Deeper Holes Require More Preparation and Geotechnical SupportMon, 10/22/2018 - 10:14
Thanks to digitalization and technological advances, the days when survey tools required specialized technicians to decipher collected data and map out geological structures are long gone. Processing has advanced to the point where information can be visualized and structured with the click of a few buttons. “Drilling systems are incredibly user-friendly today and simple to run,” says David DuCote, Mexico Operations Manager at International Directional Services (IDS). “Tools are handheld and becoming not only easier to use but more reliable.”
Still, DuCote finds that some companies are not taking full advantage of the tools available in the market. The drilling experts particularly promote the use of borehole and geotechnical surveys for drilling programs as it can increase resource model accuracy. “We find that some companies are very aware of the importance of surveys but others are not,” says DuCote. “It can be a bit disheartening to see that drilling programs are still being executed with surveys that are not being done frequently enough or not at all. Samples are often taken too far apart.”
IDS was founded in 1997 to target these gaps in the industry by providing directional drilling and surveying services for surface and underground boreholes, which allows operators to have more control of the drilling bit. “IDS is a global company but it has a specialized team in Mexico that can offer geotechnical surveys that the company is still not providing in other markets such as the US and Canada,” explains DuCote. The company specializes in maximizing results in mineral exploration and offers precise directional drilling services and core applications. “Mexico is an excellent market for us. It is friendly to mining and has many underexplored deposits that we can help companies take advantage of.”
IDS promotes the use of surveys because the information can help companies cut down on costs that can arise from mistakes. “The lack of information about the characteristics and controls of the deposit can cause errors such as using magnetic tools in magnetic areas that are better suited to gyroscopic tools,” says DuCote. “It is important to avoid these types of errors. Deposits are getting deeper, more expensive and more difficult to find, which makes the price of mistakes much higher. This is where our services can help companies reduce the most costs.”
Along with a need for more investment in geotechnical surveys, Ducote believes that Mexican mines will become increasingly deeper. “In Canada, it is common to drill holes that are 2,000m deep, while in Mexico, boreholes rarely reach 1,500m or even 1,000m,” he says. “We have experience in these matters and can help companies perform multiple kick-offs from a single master hole to recapture the cost of re-drilling or coring the overlaying formations above the mineralized zone.” This helps projects start drilling at 700-800m, for example, instead of 0m. IDS achieves this by placing a steel wedge near the target to start the kick-off process. The company also has the capability to complete straight-hole drilling and pilot holes for raise bore shafts and utility boreholes.
When it comes to the number of drilling programs that exist in the country, DuCote says that exploration is not as lucrative as it was in 2011. “Metal prices have gone up but I do not think the margin for service providers or the miners have gone up,” he says. “Silver prices need to rise but are struggling to surpass US$17/oz. Once prices reach US$20/oz, the market in Mexico will accelerate rapidly and revenues will increase for everyone."