, and tracking along our roadmap.”

Barminco, Ausdrill transport Rhino 100 raise borer to Regis’ Rosemont gold mine

Having become the first company globally to have taken delivery of a mobile raiseboring machine with uphole, downhole, and back reaming capability, Barminco is transporting a Rhino 100 Raise Borer to another client site in Australia.

With the help of its Perenti surface mining partner, Ausdrill, the newest addition was recently transported to Regis Resources’ Rosemont gold mine in Western Australia.

Just last year, Barminco sealed a three-year underground mining services contract with Regis at Rosemont, which has been transitioning from open-pit to underground mining at the operation.

Barminco said: “Through safe and rapid mobilisation, we are able to meet our clients’ needs and transport our equipment across multiple sites to complete a range of drilling campaigns.”

Since April 2019, Barminco’s first Rhino has travelled a combined 15,000 km between four client sites in the Goldfields of Western Australia, drilling a total of 3,843 m.

The Rhino is manufactured by TRB-Raise Borers in Finland but is equipped with Sandvik tools and is distributed by Sandvik. It is a fully mechanised and self-contained electro-hydraulic mobile raiseborer designed for slot raising in underground mining. The latest models also have an optional back reaming module.

In addition to helping transport Barminco’s latest Rhino to Regis’ site, Ausdrill has recently added a new Boart Longyear LF™160 drill rig and FREEDOM™ Loader combination to its diamond drilling fleet.

This rig reduces the crew’s “Hands On Steel” interaction, while improving overall safety standards, Ausdrill said.

When paired with the FL262 FREEDOM Loader, the LF160 combination is ideal for contractors who want to target sophisticated surface drilling exploration contracts that stipulate some of the highest safety standards, without compromising on productivity, Boart Longyear says.

Titeline mining its underground diamond drilling niche

In looking to retain the mantle of Australia’s safest drilling company while expanding into the underground mining sector, Titeline Drilling has found support from some of the biggest miners in the world.

The company has long been viewed as a leading surface mineral exploration drilling contractor but, as David D’Astoli, CEO of Titeline, explained, this type of work is subject to cyclical exploration budgets.

“The rationale for moving into the underground market was to try to get some ‘lumpiness’ out of our income stream,” he told IM. “As you know, with exploration, it can be pretty up and down. With the underground side, our work is a lot closer to the production side of the business; we’re doing grade control and resource development work in long dated (four to five years) contracts.”

Titeline was looking for consistency and resilience even in market downturns.

To enact this change, the company employed a new General Manager of Underground, Greg Wythes.

Wythes, who had a background in underground drilling in Australia having worked at the likes of Newcrest Mining’s Cadia and Rio Tinto’s (now CMOC’s) majority-owned Northparkes mine, was aware of the pain points the industry was feeling and sought about creating a unique value proposition for the new underground contracting division.

The contract the company bid on – and consequently won – for MMG’s Rosebery mine in Tasmania, Australia, provided just that.

MMG, in a blog post, explained that brief.

“When Rosebery was looking to award the contract for underground drilling services in 2017, all tendering companies were asked to supply a hands-free solution for drill rod handling, in-line with our vision for an injury-free workplace,” the company said.

“The successful company, Titeline, was the only tender that presented a viable solution to hands-free drill rod loading and unloading.”

Titeline – having fitted Boart Longyear rod handlers to their drills that “present the rod in an ergonomic position so the drill assistant can get it and stack it away”, D’Astoli says – knew such a solution could be developed, in theory, but had to search for the right suppliers and solutions to prove it could work in a real-world underground environment.

The Boart Longyear rod handler, along with a rig able to move and set up quickly, drill from +90 to -90 degrees and to depths of 1,500 m, immediately proved productive at Rosebery.

“The brief was to ensure the drills on site were performing before starting their hand-free proposal, and, within six months of commencing their contract, Titeline’s in-house designed drill rigs outperformed the previous contractor,” MMG said.

Yet, the company needed to automate the rod handling process further to fulfil the brief.

This is where the potential of robots came into view.

