PalaboraMaster Drilling Group was recently awarded a shaft construction contract with Palabora Mining Company, which it believes is in an industry first for the mining sector. The global leader in drilling services has designed and built the RD8 raise boring machine specifically customised for the Palabora contract, which entails the construction of two ventilation shafts, each 6.1 m diameter and a record-breaking 1.2 km deep.

“Once completed, the project will qualify as the largest scope of raise boring work per cubic metre ever embarked on, not only in South Africa but across the globe,” says Danie Pretorius, Master Drilling CEO.

This unique technology is estimated to be up to four times faster than conventional blind sinking methods, and only requires two personnel per shift working from the safety of an above-ground control room. Ultimately, this groundbreaking raise boring machine is key to pursuing deep-level, large-diameter shafts in future projects.

Master Drilling’s remote operated shaft support unit and inspection device will be used to line parts, or even the full depth of the shafts, either during or after the raise boring process. In comparison to its competitors’ systems which can only go down to 350 m with umbilical cords, the Master Drilling system can line up to a full 1.5 km deep. The inspection device has the capability to scan the geometry of the execution and identify the lithology. This is important to determine the stability of the shaft during or after construction.

This three-year contract with the Palabora Mining Company has positioned Master Drilling ahead of the industry to build on its unique turnkey drilling service solutions offered to a diverse landscape in Africa and abroad. “We pride ourselves in the distinctive customised service we deliver for each of our projects, which enables the team to explore new innovations and deliver value to our clients. This new boring machine is truly revolutionary for the future of raise boring,” says Pretorius.

Master Drilling recently completed the 1 km Rowland shaft at Lonmin using similar technology. Accomplished within budget, schedule and with no incidents, accidents or damage to property, the operation was a huge success and the company employed three local community members as part of their drilling crew. “The new crew members will now be moving with us to the next job as they have proven their competency and fit to company culture,” says Pretorius.

Building on their exceptional track record, which has been expertly formed over 30 years, Master Drilling currently has over 100 raise boring rigs in use around the world, in addition to its diverse drilling fleet which includes rock boring and slim drilling solutions. This pioneering technology transforms and improves the industry and further places South Africa on the map in taking the mining industry into the future.

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