JSE-listed raiseboring and drilling services provider Master Drilling launched its new mobile tunnel boring (MTB) system at the Investing in African Mining Indaba, which was held from February 5 to 8, in Cape Town.
The system, specifically designed for the mining sector, is suited to the excavation of various types of tunnels.
The company’s aim at the Indaba was to demonstrate “that there are solutions to put the building blocks required for a continuous operation as an alternative to drill and blast in place”, says Master Drilling CEO Danie Pretorius.
The Proudly South African-developed system is being manufactured and will be commissioned in Europe, with interest in the system expressed from around the world. The system is due to arrive in South Africa in the last quarter of this year for use by a major mining company at a local mine, he adds.
The MTB system allows for continuous operating with full-face cutting, as well as simultaneous rock support and materials handling. Notably, it also has “the potential of exponential production rates, enabling mine owners to access underground orebodies faster and with higher returns”, says Master Drilling executive director Koos Jordaan.
Pretorius notes that, while a key issue facing local industry is the limited production time underground, Master Drilling’s service offering does not require drill and blast re-entry: “Continuous operation is possible. This ultimately causes reduced project start-up time and improved safety.” Projects that weren’t feasible in the past could benefit from the MTB system in this regard, he adds.
Master Drilling further plans to drive mechanisation and autonomous drilling and aims to develop the construction of underground infrastructure through a continuous rock-cutting mechanised process of a 24/7 operation.
Indaba and Industry
Pretorius says the positive mood at the Indaba “was much better than in previous years”, adding that Master Drilling “is not sure whether [the mood] was a consequence of the commodity prices or the political changes in South Africa”.
However, he points out that the industry continues to grapple with issues, such as compliance with black economic empowerment and Section 54 stoppages in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996. Despite the positive political changes, more changes are still expected to come, resulting in lingering uncertainty.
Pretorius reiterates that the Indaba is an important platform where stakeholders can share and engage in certain strategic and important matters. “It is a platform where mining companies and suppliers can demonstrate not only their ability but also their innovation,” he concludes.