“These robots were already in the manufacturing industry – which aren’t exactly pristine environments – and were able to operate without an issue,” D’Astoli said. “They were also being employed on sea walls where they were constantly doused with sea water and continued to operate.”

Robot technicians were happy to provide conservative estimates of only having to service these robots every six months in the underground environment, according to D’Astoli. This provided the peace of mind that maintenance issues were not going to knock productivity off-line.

It cemented a relationship with a robotics company in Melbourne, Victoria, not too far away from its Ballarat base, and gave the company the robot drilling brief.

Boart Longyear provided access to the drill rig interface, the DCI control panel.

This year-and-a-half long process led to the development of a world first for underground diamond drilling: a drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier able to drill unattended and perform an autonomous rod trip (pulling the drill string out of the drill holes and then running it back in).

Able to work in confined environments, and drill 360° on azimuth and from -90 degrees to + 90 degrees in dip, the solution was presented to a global audience at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s annual exploration event earlier this year.

Meanwhile, MMG and Titeline had started commissioning the first rig at Rosebery, and one of the world’s biggest gold miners was putting the rigs through their paces.

Titeline, which already has an existing grade control and resource definition contract at Newmont’s Tanami gold mine, in the Northern Territory, has provided six rigs to the miner, two of which are equipped with the new drill and ancillary rod buggy carrier. More of these robotic rigs will be arriving at the operation by the end of the year.

Modifications to these rigs continue to take place, but the three currently in place at Rosebery and Tanami are very much “producing”, D’Astoli explained.

“We have been making some changes to the programming, to the safety circuit, the laser circuit, etc, but they’ve been performing well,” he said. “We’ve even drilled a few hundred metre shifts with one of the robot rigs.”

He provided some colour to this performance: “The rod pulling process is at least as quick as it is with the Boart Longyear rod handler and is a lot more consistent as you are taking the human element out of it.

“The existing rigs across the underground industry, whether they have total manual handling or are using the Boart Longyear rod handler, still need a drill assistant or driller in there plucking the rod out of the rod handler and putting it away. That can get tiring.”

Accidents can happen when this tiredness occurs.

“The robot will, in the end, always be that bit quicker, as it is consistent over a longer period of time and never gets tired,” D’Astoli added.

Shift change opportunities

The automation elements on these drill rigs are not only removing personnel from the danger zones, they are also providing a productivity boost.

D’Astoli feels the value driver comes with being able to drill throughout shift changes and other times where manual drilling would normally have stopped.

“One of the biggest impediments to production in the underground environment is how many hours you can drill in a 12-hour day,” he said. “Quite often it is a lot less than you think. That can be due to ventilation issues, water issues, dewatering issues, heat, etc.

“The biggest improvement from a productivity point of view available to us is being able to drill and pull rods between shift changes, crib breaks and those types of things. Or, if the ventilation system goes down, personnel will move away from the area, and allow the drill to drill autonomously. That is where the productivity gains are going to come from.

“All of this leads to being able to drill more hours over a shift.”

The company is not finished automating, though, with D’Astoli saying it intends to further leverage this robotised drilling and rod pulling ability.

“With Wi-Fi in the mines, it is at the point where you could be able to take that to the next level and have someone sitting on the surface controlling the rig,” D’Astoli said.

“Or, you might have a similar application to the way semi-autonomous underground boggers (LHDs) work in a block cave mine, where the operators are in a controlled environment and one operator might be operating three boggers at a time.”

That is some way ahead.

For the time being, the company is focused on switching out all of the manual rigs it has delivered to Rosebery and Tanami with the semi-autonomous ones.

Each new rig is a large undertaking for the company, with the learnings from Rosebery to Tanami – and vice versa – reflected in every build.

This is where being aligned with major companies such as Newmont and MMG comes in handy.

“MMG have been very understanding of the process we are going through,” D’Astoli said. “They came and visited us in Ballarat, pre-COVID-19, to see how we were getting along. Newmont have been exactly the same; very supportive giving us the time and space to deliver.”

