South African mining industry to receive a boost with new high-tech rock drills

Images by CSIR and Mining Weekly; also see the drills in action in CSIR videos below

MEMSA was proud to witness member companies Novatek and HPE demonstrate the efficiencies of their rock drill prototypes at the Isidingo Challenge Phase 2 launch hosted at the Mandela Mining Precinct on Tuesday 19 November.

Remarkably, both achieved a weight of 16kg, half of the 28-32 kg of traditional rock drills. Noise and vibration have been successfully reduced, while each drill has a system to allow accurate, parallel drilling. Both designs are for hydro-powered drills, which are energy and water efficient and environmentally friendly.

The Mandela Mining Precinct initiatied the Isidingo Drill Design Challenge after recognising a need to develop a new locally manufactured rock drill for the mining industry. The Challenge represents the first instance of mines coming together and agreeing on key features required in a particular piece of equipment, and sharing this with the SA mining supply chain. With excellent results so far, further challenges are in the pipeline.

The challenge consists of three phases. The first phase entailed the introduction of a new and innovative rock-drill concept design; followed by the prototype construction associated with testing and monitoring. The third phase will entail manufacturing and underground performance testing.

After a vigorous evaluation, Novatek and HPE were selected to develop rock-drill prototypes which were tested at the Mandela Mining Precinct; each company received funding to assist with R&D costs. The public tests on 19 November successfully illustrated both companies’ adherence to the primary criteria of enhancing the performance of the drill, reducing the exposure of operators to dangerous conditions and contributing to zero harm. Underground testing and adjustments to the current design is expected to be complete in March 2020.

Both finalists found the balance between weight and robustness to be the most challenging, and developed significantly lighter drills with in-built technology to absorb much of the vibration – so allowing steady drilling with a light-weight machine.
Both commented that the Challenge pushed their design teams beyond what they had thought possible to achieve, and that participation had been a fun, team-building experience which ultimately proved their capacity for radical innovation.

Underground testing on the drills will take place in early 2020, followed by Phase 3 with a focus on commercialisation.

The new drill designs have the capacity to bring significant improvements to health and safety, as well as cost savings and greater efficiency to the South African (and global) hard rock mining environment. Using hydro power, both drills are energy and water efficient.

The overall impacts of the Isidingo Drill Challenge may extend far beyond the stope face as local design and manufacture of mining equipment represents a powerful lever to grow industrial capacity and jobs in South Africa.

Read more about the launch event and designs in this Mining Weekly article

Watch the CSIR’s video containing interviews with Martin Pretorius (SAMERDI), Sietse van der Woude (Minerals Council of SA) and Thobile Nhleko, project manager.

Below: Julian Wills of Novatek and Ulrich Kienle of HPE address a full auditorium at the Isidingo Stage 2 Launch.