Internationally recognised gold mining operations in South Africa are able to ensure greater underground worker safety while maintaining production efficiency, through the innovative Terra Drill rig manufactured locally by Mine Support Products (MSP).

MSP is jointly owned by international manufacturing and engineering company DCD Group and Robor – a world class manufacturer and supplier of welded steel tube and pipe, cold formed steel profiles and associated value added products.

The Vereeniging-based company’s range of Terra Drill in-stope integrated telescopic roof bolt drilling rigs, designed to ensure safer and more stabilised underground drilling, have been used extensively by a number of high-profile gold mining operations since being introduced locally in 2007.

MSP general manager Conrad Engelbrecht points out that the lightweight and easily manoeuvrable Terra Drill rigs can be set in position, before being operated remotely from a safe distance, in order to ensure improved safety of drilling personnel underground.

“Terra Drill rigs come in eight different models that weigh between 12 kg and 42 kg, which improves transport and manoeuvrability in confined underground working areas. Despite their varying sizes, all models have a footprint of just 450 mm x 450 mm for further space saving,” he explains.

All MSP Terra Drill rigs are air operated at an optimal pressure of 400 kPa to 500 kPa, which results in a pneumatic thrust of at least 200 kg. Remote control hose lengths vary from 3 m to 6 m to ensure that the drill operator is a safe distance from the powerful drilling rig.

Another major benefit of the MSP range of Terra Drill rigs is that the units are compatible with a wide variety of underground drilling machines, thereby eliminating the need for purchasing costly additional connection and safety equipment.

Despite the distinct advantages of the MSP range of Terra Drill rigs, Engelbrecht admits that the company faces a number of challenges in promoting the equipment. “Although in-stope roof bolting is essential to underground worker safety, it is not a legal requirement. In challenging economic conditions, a number of local mines are therefore not willing to invest in new technology.”

Engelbrecht remains optimistic that the Terra Drill rig range will gain market share in the long term. “Mining operations in South Africa continue to place a greater emphasis on safety, and the value of the Terra Drill rig will become more apparent to the mining houses, when they weigh the initial cost of purchase against the risks of unprotected underground drilling,” he concludes.

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