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The perfect match

June 10, 2016

New Azure exploration bit was configured with customer input to conquer variations in an array of formations

On the windswept Burin Peninsula of southern Newfoundland, fluorspar deposits have been mined for over a century. Canadian Fluorspar Inc. acquired tthe mining rights to what they are calling the ASG Mine near St. Lawrence with plans to expand exploration and reopen underground mining. With the discovery of deposits that run nearly to surface, mining plans have evolved to include open pit operations.

Springdale Forestry Resources Inc. of Springdale, NL, and its division Springdale Diamond Drilling was contracted to explore the area to help advance mining operations. Since 2013 the company has drilled approximately 250 holes from 200 to 500 meter depths. Exploration drilling has come with challenges, as the formation is igneous with blocky and folded strata of rhyolite and granite. Springdale driller Alvin Burton pointed out the variations: “The ground is real fractured with lots of voids. The formation is broken and locky and difficult to drill. It could be solid then I could hit an 18-meter void. It’s all over the place.” The challenges inspired Springdale to work with Atlas Copco to develop a new exploration bit. The bit needed a cutting structure that could work through softer formations yet hold up to granite. Now available worldwide, the resulting bit is called Azure.

"This is a bit that will perform without guessing and without trying different products within in a formation. I was pleased how interaction with our customer helped develop this successful tool."

Artur Makos - Product Manager, High Performance Diamond Tools

Mine development

Mine development Canadian Fluorspar Inc., owner of the property, has reported that veins range in thickness of 1 meter to 10 meters in Tarefare and Blue Beach veins and up to 20 meters in diameter for the AGS vein. The quality ranges from 7 percent to approximately 90 percent CaF2. Construction of a mill, roads, a harbor expansion and additional infrastructure is underway and expected to be completed in 2017.

Current reserves of 8.8 million tonnes of fluorspar discovered in the AGS vein will support an 11-year mine life. With roughly the same amount in the Tarefare and Blue Beach veins, mining could expand further with continued exploration.

Fluorspar is an important industrial mineral used in many manufacturing processes. It’s critical in aluminum and steel production and is also used as a refrigerant and in lithium battery manufacturing. Fluorine is derived from fluorspar, which is used in pharmaceutical, medical and consumer products.

Burton had been using a different manufacturer’s bit for about eight years and was very comfortable with it. A majority of the drilling in this area uses medium hard rock bits. Atlas Copco developed the Azure series bit to stand up to the entire range of medium hard rock.

When working with Atlas Copco on the bit development, Springdale started with a 13 millimeter crown with 10 waterways. After working on various configurations, today the bit is available in many sizes and profiles. The Azure bit for this site is the NO, ECF 13MM, 10WW P/N 3760920076. Burton says he has to drill differently with the Azure bit. “I give it different water and give her less on the sticks. Four versus five or six with the other bit.”

This has paid off for Burton, who is setting many company records with the new bit. His record on a shift is 108 meters in a 10-hour period. And he holds Springdale’s total week record with 500 meters drilled. On an average shift the Azure bit can drill 42 to 45 meters, Burton said, while the competitor’s bit would run only 30 meters in a shift. In good, competent rock he can move steadily through it: “In one 12-hour shift I got 60 meters in granite. In rhyolite one day I got 30 meters by 12:00. That Azure cuts fast through granite and cuts through rhyolite like butter.”

He said at times he goes against convention concerning rotation, pressure and water usage. “You just have to lay off once in a while. If she’s polishing, you may just have to turn the pressure down, shut the water off, and she’ll torque up. She’ll cut right through it."  Burton likes the life of the bit, too. “Bits cost money, and you don’t want to waste money.” He’s gotten 800 meters on a bit in rock that competitive bits could only manage 250 meters.

Burton said, “You’ve got to adjust to the bit. Find the sweet spot. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could strip the crown off. You have to get used to it.” Burton laughed when he’s asked too many details. “A driller won’t give up all his secrets. But I can tell you this is a better all-around bit—less stripping, better penetration. She’s the one.”

"In one 12-hour shift I got 60 meters in granite. In rhyolite one day I got 30 meters by 12:00. That Azure cuts fast through granite and cuts through rhyolite like butter."

Alvin Burton - Driller, Springdale Forestry Resources Inc.

Springdale Forest Resources is an integrated company whose divisions employ more than 300 people in wide variety of fields— from logging, where it got its start, to making core boxes to building the track carriers their rigs are mounted on. Springdale even has a cell phone company to support their work and employees. Being on the island means they need to be more self-reliant. They have won many awards for safety and quality and are respected by employees and the communities where they work. Springdale Diamond Drilling carries out geotechnical and core drilling projects. Since 2006, drilling has grown to 20 percent of the company’s business today. 

Drilling Manager Kevin Regular said the support Atlas Copco has given them has been very helpful, including stocking casing rods and tubes or other necessities to keep them up and running. General Manager Tim Young said, “We want to grow our drilling business with Atlas Copco. I can call and in five minutes I’ve got a response or there is someone in our office.”


2016 International Customer story

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