Major attraction

While the PDAC debut excited lots of attention, D’Astoli is keen to foster the relationship with these two companies further, in addition to aligning with other major companies – and major mines – in the future.

“They’re the ones that probably own the bigger, lower-cost mines, which is where we want to be,” he said. “It is those orebodies that demand the amount of drilling where it makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible,” D’Astoli said.

“When you set up these long-term contracts to deploy such technology, you want to make sure the mine has a long life ahead of it and the owner is not going to be chopping and changing the budget from year to year.”

Asked whether the wider industry is willing to pay for such innovation, D’Astoli was resolute in his answer.

“For a company really focused on safety, they are not going to be knocked out by the price of this solution,” he said.

Surface safety

This is not all Titeline is interested in at the moment.

Titeline has to this point in its underground automation journey been helped along the way by Chile-based Exploration Drill Masters (EDM).

EDM, which Titeline owns 50% of, has been fabricating the frames and other components for these new rigs before they head to Australia for final assembly.

But the Santiago-based company is working on a new development of its own.

Its patent-pending EDM rod-feeder system for handling drill pipe has been used across the globe as an add-on to existing fleets, many of them being used on Titeline rigs.

D’Astoli says operators can park this solution up behind any top drive drill rig in Australia and remove 90% of the manual handling risks that come with the handling of diamond drill pipe to and from the drill string.

The EDM Mark I has already achieved this, but Mark II will further improve this solution, providing a bridge between manual handling and full hands-free solutions, he says.

“The national fleet in Australia mainly consists of top drive drill rigs and there is no real hands-free solution on the market that does not currently affect the productivity of these rigs in the majority of applications,” he said.

“The EDM Mark II rod feeder fills the gap while a new, hands-free solution is being developed.”

Boart Longyear achieves B-BBEE status in South Africa

Boart Longyear says it has received certification of compliance to the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) initiatives established by the South African Department of Trade and Industry.

The official B-BBEE verification certificate was presented to local Boart Longyear management on June 27 by the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), with independent auditing and full verification completed by Moore Stephens, Boart says. This means Boart Longyear, under the legal entity Longyear South Africa Pty Ltd, has achieved a B-BBEE Level 4 contributor status through June 26, 2020.

Based on the B-BBEE contribution levels used to score companies on specific empowerment criteria, Boart Longyear’s Level 4 status was achieved through its ratings on ownership, management, skills development, enterprise, supplier and socio-economic development, according to the company.

Jeff Olsen, President and CEO of Boart Longyear, said: “We are proud of our South African employees and their earnest efforts to gain this important recognition. We believe in the development of our people and the community. We are dedicated to providing equal employment opportunities and increasing the diversity of our workforce.”

B-BBEE certification establishes codes of fair practice in South Africa and provides an added value to accredited companies in building relationships with the community, suppliers, and customers, according to the company.

Andre Van Heerden, South African General Sales Manager, said: “The B-BBEE certification is about recognising where we are now and our continued commitment to transforming our organisation to grow our team and benefit our employees and the communities in which we operate.”

As well as incorporating B-BBEE initiatives, Boart is involved in employee training programs, supplier development programs to bring previously disadvantaged people into the workplace, and supports the local Bethany House Trust, a charity for the children and youth of South Africa, the company said.

Boart Longyear hits record drill depth at Ghana gold project

Boart Longyear’s drilling crews have drilled the deepest hole ever drilled in Ghana, according to the Salt Lake City-headquartered company.

They drilled a hole 2,083.4 m (6,835 ft) deep, having installing a wedge and navi to drill the hole on track at 600 m and keeping it on track to the end of the hole. The directional drilling project for one of Golden Star Resources’ gold projects was completed safely and ahead of schedule, the company said.

Division Manager, West Africa, Jonathan Madigan, said: “Our drilling crew in Ghana on this project worked safely and diligently in directionally drilling the hole to the target depth. I couldn’t be more proud of the team that completed the project.

“Boart Longyear’s consistent hazard and risk-focused safety culture is embraced by the crews here in Ghana and they appreciate that the field level risk assessments, pre-shift meetings and other safety programs are designed to get them home safe to their families.”

