Master Drilling's internally conceptualised design and internationally patented MTB technology were developed in response to a 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.
Danie Pretorius, chief executive 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."
According to Master Drilling, its 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 September 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 company stated, 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.
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.