Tomás Buttazzoni
General Manager
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Automated Rod-Handling Solution for Increased Safety

By Alejandro Ehrenberg | Tue, 05/26/2020 - 13:51

Q: Why is Technosteel interested in the Mexican mining industry?

A: Mexico has always been a very interesting mining market for us. After Chile and Peru, Mexico is the biggest copper producer in the Americas. This has historically attracted Chilean companies like Boytec to Mexico. There is intense competition in Mexico, but we have a strong window of opportunity for entering the market due to our high manufacturing capacity and innovative automation solutions for the drilling industry.

We think automation will gain ground in the exploration business, in part due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Mining companies were forced to reduce their personnel inside the mines drastically. One of our clients, Codelco, curtailed the number of workers allowed at their operations. Nevertheless, the company’s production has not dropped proportionally. This suggests there may be too many people on-field at the same time. The health contingency could result in a more intelligent mining industry. Digitalizing as many processes as possible is key to transitioning to smart mining production.

Q: What automation solutions can you provide to Mexico’s market?

A: Safedrill is one of the companies that are part of the Technosteel group. It focuses on automation and technification in mining exploration, especially in two areas: rod handling and processing and recycling of drilling muds. We carry a specific line of products for each of these two areas. There is an increase in safety and environmental standards in the mining industry and we identified a niche in the market, as exploration was lagging in safety and environmental practices. Rod handling involved too much human involvement. Many mobile pieces had to be moved manually into the exploration rig. Roughly 30 percent of accidents in exploration happen during this time. Even though many companies around the world have tried to tackle this issue, none have been able to deliver a 100 percent no-hands solution. Safedrill is the first company to achieve a completely automatic rod and inner-tube handling system. Safedrill is compatible with the majority of the leading drilling rigs in the mining industry.

In regard to drilling fluids processing and recycling, we have designed an innovative mud plant where the fluid mix is made in an isolated environment. It is no longer necessary to excavate a pool. Rather, we have designed a complete system comprised of stainless steel tanks where mud is produced and injected into the drilling equipment. Later, when the mud returns, it goes through a centrifugal system that separates the mud from unwanted soil residue. That saves a lot of additives and water. Water efficiency is important, especially in Chile, where there is a water shortage. In northern Mexico, this can be crucial as well.

Q: What solutions for streamlining production does Technosteel group provide?

A: The second company in the group is Polimet. It designs and manufactures components for belt conveyors. We produce all the underlying structure and components like carrying idlers, take-up pulleys, impact beds, cleaners and chutes. Polimet works in the Chilean and Peruvian markets. It services miners in two stages. The first stage is the project itself. If there is a plant under construction or expansion, Polimet works with engineering firms like FLSmidth to devise a tailor-made system for each mining operation. Second, when the system is already operating, we provide service and parts directly to the mining companies.

It is worth pointing out that we are innovating to develop a system to monitor the state of the belts. As opposed to some systems that intervene in the idler to monitor vibrations and temperature, our system will not alter the idlers. We believe altering idlers’ design is a mistake. Rather, our solution sets up a series of sensors at certain points of the belt to carry the information to a central processor.

Q: What makes Technosteel’s drill rods different from alternatives in the market?

A: The Technosteel group is named after our third company, which produces drill rods and accessories for diamond drilling programs and for blasting. We manufacture the whole perforation column, from the shock absorber to the tricone adapter. We export to many countries, including Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Sweden and Australia. Technosteel provides clients with services in two fields. Its exploration rods are designed mainly for drilling companies. Its blasting rods are usually used by mining companies themselves, as blasting is a critical activity for the operation of a mine. The differentiating value of the company in the drill rod sector lies in its high-quality standards. Our raw material suppliers are world-class and include Tenaris, Siderca and Tamsa. Our processes are also of a high standard and ISO-certified. Moreover, our technical advisory services, focused on rods for blasting, have proved remarkable for increasing the performance of the steel rods we produce.

Technosteel combines engineering and metal-mechanical manufacturing to provide excellent and innovative services to the mining industry. It focuses on drilling, material transportation and pump systems.

Alejandro Ehrenberg Alejandro Ehrenberg Journalist and Industry Analyst