Tag Archives: exploration drilling

Dando Drilling officially launches Infinity Range of rigs

Dando Drilling International has officially launched its Infinity Range of drilling rigs, bringing with it a new modular and scalable way of manufacturing rigs for the mineral exploration, water well and geotechnical drilling sectors.

Launched in the presence of the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex, Susan Pyper (pictured in the centre), on July 1, the event – attended by IM – saw Pyper and Mark Jones, Managing Director of Dando (pictured left), unveil a plaque to commemorate the occasion. It was followed by a visit from the Right Honourable Nicolas Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and Minister of State (Education), on July 2.

UK-based Dando has created a centralised design across the drilling sectors, which can be scaled up or down, and fitted with the appropriate equipment for each application with its Infinity Range.

This new approach to rig design allows Dando to offer multiple variations including pullback capacity, undercarriage type, engine power and options of auxiliary equipment, without rigs needing to be designed and engineered almost from scratch.

“The Infinity Range incorporates Dando’s ‘bespoke’ mantle while maximising the use of ‘off-the-shelf’ components enabling the company to accelerate the build and delivery time of its rigs, whilst improving safety and reducing environmental impact,” the company said. “The range also includes new Sonic and Multitec rigs and various rod handling options, further providing the ability to meet customer demands and requirements and enhancing safety.”

Among a plethora of options aboard these new rigs is the incorporation of two engines – a larger one to power the compressor and smaller one for the hydraulics – the ability to operate the rigs via radio remote control; and tracked/crawler, trailer, skid or truck/pickup undercarriage.

Mark Jones, Managing Director of Dando Drilling International, said: “During the past year, Dando has been responsive and adaptive to change, with the outcome being our industry-leading design which offers versatility, cost efficiency and shorter lead times. The Infinity Range showcases the very best of British engineering and, with almost infinite permutations across the key drilling sectors, enables us to deliver our customers truly bespoke rigs.

“With over 150 years of experience in the drilling industry, along with the best of modern engineering, Dando’s new Infinity Range applies innovation to its robust rig design to create a sustainable model of rig manufacturing for the future.”

The company is currently in the process of constructing the first Infinity rig for a water well customer in Ethiopia. There are expectations the Infinity Range will also catch on in the exploration sector given there are many existing Multitec rigs in use across the globe at projects.

Dando Drilling balances modularity with customisation with Infinity Range of rigs

UK-based Dando Drilling International has announced the launch of its new Infinity Range for the mineral exploration, water well and geotechnical drilling sectors. The Infinity Range uses a modular rig design that allows Dando to create bespoke rigs for its clients at competitive prices.

The new rigs allow multiple variations including the mounting, engine size and various options of auxiliary equipment, all at, the company says, competitive pricing and delivered on an efficient timeline. The attached image shows Chief Design Engineer, Luke Palmer in front of a screen of renders for the new rig design.

In addition to serving the aforementioned sectors, Dando’s Infinity Range offers a new series of Multitec rigs to allow customers to service different drilling sectors through the simple change of hydraulic components.

“Dando’s Infinity Range was designed with three main principles in mind: versatility, shorter lead times and cost efficiency, whilst improving safety and reducing environmental impact,” the company said.

Contractors and companies often need rigs for specific projects with challenging terrains, drilling depths and drilling techniques. Dando’s Infinity Range can be used for projects of varying sizes and geographies, providing a “one-stop shop” for any drilling needs, the company said. The range also includes new Sonic rigs and various rod handling options, providing customers with the ability to meet their demanding requirements.

The Infinity Range has been designed in such a way that Dando is able to take one rig and simply enhance or fit various components including mast options, rotary heads, engines, pumps and mounting options and, along with personalisation through paint customisation, create rigs that are bespoke to each client. The range also incorporates the latest engine designs and offers EU Stage V engines options for all machines.

“Designing and manufacturing specific rigs for specific jobs can often be an expensive exercise,” Dando said. “With the new Infinity Range design, Dando can use one design which is then totally customisable, allowing clients to be in control of the specifications and the cost.”

