Small and Portable Drill Platform StrategyMon, 10/21/2013 - 22:33
In the 2013 edition of Worldwide Exploration Trends, the Metals Economics Group (MEG) estimated that the mining industry’s total budget for nonferrous metals exploration increased to US$21.5 billion in 2012. Exploration expenditures rose in all regions of the world during 2012, with Latin America receiving 25% of total exploration investment and remaining the world’s most popular exploration destination. The region’s geological potential has spurred the development of its exploration drilling services sector, including both local companies and global players that operate in various Latin American countries. Ingetrol is a provider of exploration equipment and services that belongs to the former group. It was created in 1990 after company founders Luis Silva and Marilú Málaga detected that the difficult geography of the Andean mountain range demanded the use of portable diamond core drilling machinery with advanced capabilities. The company has since developed innovative water drilling and exploration drilling products and has focused on offering two crucial solutions for the mining industry: portability, to avoid having to build access roads in remote areas, and having the smallest drill platforms in order to reduce environmental impact. The company has also developed rigs dedicated to drilling monitoring wells and portable rigs designed for permeability tests. This latter product uses a combination of hydraulic push techniques and seismic instruments to measure the velocity of soils and thus ensure slope stability.
Ingetrol Group is now present in all of the world’s regions, and has rigs in 42 countries. Luis Silva, CEO of Ingetrol Group, believes that the unique design of the company’s products is the key to its success. “Listening constantly to feedback from our customers to innovate our designs and the utilization of the best quality components have been key factors in our success,” he adds. The company has opened offices in four countries – Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Colombia - in order to serve its customers better. “The only way to really support these markets is being close by with trained technicians and with capabilities to overhaul our own rigs,” Silva states. Ingetrol also extends its product and service offering through a distribution network that covers 13 countries.
The company detected several opportunities in the Mexican market. First and foremost, the country’s geological potential and the industry’s boom attracted Ingetrol. Silva believes that, while Mexico has been a mining country for centuries, its vast territory still offers tremendous opportunities to find new ore deposits. “Mexico for sure will keep its leadership in silver and certainly will become one of the five main gold producers in the coming years. This potential needs to be explored and then drilled, and that creates tremendous opportunities for Ingetrol to serve the exploration companies,” he affirms. Furthermore, the company’s experience in other countries has enabled Ingetrol to better handle its projects in Mexico. “There are a great deal of similarities between the Andes and the Sierras of Mexico,” Silva says. “Geologically speaking, the stratigraphy of Mexico has suffered less compression than the Andes. Therefore, the drillability of the formations is different and you can drill faster. As a consequence, the axial force and the running speed become critical to really improve productivity.”
Mexico also offered Ingetrol commercial and technical advantages, which is why the company opened an office and a manufacturing plant in Torreon. “After visiting several potential locations we found that Mexico was best able to meet all our requirements. It is one of the countries with the highest number of free trade agreements, which gives a big advantage in exporting,” Silva remarks. He also highlights that the quality of the country’s professional environment – with an established base of metal workshops that can provide high quality frames and mechanized components – and the availability of good, hard-working technicians, were critical in Ingetrol’s decision. Today the company has instilled its philosophy in its Mexican employees. “Probably one of the most important characteristics that we try to enforce in our teams is that we are operating in an industry where learning is a continuous process,” Silva explains.
“There are always better ways to do something and special techniques to resolve a problem, so we never assume that we have all the answers and we are willing to listen to our clients.”
This philosophy has led to the development of state of the art equipment that allows exploration companies to increase productivity and reduce the cost per meter drilled. Ingetrol has a permanent R&D area that is continuously developing and testing new technology. “We invested in the development of aluminum engines in the US, and tested different materials for frame construction. We are currently launching a research project to dramatically increase the productivity using an approach that is different to what our industry has been doing for the last 100 years,” Silva comments. Ingetrol’s solutions are inspired by reality, and by the everyday problems exploration companies face. “We have several success stories but the most dramatic are when acrobatic drilling has been required in very steep conditions,” says Silva. “While exploring in the Sierra Madre, we brought in special rigs, which we customized in order to get large cores from shallows holes in very confined underground sites. These are challenges that nobody but us has coped with and succeeded in.”