HomeMagazine ArticlesBreaking ground: New pilot hole world record set

Breaking ground: New pilot hole world record set

Master Drilling has added another record to its name, with the successful completion of the pilot hole for raise-boring at Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde mine.

Drilling of the pilot hole at number 3 shaft, a new vertical shaft at the western extension section of Zondereinde, commenced on 25 September last year and the receiving chamber underground was reached on 18 July 2020, completing the 1 382 m hole, and setting a new world record.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 8, 2020
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The previous record was that of a shaft measuring 1 070 m, that was drilled in 2012 at Lonmin’s K4 mine.

Number 3 shaft currently being developed by Master Drilling through raise-boring. The processes comprises two key phases: the drilling of a pilot hole, followed by reaming of this hole to its ultimate diameter.

Critical to the success of raise-boring is the accuracy of pilot drilling and this becomes increasingly challenging the longer the shaft.

Master Drilling used ground-breaking oil well directional drilling and combined it with its own designed and manufactured, modern, high technology RD8 machine as well as skilled operators, to achieve the level of accuracy required by directional drilling in order to create a shaft that can be equipped for both man and material hoisting.

The RD8 machine monitors a number of operational metrics and takes corrective actions automatically, providing the accuracy required. The water management regime is a fundamental part of this process, as it ensures that quality readings are obtained from the directional tool.

Commenting on the company’s record achievement, Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, comments, “What is impressive about this record is that it was achieved using a tool that has never before been utilised for such an application, coupled with one of our high technology machines.

“It clearly highlights the superiority that adaptation and technology bring to drilling solutions, which is something that Master Drilling has been working relentlessly at over the years. As a result, we are able to provide cost effective, safer and accurate drilling solutions for our clients.”

Optimised operations

The new shaft system will provide additional access from surface to the underground workings for hoisting of men, material, services and ore.

The new shaft system will provide additional access from surface to the underground workings for hoisting of men, material, services and ore.

Northam acquired western extension in December 2017 from the neighbouring Amandelbult mine, owned by Anglo American Platinum. It comprises a 3.6 km wide mining block containing a PGM resource of over 21 Moz hosted within high-quality Merensky and UG2 orebodies.

Northam CEO, Paul Dunne adds, “This milestone has put us a significant step closer to realising the potential of the western extension, a high quality block of ground that has already breathed new life into Zondereinde.

“Our strong culture of technological innovation and rapid implementation is helping to create a mine that will benefit all stakeholders for many years to come. Congratulations to the Zondereinde management team and Master Drilling on this record-breaking achievement.”