Mark Jones, Managing Director of Dando Drilling International, said: “I am delighted to introduce Infinity Range, created by our brilliant team of designers and engineers. The industry-leading design was created with our customers in mind, offering versatility, cost efficiency and shorter lead times. With almost infinite permutations, Dando’s Infinity Range offers truly bespoke rigs.”

Back in December, Jones told IM that the first of the company’s new rigs to be built this year will have certain features that stand out from the average drill rig on the market.

New Major Drilling rod handling rigs start turning at Hecla’s San Sebastian mine

Two new Major Drilling EF-75 drills have arrived and are now turning at Hecla Mining’s San Sebastian mine in Durango, Mexico, the drilling services company says.

The drills arrived in March and are part of Major Drilling’s fleet improvements, adding innovative rod handling capability to the project, it said.

“We are thankful that we are partnered with a company like Major Drilling that can provide newer, innovative drills,” Stephen Redak, Exploration Manager Mexico, Hecla Mining, said.

Hecla’s San Sebastian property is a silver and gold mine, where exploration work is underway in two main veins. Using these new drills at the San Sebastian project enhances Major Drilling’s 12-year history with Hecla in Mexico. This has seen more than 354,000 m drilled since 2009.

Major Drilling’s EF-75 core drill is new equipment for the Mexico branch. It combines safety with a high level of productivity, according to the company.

With the rod manipulator, operators benefit from rod handling, horizontal stacking and a safety screen to protect them while lifting and lowering rods. The rig is capable of depths of up to 2,700 m.

Workers are protected by rod handling innovation, and they improve results using a unique mast designed for accurate core orientation, the company says.

David Boucher, Major Drilling Mexico General Manager, said: “Hecla has been a long-time client of ours in Mexico, and we are very excited to bring these new drills out in Durango to really see what they can do at San Sebastian. We are very happy to have this equipment turning in Mexico.”

Major Drilling’s USA Division previously partnered with Hecla at the Fire Creek Mine in Nevada (now under care and maintenance). The company’s exploration teams have also drilled at Hecla surface exploration projects in other locations in the western USA.

Master Drilling continues diversification plan in uncertain market

Master Drilling Group continued to add to its client and service base over the course of 2020, with bright spots reported in exploration drilling and the West Africa gold sector.

Its 2020 financials were hit by COVID-19, with revenue dropping 17% year-on-year to $123.1 million and operating profit declining to $12.3 million, from $24.1 million in 2019.

Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, said: “Master Drilling’s overall performance for the year was weighed down by the weak global economic growth environment entering 2020, which was compounded by the material impact of COVID-19, across the 23 countries in which we operate, from a human, financial and operational perspective.

“Although the group experienced a significant decline in revenue in the South American operations, primarily due to government-imposed COVID-19 restrictions, this was offset by regions such as India, Africa and Scandinavia which remained operational and received various stimulus packages.”

Despite a decrease in revenue, the company’s net cash generation increased 72.7% to $25.5 million as it contained capital expenditure by balancing maintenance with emerging opportunities.

In the second half of the year, Master Drilling was awarded new exploration projects and mobilised an additional fleet to service existing clients, with a considerable turnaround in drilling and exploration activity becoming more apparent and creating a healthy pipeline, it said.

Around a year ago, Master Drilling fulfilled the conditions to acquire Geoserve Exploration Drilling, increasing the South Africa-based company’s ability to offer exploration drilling, reverse circulation drilling, geotechnical investigations and grade control drilling services.

Its commitment to Africa saw the continent become the largest contributor to the group in terms of revenue and profits over the course of the year. Aggressive expansion into West Africa continued as part of the group’s diversification strategy, with a specific focus on gold, which has seen a surge in demand since 2019.

Master Drilling also continued to grow its presence in new markets, including Australia, Russia and Central Asia. It secured new contracts with a focus on raiseboring and mechanised mining services, too.

