There is usually a point in time that you can look back on and say – that was when everything changed. For safety in exploration drilling, that point in time is now and one company is leading the change in South Africa.
On a large open field in a mining area outside of Mokopane in South Africa, stands the future of exploration drilling. It is in the shape of the surface core drilling rig, Christensen 140 and its Rod Handling System (RHS). For a long time, exploration drilling contractors have been flying under the radar when it comes to safety. That is about to change and Zaaiman Exploration Drilling is one of the companies that have recognized this. It is their Christensen 140 with Rod Handling System that we find outside of Mokopane. They have several rigs in operation here but this particular rig is of special interest.
The Christensen 140 at this specific location is drilling with the aim of finding platinum in the ground below. With an N-size drill bit and set in an angle of 60° it will drill down to 1300 m before it is relocated to another drill site. It will take approximately one month to reach the desired depth. The drilling angle is one factor in the success of the Rod Handling System. Although the number one benefit of using the Rod Handling System is increased operator safety, there are a few other perks as well. One of those is that tripping in and tripping out rods is faster, especially when drilling in an angle.
"When drilling 90° vertical, the weight of the rod is not a big problem since it’s ‘hanging’ in the wire. But as soon as you start to drill in an angle, the weight of the rod means more physical labor for the drilling team. This will, over time, increase operator fatigue."
He continues: “We also see that tripping in- and out rods is slightly faster with the Rod Handling System. But the biggest gain, apart from increased safety is definitely the decreased operator fatigue we see over time.”
The drilling team and management on site in Mokopane gives a clear testimony – the Christensen 140 surface core drilling rigs are very good machines. The attention to details in manufacturing and the robustness of the rig’s components results in a high quality end product. When you combine the Christensen 140 with the Rod Handling System you get a surface core drilling rig that is ready for the future.
Rudi Zaaiman who is the managing director for Zaaiman Exploration Drilling explains the company’s ambition: “As a modern exploration drilling contractor we try to be on a different level and safety is one of our main focus areas. There were two reasons as to why we purchased the Christensen 140 and the RHS. Safety and new technology. That is what Epiroc brings to the table and that is what we looked for.”
With an ear to the ground, Rudi predicts that the big mining houses will soon come up with tougher safety requirements for the contractors they hire. With the Rod Handling System, Zaaiman Exploration Drilling is ready for this.
He continues: “We can show the mining houses that we have a modern solution for increased safety. By working with the Rod Handling System we position ourselves as a company that puts safety first. We really want to play a role in bringing this technology into the future.”
An integral part of introducing new technology to the market is to have close cooperation with the ones using it on a daily basis. One important part for Epiroc, when developing new products, is the input from customers. Developing the Rod Handling System together with Zaaiman Exploration Drilling is no exception.
Site manager Jacques Stoltz: “Overall, both the Christensen 140 and the Rod Handling System are very good products. We are in a quite long testing phase and we gain new insights every day. We only had one critical issue, it was with the cooling system. But Epiroc service is great. Local Epiroc product support came the very next day. Not only did he fix the problem, he also trained our on-site mechanic on how to deal with similar issues.”
"I can definitely say that safety seems to be the future for exploration drilling. Epiroc drives the change and we are right there with them."