Boart said: “The company has received client recognition for their safe, on-target, and ahead of schedule completion of the deep coring exploration drilling project. Boart Longyear acknowledges the participation, collaboration, and contributions from every employee within Ghana and especially the drilling crew that worked directly on this record-depth hole.”

Paradigm Shifters qualify for round two of Canada’s Crush It! Challenge

A group of companies called ‘The Paradigm Shifters’ has made it to the next round of a challenge aimed at reducing the amount of energy that crushers and grinders use in the mining process.

The Crush It! Challenge is spearheaded by the federal government (Impact Canada), in cooperation with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI), and Goldcorp.

Crushing and grinding account for upwards of 50% of mine site energy consumption and up to 3% of all the electric power generated in the world.

iRing Inc is the lead partner within The Paradigm Shifters and has coordinated the effort with proposal partners to respond to the challenge, it said.

The company explained: “Essentially the team proposes to bring together the processes and technology that could reduce or even eliminate the need for expensive primary crushers, and reduce the energy required by secondary crushing (potentially eliminating it as well) and grinders in both mines and quarries globally.”

The Crush It! Challenge has several qualifying rounds and, if successful in getting to Round 3, then the team will be eligible to receive C$800,000 ($605,397) in seed funding to further prove the concept over a one-and-a-half-year period. At the end of that period, if the team wins the chance to move forward, the project would be eligible to receive an additional C$5 million in funding to commercialise the products and concepts.

The Paradigm Shifters team consists of:

  • iRing Inc (North Bay) Challenge Project Lead – Drill and blasting software;
  • Nexco Inc (North Bay) – Producer of the energy-variable explosive product;
  • Boart Longyear (North Bay and global) – Global supplier of market leading drilling products and services;
  • Paige Engineering Ltd (PEL) (North Bay) – Design and fabrication of explosive manufacturing and loading equipment;
  • Seneca (Montreal) – Explosive plant engineering, design and build;
  • Maptek (Denver and Global) – 3D laser scanner/fragmentation measurement capabilities, and;
  • Bomon Capital (Toronto) – Long term financing should the team succeed.

The savings that could accrue to mines and quarries annually is C$12.8 billion (25% reduction) to C$25.6 billion (50% reduction), according to iRing.

“If all mines in the world adopted this solution, it would represent a reduction equivalent to 7-13% of all the carbon released in Canada, and 20-41% of Canada’s contribution to meeting the Paris Accord agreement.”

iRing will use its software, Aegis, to design the blasting patterns based on the fragmentation requirements. Boart Longyear will deploy recently developed high speed diamond drilling technologies and instrumentation solutions to quickly and accurately drill and validate high-quality blast holes, while using significantly less energy. iRing said: “Boart Longyear’s drills utilise drilling data logging to interpret rock density and strength etc, while drilling.”

The company continued: “With Seneca’s help, Nexco will build a demonstration plant that will produce an energy-variable explosive mixture that can be fuelled while being loaded into the blastholes, and the blast energy would be based on the ore strength information provided by Boart Longyear’s drills and iRing’s software.”

Troy Williams, Vice President of Development of iRing, said: “The challenge will provide a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to reach the mining industry and demonstrate that it is possible to produce consistent results from the blasting operations.”

PEL will design and fabricate the explosive manufacturing and loading equipment required to change the explosive’s energy during loading, according to iRing. Energy reduction is done by adding additional water content into the explosive formulation during loading. Maptek’s laser scanner, meanwhile, will be used to verify fragmentation results by scanning the muck pile and producing a 3D point cloud which can be analysed for a measured fragmentation distribution. Those results will be used by Aegis to further calibrate the fragmentation models.

Mark Sherry, President of iRing, said: “We are really excited by this opportunity as it is directly in iRing’s wheelhouse. The Paradigm Shifters bring together the best in the industry when it comes to drilling and blasting. By working together, we will create a paradigm that is more efficient, effective, cleaner, and safer”.