As at December 31, 2020, Master Drilling’s sales pipeline totalled $539.9 million with a stable order book of $212.8 million (2019: $142.1 million).

“In the short to medium term, the sales pipeline is expected to normalise and increase with further tactical acquisitions and joint ventures supporting performance,” it said. “Opportunities to diversify outside of the traditional drilling business into areas such as artificial intelligence will also continue.”

Although capital has been tightly managed in response to the uncertain environment, Master Drilling says technological innovation remains a key priority for the company.

Aligned to this, Master Drilling announced a 40% investment in AVA Solutions, a specialist in data-driven mining fleet management solutions, this month.

Commenting on the investment, Pretorius said: “Our recent investment in AVA is aligned with our strategy to diversify our services and invest in businesses that help us meet our clients’ demand for increased mechanisation and digitisation. Other opportunities with low capital requirements and short return cycles are currently under review.”

He concluded on the annual results: “Although the shape of recovery remains uncertain, we have seen a turnaround in the past six months across the commodities and regions that we are already exposed to. Having made significant investments in our fleet, technology and geographical diversification over the past couple of years, we are now positioned to capitalise on the predicted commodities bull run without requiring additional capital investment.”

Kumba’s Kolomela, Sishen iron ore mines to deploy Rosond nex-gen exploration drill rigs

Rosond of Midrand, South Africa, is combining automation, software, data analytics and machine learning to create a next-generation drill rig that will help transition the company from contractor to technology provider.

The company dispatched the final batch of 28 state-of-the-art drill rigs to Anglo American’s majority owned Kumba Iron Ore operations in the Northern Cape in December, to be rolled out at Kumba’s Kolomela and Sishen iron ore mines. This forms part of a R2 billion ($134 million), five-year tender clinched by Rosond to supply Anglo American with the latest drilling technology as it modernises its geoscience operations.

“We really believe that this is going to be a future game changer,” Ricardo Ribeiro, Managing Director of Rosond, said.

In the face of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, Rosond said it was able to compress a year’s work into six months. It collaborated with a leading Italian manufacturer to develop the advanced drill rigs, which will be deployed for core, percussion and reverse circulation drilling.

“I am happy to report that the last two drill rigs were dispatched in December 2020,” Ribeiro added. “We are excited to see the entire fleet operational early this year. These are some of the most highly-advanced exploration drill rigs in the world.”

The drill rigs feature increased safety with the automation of most of the arduous and dangerous manual labour involved, Rosond says, taking away the need to handle the drill rods, and load and unload heavy equipment from the drill rigs.

The rig operators are housed in a climate-controlled, air-conditioned control room for an improved work environment that, in turn, assists with fatigue management and also boosts productivity and accuracy, Rosond says.

The opportunity to build such rigs also arose with several women being deployed as part of a team at Kumba. Recruiting and training this team formed part of Rosond’s tender with Anglo American, Ribeiro explained.

Rosond took the strategic step in 2012 to begin developing new technology for the drilling and exploration sectors, with the drill rigs leveraging the latest developments in software, telemetry and automation.

“We brought in a lot of technology from the construction and oil and gas industries to develop specific functionalities such as dust suppression and automation, as well as software and telemetry systems,” Ribeiro said.

The 28-strong fleet at Kumba will be deployed in an 80 km radius to optimise exploration drilling by providing critical geological data about the sites under investigation, Rosond says.

Having successfully developed the hardware of the new drill rigs themselves, the future plan is to launch a software division to focus on the application of data analytics and artificial intelligence in optimising the drilling process, as well as promoting machine learning.

“We are optimistic that in the future our drill rigs will be able to identify all the necessary parameters in order to be able to guide the operators seamlessly,” Ribeiro said. “The end goal in our development process is to have a full autonomous drill rig.”

Swick Mining working on drilling and technology business demerger

Swick Mining Services says it is working towards a demerger of its drilling and mineral technology businesses following a strategic review.

