The solution will be ready for commissioning in the September quarter of this year. Master Drilling’s internally conceptualised design and internationally patented MTB technology was developed in response to the growing demand from clients, and the mining industry at large, for a cost effective mechanised tunnelling contract service offering that addresses safety and efficiency challenges on new and existing operations. The new solution may also make it possible for marginal projects to pass feasibility hurdles due to cost and time savings.
Danie Pretorius, CEO of Master Drilling, said: “This disruptive technology allows continuous mining and requires no blasting, thereby significantly enhancing mining efficiencies. It is as advantageous at the capital stage of mining projects, with quicker deployment and access to the orebody, as it is at the production stage through substantial productivity increase when opening up blocks of ground or increasing a mine’s footprint.”
Master Drilling’s MTB solution can bore out an excavation of 4.5m and/or 5.5m in diameter at a rate that far exceeds conventional tunnel construction methods. The MTB can deliver various infrastructure solutions such as for declines, ramps, haulages and contact tunnels in hard rock with compressive strengths in excess of 300MPa.
Its modular construction makes it also possible to retrofit to existing operations and major mining companies have expressed interest in deploying Master Drilling’s first MTB once commissioned in the third quarter of 2018.
Koos Jordaan, executive director of Master Drilling, commented: “The concept phase of our MTB started in April 2017 and after consideration of various alternatives, we made the decision to pursue a collaborative option in the market to realise the concept. We are pleased to have partnered with Italy’s Seli Technologies, a company with half a century’s experience principally in civil mechanised tunnelling, to manufacture and assist us during operation of our first MTB.”
The continuous process involves excavation, support and waste removal that creates a smooth circular excavation that does not disturb the side walls of the tunnel. In addition, the geometry makes for a stable and strong tunnel and, because it is a non-explosive process, it increases the on-face time and delivers higher production advances on a cost-efficient basis.
Pretorius concluded: “As a solution driven company delivering a fully mechanised range of services to clients, we will continue to invest in R&D as this new service is adopted and matures. We believe this solution presents substantial future growth opportunities for Master Drilling and we plan to order new MTBs on a continuous basis with the second machine planned for early 2019.”
Master Drilling’s MTB solution will be deployed through a newly established and dedicated division, Master Tunnelling. Master Drilling is also exploring other opportunities in the civil tunnelling industry.