Boart Longyear’s TruScan receives plaudits at South Australia awards ceremony

Boart Longyear says its onsite core and chip scanning technology, TruScan™, recently received the Premier’s Award in the Mining Equipment, Technology, and Services sector for Excellence in Innovation: Productivity Improvement at a ceremony in Adelaide, Australia.

The awards, presented during the Premier’s Awards ceremony on November 30, are organised by the Government of South Australia’s Department for Energy and Mining, and recognise areas of excellence by leading resources and energy sector companies and organisations in the areas of diversity, working with communities, and innovation, Boart says.

Peter Kanck, Senior Manager of Technology Development & Integration, who accepted the award on behalf of Boart Longyear, said: “It’s an honour to be part of this exciting technology and to see TruScan recognised for the positive impact it is making on the mining community.”

TruScan is able to scan and photograph a full tray of core and provide geochemical data within 25 minutes of the core being brought out of the ground, Boart says. Normally, analysis involves collecting core on pallets, transporting it to the laboratory, and then the laboratory schedules the core for analysis. Once core analysis is complete, the results are returned back to the geologist, which can take days to months.

“Because TruScan delivers geological data results onsite the same day, the turnaround is dramatically shortened and substantial cost savings are realised for both exploration and mining companies,” Boart says.

TruScan is already being used in exploration activities in Australia and Canada with plans to roll out in other parts of the world.

Boart offers TruScan as an independent service to mining clients or the technology can be bundled as a part of a drilling services agreement.

Licensing and permitting: ensuring a successful diamond core drilling programme

The only thing consistent about licensing and permitting is how inconsistent and variable it is from place to place, says Boart Longyear’s Thomas Feehan*.

Laws, regulations, permits, licensing, and requirements can be different based on the country, state/province, city, and land ownership. Consequently, there is little information about the broader topic of licensing and permitting to help ensure a successful diamond core drilling project.

Risks

Designing and planning a drilling project is a complex exercise. Many risk factors should be considered to mitigate issues that could impact productivity and/or budgets. These include permitting and licensing, which could ultimately impede the success of the project. After careful planning, there is a healthy amount of cautious optimism that everything has been properly addressed and planned for, however, there is always that small chance something was missed.

The risks are costly if your project doesn’t have everything in place when it comes to licensing and permitting.

While it doesn’t happen very often, paying a drilling contractor stand-by rates waiting for a project that’s been scheduled, but not properly authorised or permitted, takes money from the project.

How much more exploration could have been achieved with the money lost by paying for services and support that can’t happen because a project is delayed on a technicality – usually paperwork?

There’s a risk of reputation as well. Costly mistakes aren’t great for anyone’s career or a company’s reputation.

Challenges

While Boart Longyear is no expert in licensing and permitting, the experts are out there. We maintain working relationships with local consulting and engineering firms and you should too. When planning a diamond core exploratory drilling project, it is highly recommended that you ensure all licence and permit requirements are met before the drill crew and necessary equipment mobilises.

Additionally, careful planning for the size of the drill pad for the permits and figuring out the logistics of accessing a site can save time and money later. That way, a budget estimate for all aspects of the work can be adequately prepared to complete a project safely and effectively.

Drill pad layout can be critical to a safe, smooth, and successful drilling programme. A drill pad setup where safety or productivity is compromised can result in wasted expense and possibly lead to an accident. Not having permits with the right amount of surface disturbance for the project is a risk that can be mitigated with communication. A miscalculation in required disturbance area can lead to holes being removed from the scope of the project to remain in compliance with regulators.

Working diligently with all stakeholders in the permitting application process helps ensure the exploration/project team(s) and the environmental/permitting team(s) are on the same page. A simple oversight or misunderstanding can possibly delay site mobilisation or start-up. Ideally, these conversations should happen early in the planning stages of the drilling programme.

One of the biggest challenges of licensing and permitting for a diamond core drilling project is timing. Depending on workload and resources, government entities are not typically known for their speed. Early planning and working with experts can ensure the timing of licensing and permitting doesn’t affect your project start date. Obtaining most permits and licences takes longer than expected in most cases. Proper planning and early submission to agencies are highly recommended.

