Versatile Drills Essential to Exploration Activities,Wed, 10/21/2015 - 16:36
When a company takes on the most difficult projects and delivers safe and effective operations, its name gets around. VERSA Perforaciones (VERSA) has worked with big names in the mining industry, such as Endeavour Silver and Silvermex. The company has also been working in one of Dyna Resources’ projects for some years now, where it has drilled a total of 30,000m. Francois Dumont, General Manager of VERSA Perforaciones Mexico, attributes his company’s success to its technological capabilities, the quality of its service, and its quick response to customers’ needs. Dumont stresses that the mining industry is in constant motion. For instance, recently approved legislations are changing operational models, and environmental norms are becoming increasingly strict. This became evident to Dumont when he noticed the demand for large drill bits was dropping. Smaller and more versatile drill bits that minimize environmental impact are now being sought instead. “Nowadays clients ask for mobile or semi-mobile drills that can be easily deployed to exploration sites. Suppliers that are able to provide these alternatives will certainly be able to continue growing,” Dumont explains adding that the current popularity of mobile drills is related to the fact that around 16 people are needed to assemble and dismount a piece of equipment, which is rather inconvenient for most companies. VERSA’s machines provide great mobility because of their size and distribution, and Dumont says his company does not need large groups of people to drill efficiently. The synergy between mobile equipment and small teams results in a competitive advantage because tight performance ultimately reduces costs for clients.
The quality of a drilling company’s staff and equipment is ultimately put to the test when cores are delivered. Dumont is firm to stress that poor cores do not result from problems associated with drills, but rather from a lack of appropriate drilling products. He claims this tends to happen when the right polymers are not used, which is common when operators use the wrong product or decide to cut expenses by acquiring cheap products. Dumont claims that many drillers insist on using bentonite excessively without considering its abrasive effects. Conversely, VERSA has decided to use it as little as possible because it significantly reduces the drilling procedure’s performance and it contributes to equipment wear. “We opted to invest in competitive products that help improve our performance when it comes to core recovery,” Dumont tells. Although VERSA uses state-of-the-art technology, Dumont brings about the question of what makes a good drilling company. “The success and quality of exploration activities does not depend so much on the technology used, but on the people conducting the operation,” states Dumont.
Mexico has an important mining tradition and, according to Dumont, the mining sector has become a target for many foreign firms. However, he believes that not many companies are ready to overcome the challenges this country presents. “Mexico’s topography is very complex compared to other countries where I have worked,” comments Dumont. “This causes operating costs to be higher because more hours are required for exploration activities and the equipment wears out faster. The Mexican earth crust has plenty of fractures that wear out the drill heads and demand heavier polymer use.” Mexico’s challenging geological conditions cause companies like VERSA to raise the costs of their services. Dumont notes that, in the past 18 months, clients have moved away from less flexible quoted rates and more toward steady prices that consider all the costs entailed in an exploration campaign so that clients can better plan their budgets. “Companies have become very cautious regarding their budgets because they do not want to be economically responsible for inconveniences that happen during exploration. Under this approach, the risk of additional expenses falls on the contractor.”
Cost control and efficiency are the main strategies VERSA has adopted in order to survive in the mining industry’s current situation. For Dumont, fostering organic growth is equally important because incurring debt can be dangerous under the latest fiscal regime. The ongoing list of struggling junior companies seems to be proving him right. “It is likely that companies that bought drilling equipment just before the end of the last mining boom went bankrupt because they could not fulfill their financial obligations,” explains Dumont. “Growth has to be humble and well managed, in order to be prepared for the many contingencies that can occur in this sector.”