Drilling and Blasting Done Right

Total Drilling Services

Where mining is concerned, drilling and blasting seems like a fairly straightforward concept – a drilling and blasting company will put the explosives where they want them and then detonate them. Most of the time however, there are numerous factors which must be taken into consideration. It actually takes many years of experience to get the process right.

These skilled workers aren’t just being paid to blow things up; they must be highly trained professionals who can calculate the precise amount of explosive needed to correctly fracture an area such that it can be excavated efficiently. Rules must be followed and guidelines met so that no one gets hurt and the job gets done properly. After all, you can destroy just about anything with the right amount or the wrong amount of explosives – it is knowing the difference between the two which separates those who do their job well from those who do not.

At Mt Cattlin, two kilometres north of the small town of Ravensthorpe in Western Australia, there is an open pit pegmatite mine owned by Galaxy Resources Limited. The pegmatite ore is removed from the ground here by using a specialised combination of grade control drilling and earth moving techniques. This pegmatite is processed on site to produce a spodumene concentrate as well as a tantalum by-product. When this process is all said and done, Lithium (LI3) will be removed from the spodumene concentrate.

Lithium is a very light metal, used to make lithium-ion batteries to go into electric cars, mobile phones and tablets as well as many other battery operated devices. These batteries are very special because they have no “memory” and last much longer than a typical Nickel Cadmium battery, which can only be charged a certain number of times before it no longer holds a charge. About 26 per cent of the world’s mined lithium goes into making batteries; another 26 per cent is used for making glass and ceramics for stove tops because lithium oxide tolerates rapid temperature change very well. 14 per cent of the world’s lithium mined is used for thickening mineral oil for lubricant greases. It is also used in medications for treating mental illness, air conditioning applications, dehumidification systems, welding electrodes, nucleonics, luminescent paints, varnishes, dyes, rubber and aluminium production.

Total Drilling Services Pty Ltd has been contracted to take charge of the delicate process of drilling and blasting as well as the grade control drilling operations at the Mt Cattlin mine. Some may think that there is nothing delicate about drilling and blasting, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In this case, because Mt Cattlin is so close to Ravensthorpe there are very strict environmental guidelines which must be followed. According to Robert Grayson, Contracts Manager at Total Drilling Service Pty Ltd, “The restrictions on the blasting controls are quite strict, so all the blasts have to be very strictly controlled to prevent flyrock and to comply with vibration and noise restrictions.”

“There is a fine balance between compliance with the site restrictions and providing the client with an acceptable level of fragmentation,” explains Mr Grayson. He is proud to state that within the two years Total Drilling Services has been working at Mt Cattlin there hasn’t even been one non-compliance issue in relation to the blasting conditions. All blasts are subject to measurement of ground vibrations, noise and video capture. The results of all these measurements are reviewed immediately following each blast and the results used for continuous improvement of the process.

The success of this body of work is due in large part to the quality of the staff that has been working on the project. These staff members are often highly experienced prior to commencing with TDS and are all trained in-house to meet Total Drilling Services’ high standards, as well as being subjected to regular independent third party audits to measure compliance and expertise levels and to develop ongoing continuous improvement plans.

The company began its drilling and blasting operations in 1999 and has since evolved to a medium sized provider of quality services for the mining and construction industries. Total Drilling Services now boasts a fleet that contains top hammer blast hole drills, down hole hammer blast hole and reverse circulation drills. As well, the company’s fleet contains explosive manufacturing vehicles, explosive magazine and storage facilities, portable workshops and offices for quick setup and take down. With this equipment, Mr Grayson can proudly attest, “We can take care of all our clients’ drilling, blasting, explosives, and blast design, as well as their in-pit grade control drilling requirements.”

In a world where, more often than not, you get what you pay for, Total Drilling Services does a high quality job at a realistic price, and strives to meet client expectations in a safe and timely manner. “We differentiate ourselves from a lot of smaller competitors in providing services that our client might expect from a larger organisation, both in quality and price,” explains Mr Grayson.

Sitting somewhere between the small operations and the big players, Total Drilling Services offers big service with the nimbleness and responsiveness of a smaller organisation. The company also has the advantage of being able to put capital into expanding its operations as needed to meet customer needs. If there is an operation that requires an expansion of services, Total Drilling will invest appropriately to get it done.

The company’s head office is located in Malaga, but its roots lie at its regional office and workshop located in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. Both locations are used to support multiple operations throughout Australia, with the company’s operations managers just a call away. The management team prides itself on being hands-on and involved with all day-to-day operations; there is no job that they can’t handle, asserts Mr Grayson. More than anything, Total Drilling is in the business to do its job with safety and quality top of mind.

It was Thomas Edison who said, “One per cent inspiration, 99 per cent perspiration” – this was his definition of genius. This quote has often been used to describe success as well. Most would view success as a job well done, a goal met and finished. When speaking to the Total Drilling Services management team, it becomes apparent that the company has already reached its goal, which is simply to perform to the best of its ability, day in and day out. Hard work isn’t merely the vessel of success; the hard work is the success. It’s being able to walk out of the pit at the end of the day and feel as if something great was accomplished.

Strategic Resources

There are 17 classified rare earth elements, many of which have strategic purposes. Rare in name only, these elements are anything but scarce as they are found all over the world. The challenge rare earth elements pose is during extraction, as they exist in low concentrations and are difficult to separate from one another.

December 15, 2019, 2:52 PM AEDT

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