Malcolm Chappell
National Operations Director

Nimble Drill Provider Develops Edge in Innovation

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 16:25

Few segments of the mining value chain are as susceptible to the industry’s twists and turns as drilling. With Coreboss being one of the world’s best drill designers, its National Operations Director, Malcolm Chappell, has a refreshingly sanguine view about the impact of a sluggish mining market on drilling prospects. “Even though things are improving, with the first signs of life now starting to appear, the last couple of years have been long, burdened by the worst down cycle in a century,” he says, while giving Mexico a great vote of confidence. “Mexico is a great mining jurisdiction with a strong future and a fast track method for building mines. Furthermore, the country is a natural extension of our operations as a Canadian company and is well on the way to becoming a top market for us. In fact, we estimate around 25-30% of steady annual growth coming from here.” Coreboss’ ability to navigate the turbid waters of the mining industry comes from its history of designing and manufacturing drills for all comers. “We have supplied some major drilling companies with proprietary drilling technology. This is thanks to our ability to provide portability and an integrated supply chain for drills and drill supplies,” explains Chappell.

Despite an engaging brand name, Coreboss has a long history of making drills that do not bear its moniker. The company has instead built up its reputation by providing a more refined and diverse drill product portfolio. Its equipment can be designed to answer specific size or transportation challenges within mines, or to make operations more environmentally sound. On the environmental side, Coreboss uses a track carriage on a lot of its rigs, allowing drilling contractors to mitigate the use of bulldozers for building access roads, and avoiding remediation costs for repairing said access. Chappell says that many mining companies have been receptive to such ideas. “Market conditions mean that mining operators are keen on saving money and becoming greener. Our track carriages have brought down the total holistic cost of projects by removing the need to build and deconstruct access roads.” Hand in hand with this, Coreboss also provides rubber tracker mounted drills, which Chappell says come at a good price point and offer drilling contractors a faster option for mobilization and setup. This speed and efficiency is at the heart of the company’s flexible product offering.

Moving equipment around different mines requires a comprehensive range of adaptability levels. At the basic end, Coreboss will sometimes get requests to add wheels to a rig, enabling it to be pushed. At the more advanced end, rigs need the capability to pass through small crosssections of adits. Coreboss can build rigs that are small enough to navigate such restricted entrances, but still retain their full performance. The same logic applies to specific products used inside mines, where improved efficiency and performance are constantly sought. Another product that Coreboss is actively promoting in Mexico is the thinwall drill rod, which provides a larger core for the same drill series. Instead of an NQ core size, this thin-wall series will provide a larger NTW core with less curve, while using less water and less face torque on the drill. Chappell explains that the reception of this innovation among operators has been mixed. Operators who are sticking to the status quo are not showing interest, but, due to the possibility of using less water and producing a bigger sample, Coreboss innovations such as these are finding traction among those looking to get more performance out of their rigs. Similarly, Chappell admits that newer drilling companies, or those with a younger executive team, tend to be much more aggressive about trying out and adopting fresh technologies. “Our products have a self-selecting aspect to them because they are a little more technologically advanced than the alternatives. We seem to attract companies who notice that our machines fit their needs, and are interested in trying something different.” Alongside the thin-wall drill rod, Coreboss has developed systems for recovering drilling fluid, which is of particular interest to projects experiencing a deficit of water. A couple of these systems have already been rolled out in Mexico, and while they do cost more and take more skill to run, they allow operators to significantly reduce their water usage.

Being smaller than the likes of Atlas Copco or Sandvik, Chappell says the size of Coreboss is what allows it to be so nimble. “Our customers are always suggesting alternative methods for us to operate, and we listen to those ideas. We also drill with our equipment in actual exploration situations before it is released. Our customers appreciate the fact that our designs have been tested in the field.” He adds that Coreboss seeks to maintain a balance between recognizing new technologies, incorporating them into new models, and finding a successful price point. Chappell returns to his positive tone about the current state of mining economics. “The operating mines have both the budgets and the cash flow for this situation. New exploration currently suffers from a lack of investment, but we expect contractors to do well, especially as Coreboss becomes more and more specialized with its drilling techniques,” he concludes.