Master Drilling Group Limited, a provider of drilling services to the mining, civil engineering and building construction sectors, has reported a strong set of annual results for the year to December 31, 2021, as well as making progress in several key technology areas.
In the period in question, the company made significant gains across key regions, including the award of its first project in Spain to shotcrete a 560 m ventilation shaft, boosting its joint venture work under the Master Drilling Besalco Consortium with Codelco in Chile and making plans to employ its North American entity on a project in Saudi Arabia.
On top of this, the company’s technology team made strides with its Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB), confirming that a project to sink an exploration decline at Anglo American’s Mogalakwena PGM operation in South Africa was scheduled to move into the tunnelling phase this quarter. The company has previously said it would sink one of two exploration declines for Mogalakwena using the MTB, a modular horizontal cutting machine equipped with full-face cutter head with disc cutters adapted from traditional tunnel boring machines.
At the same time, in order to spread its risk and lighten funding requirements, the company says it has entered into a joint venture called Master Sinkers with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) with a view to pursuing promising business cases involving blind sinking shafts. The company has previously been working on a Shaft Boring System (SBS), designed to sink 4.5 m diameter shafts in hard rock down to 1,500 m depths, to carry out this process.
In the results, Master Drilling said Master Sinkers has now signed letter of intent with a client to blind bore a ventilation shaft, with investigative work on scoping and detailed design and procurement of resources for the shafts having commenced.
On this project specifically, the company said: “The project is progressing well and by the second half of 2022, we hope to commission the service and start executing on the project. We are positioning ourselves as a specialised mining contractor, as opposed to a mainstream one.”
The company added on these technology developments: “Non-explosives mining is still an uncharted area and we are looking to provide solutions for clients that are not bound by the requirement of explosives approvals, while at the same time shielding personnel against hazards by offering the flexibility to operate remotely. We have engaged with four different clients where we are able to develop these technologies and provide bespoke solutions that cater to their specific needs. By doing so, we hope to build relationships with these clients in a phased approach, thereby ensuring gradual progress and minimising large exposure or risk. All these projects are progressing well. These technologies all relate to providing a safer, higher productivity, cost-competitive and efficient solution.”
This technology progress was made against a backdrop of increased revenues and profitability, with revenue coming in at a record $178.1 million – up 40% from 2020 – and operating profit growing 126% to a record $27.8 million.
“These represent record results, achieved despite difficult global market and operating conditions,” the company said. “Cost savings initiatives implemented to limit the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic assisted in this.”