The announcement came at the same time as the ASX-listed METS firm revealed Drilling Business revenue and EBITDA results of A$149.6 million ($111 million) and A$24.6 million, respectively, for its 2020 financial year. A 9% increase in underground metres drilled saw the company beat its 2019 financial revenue total of A$142.9 million, while the impacts of COVID-19 and ramp-up costs at the Pogo mine contract (Northern Star Resources) saw EBITDA drop from A$28.2 million in the previous financial year.

During this period, the company’s deep exploration division launched new DeepEX rigs, which Swick says are the world’s most powerful underground mobile rigs with capacities to drill exploration holes up to 3,000 m of NQ2 core. Two DeepEX hybrid rigs are currently deployed at client sites, it said.

And the company successfully completed on-site trials of its Orexplore technology, the major technology underpinning its mineral technology business.

These site-based trials were undertaken at Sandfire Resources’ DeGrussa copper-gold mine, in Australia, for a three-month pilot project and at Sweden-based mining and smelting company Boliden for a five-month paid pilot project.

“The first trial at the DeGrussa mine resulted in approximately 9,000 m of core scanned in total, generating 20 TB of 3D data – the largest and most continuous dataset of its kind in the world for a single mine site,” Swick said. “With the trial complete, Orexplore has engaged two world-class subject matter experts to assist Sandfire and other potential clients understand the benefits of a comprehensive Orexplore data set.”

Earlier this month, Swick said Orexplore had been awarded its first in-field commercial agreement with St Barbara Ltd at the Gwalia mine in Leonora, Western Australia.

Despite these wins over the last year-and-a-bit, the company said a strategic review had recommended the company carried out a demerger of the Drilling Business and the Mineral Technology Business.

This could be tied to the fact that, at a group level, Swick reported a net loss after tax of A$6 million in the 2020 financial year, which, it said, reflected the lower Drilling Business earnings and ongoing investment in the company’s Mineral Technology Business, Orexplore.

Swick Managing Director, Kent Swick, said: “Financial year 2020 has presented a unique and challenging set of circumstances with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The business has quickly adapted during this difficult period, ensuring we maintained continuity of operations and protected our people on site both internationally and locally.

“I am pleased with the ability of our Drilling Business to deliver robust earnings in this environment and secure new work with existing clients, including our two largest contracts for Northern Star and BHP, which provide a strong platform for the business as we enter the 2021 financial year.

“Meanwhile, our efforts in the Mineral Technology Business are starting to show value, with successful site-based, paid trials in the year for our Orexplore technology and the award of our first ever in-field commercial agreement earlier this month.

“We have a clear strategy for these two businesses and are now progressing with the outcome of our strategic review to demerge the Drilling Business and the Mineral Technology Business to allow them to pursue their respective strategies and ultimately deliver the greatest value to Swick shareholders.

“Meanwhile, Swick is in a strong financial position, with gearing excluding AASB16 lease liabilities reduced to A10.6 per cent in the year. Swick has A$12.7 million cash and A$18.5 million in undrawn facilities, providing the liquidity that has enabled us to win and deliver on new work, invest in new technologies including DeepEX and Orexplore, and continue providing value for shareholders in these uncertain times through dividends and share buybacks.”

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.”

IMDEX evaluates the mining industry’s emerging trends

IMDEX says its global footprint in key mining regions throughout the world gives it an important glimpse of the some of the emerging trends and challenges facing the sector, trends that were taking shape prior to the onset of COVID-19.

Leveraging technology, or, more specifically, the cloud, is one development the Australia-based company has noted in recent years.

“The global minerals industry has turned to technology to improve safety, enhance efficiencies and reduce the cost of exploration and extraction,” it said.

When people think about innovation, most minds turn to autonomous haulage or remote operations, but there is an enabler to this innovation, according to IMDEX: the cloud.

Companies, not least of which those in the mining services and resources sector, are utilising cloud platforms to store data remotely and retrieve it via the internet. Remote mining operations using an array of software, sensors and communications are becoming routine because of these systems, IMDEX says.