*This article was written by Boart Longyear‘s Thomas Feehan. Feehan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology, a Master’s Degree in Hydrogeology, and a Master’s Degree in Business. He has 28 years of experience in mining with 24 of those years specialising in drilling programmes, lithium brines, mineral exploration, geotechnical/slope stability investigations, mining-related hydrogeology, mine dewatering and water resources

 

Boart Longyear to exhibit sonic drilling tech at US convention

Boart Longyear has chosen this year’s Groundwater Week exhibition as the appropriate setting to display its advanced sonic drilling technology which employs the use of high-frequency, resonant energy to eliminate or minimise friction in subsurface drilling applications.

Its highly productive LS™250 sonic drill rig will be on show at the event. This features the MiniSonic™ head, making this rig part of the third generation of sonic rigs that utilise this patented technology.

“This is the perfect rig for a wide variety of drilling projects,” Fred Hafner, Sonic Drilling Specialist for Boart Longyear said. “We see our clients using the LS250 rig for sonic drilling in all sorts of environmental, geotechnical, dewatering, geo-construction, and mining activities.”

Boart was the first US firm to use sonic equipment for environmental drilling, with this technology now being used in a wide variety of soft ground and shallow drilling applications. Sonic drilling is shown to be faster, with less than 1% drill deviation, and is more accurate than conventional overburden drilling. It also creates more efficient penetration, reducing waste up to 80% and resulting in maximum core recovery.

After incorporating over 20 years of driller experience and refinement gained from use in its Drilling Services operations, the LS250 became the first MiniSonic rig the company has offered for outside capital equipment sales. The sonic rig technology has now been successfully used in the field for more than three generations and in several countries. The LS250 is CE-certified to conform to Europe’s strict health, safety, and environmental standards. The rig is versatile and, with the lowest ground pressure in its class, can carefully access fragile terrains and hard-to-reach drill sites.

Groundwater Week is hosted annually by the National Ground Water Association, attracting professionals from all sectors of the groundwater industry, including water well drilling contractors, pump installers, scientists, researchers, engineers, equipment manufacturers, and suppliers. This year’s exhibition will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Las Vegas Convention Centre on December 5-6.

Boart Longyear on quantifying drilling efficiencies and why metrics matter

The mining sector continues to look for ways to improve efficiencies and lower costs and drilling companies are following suit.

The best drilling contractors know it’s all about providing maximum value to the customer. Drilling the metres is only one part of the equation and other metrics provide guidance to total value.

To quantify drilling efficiencies, something must be measured. Which metrics mean the most and provide the best information on finding ways to improve performance and increase a mining company’s return on investment?

This article by Boart Longyear’s Robert Buro* focuses on the key metrics in exploration diamond core drilling: safety performance, schedule, price, and quality core recovery.

Safety performance

Safety is first and foremost. It’s a moral responsibility to provide the safest working conditions and a safety culture where each and every employee knows they have the right and the responsibility to stop any unsafe work. Boart Longyear’s investment in robust environmental, health, and safety (EHS) programmes pay off with consistently improving incident rates (having fewer reportable incidents) and lowered severity ratings of the incidents that occur.

An incident can be categorised as recordable or lost-time, but the severity rating is a key factor that insurance companies consider. This is their first indication of the actions and culture a contractor brings to the site. An ancillary benefit of improving incident rates is a lower insurance rate and these tangible cost savings from drilling safely are passed on to the client.

For customers, a contractor’s safety performance also affects the mine’s safety performance record. If there’s a haul truck incident, it doesn’t affect the drilling contractor, but if the drilling contractor has a recordable or lost time incident, it affects both the safety performance of the drilling contractor and the customer (mine site) because it happened on the mine’s property.

Safety programmes ensure that wherever a Boart Longyear driller or driller assistant goes to work, the client can expect the same safe results. That consistency and value in safety is a big reason clients choose Boart Longyear™ Drilling Services. The safety commitment, culture, and programmes at Boart Longyear align with their own, and client-specific programmes are easily embedded as Boart Longyear employees are well-versed in adopting and working within the highest safety standards.

