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Breaking ground in deep cover exploration

Mitchell Services has developed a solution enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of drill programs deep undercover. Meet Mineral Performance Drilling….

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This article was originally published by Australian Mining

Mitchell Services has developed a solution enhancing the accuracy and efficiency of drill programs deep undercover. Meet Mineral Performance Drilling.

Mineral exploration is a difficult˛and expensive trade, and with the search for deposits getting deeper, drilling innovation is needed to uncover the world’s orebodies of the future.

Through its Mineral Performance Drilling (MPD) solution, ASX-listed Mitchell Services (MSV) is enhancing the accuracy of drill programs, especially for resources under sedimentary cover, including base and precious metals.

As Mitchell Services chief executive officer Andrew Elf explained, the idea for MPD came about almost unexpectedly.

“The team was together, and the idea came up in conversation,” Mr Elf said. “We thought, ‘We’re doing this sort of drilling, methodology and technique in metallurgical (met) coal and we’ve done it in oil and gas previously’.

“So we said, ‘Well hang on, there’s going to be areas of mineral exploration that have a similar top cover sequence’.”

Mr Elf said for Mitchell Services to validate the new solution, the company had to contend with one divergence.

“The previous holes in coal and oil and gas were vertical holes, whereas mineral holes undercover have traditionally been inclined holes,” he said.

“We knew the technique worked so the test was applying the new approach to an inclined hole and then getting a client to give it a go.”

Mr Elf said once a client implemented the solution and realised the benefits, MPD was born.

Designed in-house by Mitchell Services, MPD enables drilling through deep cover sequences at speeds of up to 60m/hour.

Mr Elf said a critical advantage of MPD is the ability to “target and direct the drill hole”.

“MPD can steer, track and manage where the hole hits. And if you think about what you’re doing with the MPD technology, you might be doing a diamond coring tail and attempting to hit a target underground with pinpoint accuracy.

“Drilling the top section using MPD certainly sets you up for a greater level of success with the rest of your hole, which should be an easier drill and there are several other benefits that flow from that. 

“MPD is a quicker method of drilling, and we’ve got examples where people were originally taking 15 shifts and we were doing it in four. 

“So for an exploration project or resource drill out, where there could be geologists, messing, camps and everything else, clients can get a project done quicker and significantly reduce their cost per metre.”

MPD enables drilling through deep cover sequences at speeds of up to 60 metres per hour.

 

Mr Elf said faster drilling speeds up the entire exploration program and broader strategy, with companies able to get data to the market quicker and announce results faster or get answers and troubleshoot more readily.

There are also safety benefits.

“When we’re drilling the top-hole section, the rods are rotating at very low revolutions, and we also use automated rod handlers to handle the rods that do MPD. So we’re minimising hands-on-steel,” Mr Elf said.

Mitchell Services general manager – commercial Todd Wild said because of MPD’s accuracy, mining companies are saving metres while delivering the desired result. 

“MPD removes a lot of the potential downhole issues when diamond drilling begins and reduces the need for navi work as the hole is so accurate,” he said. 

Mr Wild said MPD also enables exploration teams to retrieve and reuse drill casing.

“Because we can keep the ‘flight path’ of the hole so straight and consistent, MPD allows the drill crews to more easily retrieve the casing after each hole is completed.

“If you’re performing a resource drill out through 500m of cover and can re-use your casing each time, that alone is a material reduction in your drilling budget.”

An MPD directional engineer plots and tracks the hole in real time.

The technology can be applied across all of Mitchell Services’ surface fleet and its associated equipment, enabling quick and efficient deployment. 

Mr Wild said MPD is now being used across Australia.

“We’re using MPD in the Mount Isa region, in central Queensland, as well as the Paterson Province in Western Australia,” he said.

“Both new and existing clients are using MPD, each of whom have taken a leap of faith to give this technique a go and it’s paid off. 

“And it’s not just a slow benefit, it’s from the first hole. Where for every hole drilled, MPD is changing the cost per metre dramatically.”

As greater pressure is applied on project timelines as the global energy transition heats up and the need for new minerals becomes more urgent, harnessing efficient and accurate technology will become more critical.

Industry analysts and mining companies have flagged a future copper deficit and Mr Wild believes MPD can go some way to supporting this.

“MPD has a significant role to play in the pursuit of critical minerals, particularly as it can be applied across key geological settings throughout Australia and the world,” he said.

“These days miners are looking at a decade or more from discovery to production.

“MPD is a vital way to really speed up the feasibility stage of a project by improving the speed of drilling and condensing timeframes.” 

Achieving the world’s net-zero objectives will take a group effort, and relevant stakeholders will need to be at the top of their environmental game to win over discerning investors.

MPD is an example of Mitchell Services finding a better way – a solution that furthers what was already Australia’s premier drilling services company. 

This feature originally appeared in the October issue of Australian Resources & Investment.

Australian Mining.


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