One of the constraints to current conventional narrow reef underground gold and PGM mines is the lack of an accurate, faster, lighter and manoeuvrable drilling system that uses an alternative power source to compressed air. Three drilling technologies were identified that have the potential to improve on all the constraints that are offered by current drilling technologies: the VIBES Telescopic (GST) drilling machine, the CMTI MT 3500 multi-drilling machine, and the EPIROC drilling machine.

Research and development

Underground trials were planned with researchers to monitor the drill machine performances. The team put together a report of a comparison of the performance analysis with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) specifications. The team also updated the Technology Availability and Readiness Atlas (TARA) system and published a best practice document.

The CMT MT3500 drill machine was used to conduct an underground trial at Bathopele Mine. From the OEM report (CMTI, 2018), the underground test results of the CMTI drill machine achieved an average of 368 operating hours per month. The EPIROC drill machine has undergone underground testing at Anglo American, and a full report of the machine performance was presented to the Mandela Mining Precinct.


The drill machines of both VIBES and CMTI have the potential to meet industrial criteria, the first of which is to enable the operation of the drill out of the dangerous area. The underground application is dependent on the acceptance of the operators to operate the machine, and the ability to adopt the “modernised thinking” approach. The CMTI is further challenged with the mine design for accessing workings and the logistical environment to operate.

No substantial data could be obtained from any underground trails, which were monitored by the research team. The researchers could not get access to the sites when the underground trials were done; this was due to non-continuous underground testing being conducted at the Harmony Bambanani Mine, testing the VIBES (GST) drill machine.

This research was commissioned to the CSIR.


The Drilling Equipment Monitoring project has been completed. A surface test facility is being established to enable a standardised facility to test all the drill machine performances and compare the results, the data of which will be made available in the TARA system.