Mining industry drilling services provider Rosond will acquire a new fleet of fully remote controlled drills, which it will use as an opportunity to bring more women into the mining drilling arena by assembling its first ever all-women drilling crew, Rosond operations director Ricardo Cravo Ribeiro tells Mining Weekly.
The new fleet is being manufactured in conjunction with an undisclosed overseas manufacturer. The first machine is projected for delivery to Rosond mid-August, with the second to follow in November; these will be used immediately once received, at iron-ore mining company Kumba Iron Ore.
The fleet contains mainly exploration drill rigs, and will be used for core, percussion, and reverse circulation drilling.
These rigs will allow for a sizeable amount of the manual work to be automated. Previously, this drilling work would have required “substantial physical strength”, owing to the handling of rods and heavy equipment that have to be loaded and offloaded onto the drill rig.
“It’s intensive physical work, and this made it difficult to employ women in this capacity,” Ribeiro says.
Such considerable physical labour is the reason for drilling being so male-dominated, says Ribeiro. Having to deal with physical factors has always been a key consideration for the company when recruiting workers, as many people – not only women – can battle to cope with this, he indicates. However, these new drills are expected to alter this, with “technology as a great leveller”. One rig is operated by a crew of three women.
“Going forward, our new recruitment policy will be to focus on the inclusion of women. We’ve committed to Kumba Iron Ore that we’ll have a fully fledged women drilling crew by 2019 – so we’ll probably start recruiting for this in the beginning of the new year.”
A key benefit of these drills is heightened safety, owing to less manual intervention when operating them. This will enhance the company’s “excellent” safety record, as evidenced by several of its drill sites locally achieving zero harm for a number of years.
Another advantage is that operators will no longer be vulnerable to the outside environment. Whereas previously, they were outside in direct sunlight under a gazebo structure, they will now be housed in a climate-controlled control room, which “should assist with fatigue management, and facilitate enhanced concentration and increased productivity”, enthuses Ribeiro.
The drills also offer multiple training benefits, as the remote control is standardised, and operators can familiarise themselves with these across different applications, regardless of whether the machine is a core drill or a percussion rig. Further, the remote control will allow Rosond to explore the possibility of having simulators as a possible training tool, allowing for the full experience and assessment of machine operation before on-site exposure.
“We believe that our new fleet will be the most modernised in the country,” concludes Ribeiro.