The Mandela Mining Precinct launched the Isidingo Drill Design challenge in August 2018 to encourage the rapid design and development of an innovative South African drilling technology.
Eleven companies submitted concepts in October 2018 and HPE, Novatek and Fermel were selected to develop prototypes.
A year later, HPE and Novatek successfully tested their equipment at the precinct, demonstrating that they met the criteria of enhancing drill performance while reducing operator exposure to dangerous conditions.
The challenge stipulated certain criteria developed by industry: a lighter, quieter, more energy-efficient rock drill that is easier to assemble and dismantle.
"With our new offering, drilling is now possible in three ways, with a novel new hole guide puller, a stope drill jig or in a conventional manner with a thrustleg," said HPE Director, Ulrich Kienle, adding that their drilling system is suitable for any angle and application. “Once the first hole has been drilled, the hole guide puller repeats the process and guarantees correct burden spacing, parallelism and in-line thrusting.”
“The Isidingo Drill Design challenge contributes to zero harm in the mining sector with agility, efficiency and flexibility not often seen in traditional research and development approaches,” says Martin Pretorius, who is responsible for the Mandela Mining Precinct’s Longevity of Current Mines programme.
The challenge is the first initiative led by the Mandela Mining Precinct for the development of local solutions to SA mining challenges. The design of a better and safer drill was selected as the first challenge because drilling is the most important primary activity in the mining cycle.
The new rock drills are expected to solve challenges of drill weight, energy consumption, noise-induced hearing loss, and vibrations that cause fatigue and white-knuckle syndrome.
The next phase includes underground testing, with noise measurements by an independent specialist. They will also assess vibration and operator fatigue, and comparative operational efficiencies in pneumatic and hydropower drilling equipment.
“We needed the drill to be as light as possible, but still robust, and this was not easy,” said Novatek Managing Director, Julian Wills. Pet-named the Buffalo, Novatek’s drill, incorporates a spring, shaped like a buffalo’s horns, which embodies the animal’s strength, accuracy and speed.