Price

When evaluating a contract’s value, it’s tempting to assume the hourly prices from the drilling contractor represent the total cost. This negates the value proposition of a well prepared, resourced, and time-sensitive contractor. There are additional costs to consider such as support staff including safety personnel, geology staff, and drilling programme managers, as well as costs for drill pad construction, water hauling, supervision, drilling mud, surveying, and equipment rentals.

While these costs aren’t in direct control of the drilling contractor, inefficient safety and operating practices can impact these additional costs and can easily overrun any initially perceived savings.

Schedule

A key metric affecting cost is the number of feet or metres drilled per shift. An estimate of feet/metres per shift is used to calculate the schedule based on the number of shifts required to complete the drilling programme. The customer uses this calculation to schedule onsite support personnel, support equipment (dozers/helicopters etc.) and any other services for the programme (camp/fuel etc).

When the drilling contractor drills more efficiently, thus completing the drilling programme in a shorter amount of time, the customer can leverage savings on their support costs. If the drilling takes longer and the schedule isn’t met, costs go up as a result of the drilling contractor being onsite longer to accomplish the required feet/meters. That’s the key metric – the footage based contract stays the same, but costs go up if the drilling contractor takes longer to achieve the feet/metres needed. The drilling contractor still gets paid roughly the same amount, but the customer’s costs go up.

A recent example of this had a Boart Longyear crew jump into an unfinished project after the initial, lower-priced contractor struggled to complete what should have been a six-week project. At week eight and only third of the way complete, Boart Longyear was called in and completed the remaining drilling for the project in only four weeks.

Boart Longyear Drilling Services is currently measuring all the different increments that make up a 12-hour shift to find efficiencies in each of those individual steps – bit on bottom, charging the rods, wireline time, shift changes, transportation, mud programmes, etc. By measuring each step in the drilling programme, additional efficiencies can be identified and savings shared with the customer.

For example, wireline activity takes up a significant amount of time during each shift. It’s necessary to retrieve the core, but how can we do it faster – how can we pull the tube faster without damaging the hole or slipping core? Can we figure out a way to make the tube head drop faster without knocking the crown off the bit when the tube lands?

This is part of Boart Longyear’s commitment to Operational Excellence, a programme in place using the Hard Work Cycle – achieving drilling efficiencies through continually looking for ways to improve processes and think outside the box.

Downtime can be a big schedule issue and directly affects the fixed costs of having support equipment and personnel onsite during the drilling programme. Minimising downtime is a key goal. From the contractor’s perspective, the loss of billable time directly impacts the bottom line.

The lack of production also adds unbudgeted costs to the client’s programme, a clear lose-lose situation. Having a solid preventable maintenance programme and an adequate inventory of critical spare parts is a positive hedge against what can occur.

Boart Longyear Drilling Services has protocols and processes for what’s called a ‘rig-down’ status. It is all-hands on deck to get the issue resolved. Whether it’s a hydraulic failure, an engine has gone down, or some other breakdown like a staffing issue, there’s a sense of urgency to ensure the customer is served in the best possible way.

Whether it’s mechanical or otherwise, the protocol is to get the issue resolved within 24 hours. If that means someone or something needs to get on a plane, that’s what happens to keep downtime to a minimum. A good preventive maintenance programme helps, but it’s what you do in the face of a breakdown that matters.

Quality core recovery

Core recovery is the end product. It’s ultimately what the customer is paying for, so this metric is key to measure the drilling programme’s success. If there’s not quality core in the box, there’s no value to the customer. In the end, the data from that core is the value to the mine. If core recovery is insufficient, so is the value provided.

Drilling and retrieving quality core depends on the expertise of the driller and the condition of the tooling and equipment. First, the driller’s knowledge and understanding of the ground conditions is imperative. This information guides the driller’s decisions in selecting the correct equipment, tooling, bits, etc. to smoothly drill, penetrate quickly, and recover the core intact.

