Tag Archives: MTB

Master Drilling’s Mobile Tunnel Borer heads to Anglo’s Mogalakwena mine

Master Drilling is readying its Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) technology for a contract at Anglo American Platinum’s Mogalakwena mine in South Africa.

The company, which revealed the news during its interim results presentation, said on-boarding for this project deployment was underway, with the start of “decline excavation” due by the end of the year.

Anglo American Platinum said in its own interim results recently that it was working on feasibility studies on the future of Mogalakwena, with completion of these studies expected at the end of 2021. Decisions on the pathway forward are expected shortly after this, however, one of the current key milestones at the asset includes progressing an underground exploration decline.

Master Drilling Executive Director, Koos Jordaan, said during the presentation that the contract with Anglo American Platinum is for a “turnkey operation” with Master Drilling providing capabilities in terms of construction, logistics and project management, in addition to its normal excavation services.

The MTB is a modular horizontal cutting machine equipped with full-face cutter head with disc cutters adapted from traditional tunnel boring machines. Unlike these traditional machines, it is designed to work both on inclines and declines, with the ability to navigate around corners and construct 5.5 m diameter decline access tunnels.

One MTB unit was previously scheduled to carry out a 1.4 km project at Northam Platinum’s Eland platinum group metals operation in South Africa, however this was cancelled in March 2020 due to the pandemic. This deployment followed testing of an MTB unit in soft rock at a quarry just outside of Rome, Italy, in 2018.

Alongside news of this latest MTB deployment, Master Drilling said in its results that it was studying the potential to deploy two of these MTB units in tandem for twin-decline access as part of the technology’s second-generation developments.

“We can already see the benefit of utilising two of these machines to do a twin-decline access to an orebody,” Jordaan said.

Looking to vertical developments, Master Drilling reported that it had received shareholder funding approval from the Industrial Development Corporation for the latest work on its Shaft Boring System (SBS), designed to sink 4.5 m diameter shafts in hard rock down to 1,500 m depths.

IM witnessed the main cutting mechanism of what was previously billed as being a 45-m long, 450-t machine at the back end of 2019.

The company has since said it will introduce a “smaller scope system” as part of its introduction to the industry.

While busy on the latest slimmed down design of the SBS, Master Drilling has signed a letter of intent with a prospective South Africa project that could see a machine start sinking activities in the first half of 2022, Jordaan said.

Outside of these developments, Master Drilling reported on several contract awards across the globe, including a three-year raiseboring extension with AngloGold Ashanti in Brazil, a joint venture agreement with Besalco Construction to work on Codelco’s Chuquicamata copper mine, an executed contract with Glencore’s Raglan mine in Canada, an agreement with Zimplats in Zimbabwe and a “long-term contract” on the Khoemacau copper-silver project in Botswana.

Master Drilling continues down technology path amid global uncertainty

Master Drilling Group included details of its remote drilling technology, commissioning of the Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) and the first phase of its shaft boring system development within its latest financial results release.

Reporting “reasonable results” for the six months ended June 30, 2019, which included a 3.8% year-on-year increase in revenue to $70 million and a 5.6% jump in headline earnings per share, the company’s CEO, Danie Pretorius, said Master Drilling had worked hard on stabilising new operations and growing its presence in new territories.

“In the face of continued uncertainty and volatility, which has inevitably impacted on business performance, we have remained committed to our strategic journey of diversifying our presence across geographies, commodities and sectors,” he said, adding that the company saw new business opportunities in Russia and Australia.

Even with only a slight increase in earnings and revenue, Master Drillings new business pipeline encompassing all geographies remained “solid” at $297.1 million, the company said. Its order book totalled $198.6 million at the end of the period.

Pretorius added: “While political and economic factors continue to shape our operating environment, at Master Drilling we continue to spearhead technological development, stabilise our global footprint and explore new business opportunities. As a result, the business remains stable and well positioned to benefit from an improved global economic climate.”

Master Drilling, one of the largest rock boring and drilling services providers in the world, spends the bulk of its capital spend on capacity expansion, some of which has begun to yield positive results, such as remote drilling technology, the company said.

“Having completed testing of this (remote drilling) technology in South Africa, Master Drilling has successfully implemented it in Mexico and Peru,” the company said. The test in South Africa took place 3 km underground at AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng gold mine, the world’s deepest gold mine. This saw a raisebore machine operated remotely.

Meanwhile, the commissioning of the MTB at Northam Platinum’s Eland mine, in South Africa, is currently underway, with underground drilling having already commenced, the company said. This follows testing at a quarry just outside of Rome, Italy, last year.

The first phase of the company’s shaft boring system – a new shaft sinking system (reported on in the annual shaft sinking feature in IM September 2019) – is also in the process of commissioning, the company said.

“This bears testament to Master Drilling’s unwavering commitment to technology development and testing, which will continue to be a key focus during the remainder of 2019,” the company concluded.

Master Drilling edges closer to launch of MTB and BSB technologies

The worldwide launch of Master Drilling’s Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) machine (pictured) is moving closer, with unveiling and commissioning set to take place next month, the company said in its latest financial results.

On top of this, the company’s Blind Shaft Boring (BSB) technology is expected to be launched in the March quarter of 2019.

This news comes amid a “satisfactory” set of financial results for the company in the six months to the end of June, where revenue increased 11.3% year-on-year to $67.4 million, operating profit rose 6% to $12.9 million and headline earnings per share decreased 10.6% to $0.059.

“The macroeconomic environment remained challenging across a number of markets during the first half of the year but our ability to report stable profitability amid tough conditions suggests that Master Drilling’s strategy does not only position the business for future growth but also supports the business throughout the economic cycle,” Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, said.

Master Drilling said the addition of a new machine and the acquisition of the remaining shareholding in Sweden-based Bergteamet Raiseboring Europe AB drove the increase in revenue, but the strength in emerging market currencies proved challenging, with the South Africa rand accounting for a large portion of the company’s costs.

The company, however, thinks the latter will be short lived.

“Given the recent weakening of emerging market currencies, we anticipate that the adverse effect of the stronger South African rand on our business in H1 2018 will reverse in H2 2018 which, given the strength of the pipeline and new enquiries, should bode well for Master Drilling,” Master Drilling said.

Master Drilling also has some interesting technology launches on the horizon, which could provide further sales opportunities.

In February, Master Drilling announced the launch of the MTB machine for continuous mining without blasting.

The MTB can bore out an excavation of 4.5 m and/or 5.5 m in diameter at a rate that far exceeds conventional tunnel construction methods, delivering various infrastructure solutions such as for declines, ramps, haulages and contact tunnels in hard rock with compressive strengths in excess of 300 MPa (more information can be found in IM‘s May issue).

Its modular construction makes it also possible to retrofit to existing operations and major mining companies have expressed interest in deploying Master Drilling’s first MTB once commissioned.

In addition to this, the company said progress continued on the BSB technology, with a launch date of the March quarter planned.

The BSB is a mechanised system for boring a vertical shaft to a depth of 2,000 m with finished diameters ranging from 10 m to 13 m. No underground access is required for the BSB to start boring operations as a shaft sinking method.