But the cloud also provides the opportunity to improve productivity.

IMDEX General Manager, Product Development, Dr Michelle Carey, said clients were increasingly wanting to use the cloud because it enabled them to get data faster and in real time.

“We refer to it as the single source of truth,” Dr Carey said. “Accurate, reliable data delivered in real time that can be seen simultaneously by many people, which then enables real-time decision making.

“It also means there are no issues about the chain of custody. Using the cloud gives clients the confidence that no-one has tampered with the data so they can make decisions based on data they trust.”

Business’ enormous appetite for the collection and storage of data is making these platforms increasingly popular, according to IMDEX. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable that companies would be sharing computing and IT resources over the internet. “Today the cloud is a business imperative,” it said.

The resources sector, once satisfied its concerns regarding access and data security were met, have been quick to capitalise on cloud computing.

Cloud computing of course does have its downside (similar to any technology). To work properly, cloud systems require reliable internet access. That is increasingly becoming essential on even the most remote mine sites.

EY’s September 2019 poll of mining executives indicated that ensuring digital (and data) effectiveness continues to rank within the top risks for their respective organisations. EY also noted further that cloud-related investment will account for the largest share of technology spend (over the next two years) in more than 50% of companies.

IMDEX has been in the cloud for over 10 years and is renowned for its real-time, subsurface intelligence solutions with numerous sensors on the drill site, at the core farm and increasingly on the bench collecting high-quality data, it said.

These technologies can be connected to IMDEXHUB-IQ™ – a cloud-based web portal that collects, stores and provides critical operational data. This data is protected through a validated chain of custody and a secure database, accessible from any internet connection to smart phone, tablet or PC, according to IMDEX.

Social licence to operate

According to IMDEX, the notion of licence to operate is evolving, with society expecting more from organisations.

“Once, companies in the minerals and resources sector focused primarily on ensuring compliant operations,” IMDEX said. “Today, compliance is just ‘step-one’… the minimum standard.”

The company added: “External stakeholders are scrutinising companies more than ever; how an organisation is managing environmental responsibilities and the health and safety of their workforce. They are insisting on local content and strong community investment; ensuring there’s support for local indigenous communities and that a company is committed to addressing climate change.”

The effective management of these requirements ensures the community will have confidence in an organisation, granting their social licence because they trust the company.

Earning trust and confidence is seeing a shift in how organisations structure the management of community stakeholders, according to IMDEX.

IMDEX said it will include additional economic, environmental and social impacts of its activities in its 2020 annual report, with the aim of preparing a sustainability report in accordance with Global Reporting Initiative standards within three years.

Dr Carey said IMDEX already had a suite of products and services that supported the sustainable operation of mining industry stakeholders.

“Our technologies improve productivity by providing information that affects decisions throughout the life of the mine, but they also have sustainability and environmental benefits,” Dr Carey said.

“The technologies enable clients to understand material properties accurately at a finer scale, and in real-time, enabling them to mine with less waste and process ore more effectively.

“Improved precision in exploration, drilling programs and mining means a reduction in waste. Things like our Solids Removal Units and BOS tool means reducing the use of water during the drilling and the size of the footprint disturbed during drilling.”

Avoiding hit and miss drilling programs

As mining companies go further afield and explore under cover to replace diminished reserves, deep directional drilling on existing sites is increasingly becoming part of their campaigns, according to IMDEX.

There is plenty to consider before embarking on a drilling program, including traps in chasing the cheapest price if it fails to deliver, by not hitting the target.

IMDEX Global Lead, Directional Drilling, Kelvin Brown, and General Manager, Product Development, Dr Michelle Carey, discussed the issues in a recent webinar, ‘Directional Drilling: Strategies and technologies to stay on target and not blow your budget’.

Dr Carey said statistics revealed that directional drilling was increasing and is estimated to grow to around 20% of a drilling program.