In addition, Boart Longyear operates a robust drilling fluids management plan. The mud programme incorporates the driller’s knowledge of the ground condition and the challenges it presents. Understanding the ground condition and the equipment, the driller tunes into his drill using his instrumentation and the feedback the rig provides to analyse what is happening downhole. For complicated and technically challenging ground conditions, where core recovery is not going as planned, Boart Longyear drillers leverage the experience of the drilling fluids company. Reputable drilling fluids providers can send out an engineer to check the drilling fluids systematically.

The old saying that two heads are better than one is key to solving core recovery issues. The two teams work together to figure out what changes to the fluids and drilling equipment are necessary to get the quality core recovery and penetration desired.

The driller also has to know his equipment, watching the gauges and listening to the rig, recognising when it’s doing the job and when it isn’t. When encountering a core block – when the core just doesn’t want to penetrate up into the barrel – the driller can continue drilling, but all he’s doing is grinding up the core.

Instead of drilling five feet and getting four inches of core recovery he can stop and look for answers. This is a big step for drillers who are paid according to productivity. Drillers are programmed (you could even say they’re wired) to get the most productivity. It takes a smart and knowledgeable driller to stop going after the feet/metres and deliver maximum value by stopping to focus on core recovery. In difficult ground, it’s best to pause and evaluate the core barrel assembly, drilling technique, and the drilling fluids programme. That practical approach ensures value to the customer.

The role of innovation and new technology

Through the years, new innovative technologies have helped improve drilling efficiency. For example, the Genuine Q™ Wireline core retrieval system introduced by Boart Longyear back in 1953 revolutionised the diamond drilling industry. The system increased productivity on the work site and made tripping core from the bottom of the hole safer for the drilling assistant. The advantages of the genuine Q™ system quickly generated industry-wide adoption of Boart Longyear’s wireline technology.

Boart Longyear consumables have been equally innovative. The recently launched XQ™ wireline coring rod threads are stronger, last longer, and provide easier make and break for improved productivity and bottom line savings.

The high productivity coring system features a W-Wall™ coring rod which is 30% lighter – increasing depth capacity and reducing driller fatigue when manually tripping rods. The new NXQ™ and HXQ™ W-Wall coring rods feature patent-pending, double-upset tubing, with faster wireline tripping speed. The Quick Descent™ head assembly and the industry-leading Longyear™ colour series diamond coring bits are also examples of recent innovations that improve productivity. Each system component increases shift capacity and productivity, delivering increased efficiencies.

Industry-leading top drive coring rigs and hands-free rod handling equipment offers both productivity and safety. Answering the demand for innovative rod handling, the FREEDOM™ Loader and top drive coring rig combinations provide simple and fast rod tripping that is 100% hands-free.

Additionally, Boart Longyear has invested in an Operational Excellence team and platform for continuous improvement to develop the next generation of efficiency and productivity enhancements in the mineral exploration industry. A key component of the Operational Excellence mind set is the Hard Work Cycle and reporting. The Hard Work Cycle reporting includes meeting with clients to go over feet/metres per shift, any downtime hours and the cause. Reviewing the metrics with our clients and showing areas where we can improve productivity on our side and theirs provides a unique and compelling transparency.

For example, measuring all of the aspects of a drill site might give visibility to the number of hours of lost drilling/productivity resulting from site access issues. Blasting, ventilation issues, and cage delays are examples of issues affecting productivity that are controlled by the client, but working together minimizes their impact and increases drilling efficiency.

Why drilling metrics matter

The beauty of measuring drilling metrics is that you have data to discuss what’s happening on the drill site and look for ways to improve efficiencies and lower costs. Boart Longyear knows that it’s all about providing the maximum value to the customer.

The biggest metric that might impact whether you win additional contracts is, “Are they happy with the outcomes of the drilling programme?” Was the project completed safely, on schedule, providing quality core that provided the information necessary to make decisions about future exploration or mine development? Were any issues resolved to their satisfaction and transparent reporting provided?

Drilling metrics matter because key performance indicators measure how well a customer was served. Measuring what was delivered quantifies the customer’s satisfaction and provides goals for future projects.

*Robert Buto manages the global commercial strategy for Boart Longyear’s Drilling Services business