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Driller foresees revenue boost with strong order book

TRIPPLE XL The rotary drill 7-series and rotary drill 8-series drill rigs which Master Drilling is currently manufacturing are on schedule for delivery as ordered

HEADLINING THE CUTTERS A cutterhead manufactured by Master Drilling is ready for supply to a platinum producer in South Africa

RAISING THE BORE Master Drilling is experiencing an increase in demand for its raise boring equipment and services, with orders for three extra large machines having been placed recently

19th April 2024

By: Halima Frost

Senior Writer


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Boring and drilling services provider Master Drilling is optimistic its revenue for this year will improve on the back of a strong order book, the company reported during its 2023 full-year results presentation, held last month.

Master Drilling COO Roelof Swanepoel reported that the company’s order book was currently confirmed at $168-million, with a further $90-million awaiting adjudication.

“These amounts do not include the almost $36-million which has been quoted for proposals, which are still to be presented,” he said.

Additionally, Swanepoel said that an amount of about $239-million had been pre-allocated for manufacturing orders for the company for the next two years and beyond.

He attributed the financial performance to the amount of investment the company had made into the larger end of its fleet over the past few years, which continued to drive Master Drilling’s average monthly revenue per operating rig higher.

In the Pipeline

Swanepoel noted that some of the projects in Master Drilling’s pipeline included the supply of equipment to integrated zinc producer Hindustan Zinc, in India, the contract for which had been renewed for another three years.

The project is a continuation of the initial supply of a large raise boring machine to Hindustan Zinc as part of an initial $6-million Indian contact, signed in 2017.

“Additional contracts signed this year include one with openpit gold miner Volcan, in Peru; a range of contracts with gold major and copper miner Barrick Gold for its operations in Africa; as well as some mentionable contracts being awarded to us by clients in Europe,” he enthused.

In relation to its raise boring operations, Swanepoel explained that Master Drilling was on schedule with the manufacturing of three, triple extra large, raise boring rigs; two rotary drill 7-series and one rotary drill 8-series. The first batch of items of equipment had already been delivered and was in operation at petrochemicals and chemicals company Sasol Mining, in South Africa.

He added that a low-profile 100-slot borer was commissioned on an experimental surface setup at the end of 2023.

“Once a few changes have been made to the borer, it will be ready for mobilisation to a project in the next three months,” said Swanepoel, adding that Master Drilling was currently in the process of manufacturing a total of seven new raise boring rigs, which would be commissioned towards the end of this year.

Meanwhile, he also noted that Master Drilling’s exploration drilling division had delivered its first robotic underground core drilling rig to an underground operation.

In addition, the company is also in the final stages of commissioning a surface robotic core rig, with wiring and hydraulic plumbing being conducted. This rig will start with factory commissioning in the near future, Master Drilling reported.

New Notable Technologies

Swanepoel pointed out that, in terms of new technologies, Master Drilling was busy with the assembly of equipment for experimental testing at a client’s site.

“We’ve had weather delays and also engineering changes that needed to be made, which set the project back by about three months,” he added.

Also, Swanepoel noted that Master Drilling’s Tunnel Pro Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) was in the process of being reworked following findings made by the company after undertaking a recent work package in which the equipment was deployed.

He said these findings enabled Master Drilling to pool its resources and provide a full tunnelling service to another project that the company planned on mobilising equipment towards. This new deployment would include workshops, stores, tools and all documentation to execute the new package successfully.

Further, the company has signed a joint agreement with China Railway Construction Corporation and has placed an order for another 6.5 m second generation MTB, of which Master Drilling has initiated the engineering design.

Swanepoel also noted that, in Master Drilling’s mechanised and nonexplosive mining division, the company was on schedule with the commissioning of new equipment and the training of operators – all plans of which the company intended to complete before the end of this year.

“We have been successful in going through different development milestones,” he enthused.

In the digitisation space, Swanepoel said Master Drilling’s recently acquired mine mechanisation and digitisation company A&R Group, had installed 11 scraper winch proximity detection systems at training centres and service testing sites, adding that these systems were now ready to be operationally deployed underground.

“The missing person locator functionality has been successfully upgraded within the standard A&R system and is now available for use,” he added.

In testament to the deployment of personnel locator systems, Swanepoel outlined that A&R systems currently tracked about 65 000 people daily, while data-driven mining fleet management solutions provider AVA Solutions, of which Master Drilling is a shareholder, tracked about 6 000 machines daily.

“We estimated that, in 2023, the company spent about 3.5% of its overall revenue on new technology development, confirming our commitment to developing these technologies,” he said.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer




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