September 2017: DET CRC Press Release: Revolutionary Drill Rig a Step Closer After Successful Victorian Trial
The mist clears on a new drilling technology: RoXplorer® drilling trials near Horsham, June 2017.
A revolutionary new drill rig that could revitalise Australia’s mining industry – The RoXplorer® – has excelled in its second major field trial, readying it for licencing and potential commercialisation later this year.
The prototype coiled tubing (CT) drill rig, developed by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC), underwent the trial during May and June 2017 in the Murray Basin near Horsham, Victoria.
Unlike the first trial, which took place in consolidated cover rocks near Port Augusta, South Australia, the second trial presented more challenging conditions in unconsolidated cover.
“The first trial in the Gawler Craton near Port Augusta demonstrated that hard rocks could be drilled at rates approaching 100 metres per 12 hour shift, across multiple shifts with excellent sample returns,” said DET CRC’s Chief Executive Officer, Professor Richard Hillis.
“This second trial was more challenging and showed that unconsolidated cover overlying a prospective basement, and the underlying basement, could be drilled at similar rates with the same excellent sample returns.
“We don’t believe that the unconsolidated cover at Horsham could have been drilled by the traditional reverse circulation (RC) method, meaning the CT Rig provides the only cost-effective alternative to expensive sonic or mud rotary surface and diamond tailed holes.
“This new technology has opened the Gawler Craton, Murray Basin and similar areas of extensive cover to ‘prospecting drilling’ which will enable progressive vectoring towards concealed mineral deposits using multiple, cheap holes in a single drilling campaign, thereby opening the covered mineral exploration search space.
“These results bring us closer to delivering on our goal of developing cheaper, faster and safer methods of exploration, which has the potential to revitalise Australia’s mining industry through the discovery of new mineral deposits hidden under deep rock cover.”
In a further positive for the CT Rig, the results of assays from the first trial near Port Augusta showed a strong match to those from diamond drill core from an adjacent hole.
“The match of assays from CT Rig drilling to diamond drill core from an adjacent hole are remarkable,” Professor Hillis said.
“Concentrations of major and trace elements closely match those of the diamond drill core, giving no indication of sample bias or contamination.
“It was particularly pleasing that a narrow interval of low grade copper enrichment at 400 metres depth was faithfully represented in the assay data from the CT cuttings.”
Coiled tubing drilling differs from conventional drilling in that the drill string is a continuous, malleable steel coil, as opposed to being comprised of individual steel rods that must be connected and disconnected. It can drill to depths of 500 metres, and with no rod handling required it removes the major cause of injury in mineral exploration.
The RoXplorer® CT Rig is a hybrid rig, designed for coiled tubing drilling but capable of drilling with a top drive and conventional drill rods. It weighs only 15 tonnes (including coiled tubing drill string) and can be easily be road transported without the need for special permits.
The successful trials represent the culmination of an ~$20M research project by DET CRC to develop a next generation drill rig for greenfields mineral exploration that can drill at a cost of $50/metre to a depth of 500 metres.
The technology is expected to be offered to DET CRC partners for licencing in September. The timing of commercial release of the RoXplorer® Rig will be subject to the licencing process and its commercialisation by the licensor.
DET CRC acknowledges the outstanding team of drillers, assistants, technicians, scientists and engineers from Boart Longyear, CSIRO, Curtin University, DET CRC, Imdex, Omnilogix and the University of South Australia that undertook the trials and also acknowledges the significant permitting, logistical, safety and geological expertise provided by the Geological Survey of South Australia and Victoria in support of the trials.
DET CRC has spent in excess of $100K in the regional communities of Port Augusta and Horsham carrying out these trials.
DET CRC was established in 2010 under the Australian Government’s CRC Program to develop technologies to discover new mineral deposits at depth beneath barren rock cover.
A detailed technical PR on these results can be accessed here:
Videos on these trials can be accessed here:
- RoXplorer® Field Trials Summary (overview)
- RoXplorer® Field Trials Summary (extended version)
Marcus La Forgia
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