“As we all know, it’s getting harder and harder to make discoveries,” Dr Carey said. “A lot of the reason for that is that increasingly we’re having to go under cover.

“What that means, in reality, is that instead of going into a greenfield site, people are going to their existing deposit to start drilling plans. Rapidly you find yourself in a situation where you are drilling quite deep holes, and you’re drilling quite deep holes where you have a target in mind.

“The other thing is the cost of drilling is going up, so we’re actually getting less bang for our buck.

“So really what we need are technologies and approaches that allow us to control cost as we drill deeper, and really balance out cost versus risk. It is not just about low cost – if it means you do not hit your target. It becomes increasingly important that we all know how to do it well.”

Dr Carey and Brown discussed a range of technologies and products designed to increase drilling productivity and efficiencies, including drilling fluids.

“There is an amazing amount of technology available now to help you in your cause of optimising your drilling program. It’s drilling with data,” Dr Carey said. “This is all technology that people have available to them now.

“In directional drilling, we offer downhole motors, one of a number of different technologies for directional drilling which has the combined advantage of flexibility and driller operability. You have got the fluids, which can be critical to how successfully your program runs and IMDEX MUD AID™, which allows you to monitor that.

“And, complementing the fluids, you’ve got a solids removal unit which, again, is optimising your fluid system, removing cuttings, things like that contribute heavily to how successful your drilling program is.”

The other critical technology in directional drilling is the survey tool. Brown said selecting the right survey instruments that could quickly provide the best data, faster, translated into a lower cost.

“The sooner you have it, the sooner you can make a better decision,” he said.

And, for Dr Carey, that means using the data to alter the drilling plan, if required, rather than “blindly going forward” with the initial plan.

“It’s incredibly important that you know when to pause when certain things happen and say, ‘here was our plan, but now we have some data and our plan has changed; let’s step back, plan again and go forward’,” she said.

Brown added: “You need to pay attention to the data. If the hole goes on and it is not going where it needs to go, it won’t fix itself.”

A good relationship with the drilling contractor is also essential, with Brown saying some contracts appear to have “punishment clauses” for failing to hit the target.

That approach has unintended consequences, according to Dr Carey.

“It actually causes people to cheat,” she said. To start manufacturing survey data to ensure they stay within the target zone and that is not the outcome you want.

“Another thing we do see sometimes is that people might have contracts put in front of them with what looks like an attractive rate for doing deep drilling and directional drilling; in fact it looks so attractive that you know they are not going to be able to get the job done for those price tags. Although it seems tempting to sign up to those contracts, you are not doing yourself any favours.”

Brown said: “Things look simple when everything is bundled into a cost per metre, but when it comes to directional drilling everyone needs to understand that there is a time component and you have to be conscious of that.

“If it is about hitting the target, it’s about hitting the target. There is no point having a cheap hole that misses the target.”

Master Drilling makes ‘horizontal integration’ move with Geoserve buy

Master Drilling has announced that it has fulfilled all the necessary conditions to acquire Geoserve Exploration Drilling, increasing the South Africa-based company’s ability to offer exploration drilling, reverse circulation drilling, geotechnical investigations and grade control drilling services.

In its 2019 financial year results, released today, it said the relevant competition commission had approved the transaction and Geoserve, a private company specialising in exploration and drilling services, would now be embedded into the company’s African segment as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, said: “The transaction will augment our expertise and global reach, as well as provide a platform for horizontal integration in the mining industry, which has been under pressure in the past few years, necessitating consolidation.”

Master Drilling paid MOGS Mining Services ZAR100 ($5.7) for the company, as well as assumed the bank overdraft facility and certain liabilities tied to Geoserve, it said. The company said a detailed purchase price allocation will be performed during 2020 and disclosed in its 2020 financial statements.

Master Drilling added: “Geoserve has a well-established footprint and pipeline that will reinforce Master Drilling’s capacity and income profile through increased exploration drilling, reverse circulation drilling, geotechnical investigations and grade control drilling services, which are all key to the broader mining sector.”