TECHNOLOGY

Master Drilling continues technological development

Master Drilling has cited global economic uncertainty as a contributing factor to its “reasonable results” for the half year, though the firm has maintained an “unwavering” commitment to its innovation and technology investment programmes

Staff reporter
 Master Drilling's remote drilling technology was successfully commissioned at the Mponeng mine in South Africa

Master Drilling's remote drilling technology was successfully commissioned at the Mponeng mine in South Africa

The financials included contributions from the Atlantis Group books, which Master bought at the back end of last year, to help deliver a modest 4% lift in revenues to US$70 million. But a stronger rand and difficult market conditions underpinned a 14% drop in earnings per share to 5.4c.

Master chief executive Danie Pretorius said the fall in earnings was "inevitable" but said the numbers would not deter the group from its pursuit of its diversification across geographies, commodities and sectors.

"In this regard, we have worked hard to position our existing businesses across regions, while stabilising new operations and growing our presence in new territories where we believe opportunities will arise, such as in Russia and Australia," he said.

A global, new business pipeline of almost $300 million and a "strong" order book of some $200 million likely helped Pretorius' confidence. He also said Master's R&D programme would progress unabated.

"While political and economic factors continue to shape our operating environment, at Master Drilling we continue to spearhead technological development," he said.

The lion's share of capital spend has to date focused on capacity expansion, with past investments starting to pay off, particularly around remote drilling technology. Master successfully tested this technology in South Africa at AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng and has since sold the product into Mexico and Peru.

Meanwhile, the commissioning of the Mobile Tunnel Borer (MTB) is in progress at Northam Platinum's Eland mine in South Africa, with underground drilling having already commenced. In addition, the first phase of the shaft-boring system - a new shaft-sinking system - is also being commissioned.

"This bears testament to Master Drilling's unwavering commitment to technology development and testing, which will continue to be a key focus during the remainder of 2019," the group said in its financial statement.

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