The road to growth with Epiroc

Over the past decade, ELF Drilling, a South African mining contractor, has seen its business increase substantially in tandem with its investments in Epiroc surface drilling equipment.
The road to growth with Epiroc The road to growth with Epiroc The road to growth with Epiroc The road to growth with Epiroc The road to growth with Epiroc

The fleet of rigs operated by ELF Drilling in South Africa includes a number of Epiroc FlexiROC D65 rigs

The company was founded in 2010 with just one rig and one operator. Today, it has more than 50 operators and a formidable fleet of 27 rigs, 24 of which are from Epiroc.

"It's been quite a journey," says Faghmi Cader, operation director, ELF Drilling. "Our determination to offer our clients the best equipment on the market has had a huge impact on our development."

The company's first assignment was to provide production hole drilling services for Anglo American's Kumba Iron Ore Company. In 2010, the company purchased its first FlexiROC drill rig (a FlexiROC D65) from Epiroc - and has never looked back.

In 2012 ELF secured worked on UMK Mine. In 2014, it secured further contracts to supply drilling services to two more mines, the KMR Mine and Vedanta Mines in South Africa's Northern Cape Province.

Since the first Epiroc rig was acquired, ELF Drilling has gone from strength to strength, year-on-year, consistently expanding its drilling capabilities in step with the development of FlexiROC technology. The FlexiROC D60 and D65 units, as well as SmartROC D65 drill rigs have all been part of the company's fleet.

The company also uses a BenchREMOTE system, Epiroc's mobile rig control system that enables drillers to control a rig from a distance whenever bad weather or other adverse conditions may jeopardize operator safety on the benches.

Moreover, ELF Drilling is the only mining contractor in Southern Africa to operate an Epiroc DTH (down-the-hole) simulator for FlexiROC D65 operator training

Conditions on site

Conditions at the KMR (Kudumane Manganese Resources) mine, located about 60km northwest of Kuruman, are challenging; dry and cold in winter, hot and rainy in summer and the in-pit environment is extremely dusty regardless of the season.

Nine Epiroc rigs are at work here, including both FlexiROC and SmartROC units.

Working on 10m high benches, they drill 165mm blast holes in lime/calcrete, banded iron ore formations and manganese ore. The drilling pattern is 4 x 3.5m and the holes are drilled at angles of 70 and 90 degrees, 14m deep with 1m of subdrilling.

At the Vedanta Mine site, some 30km away at Black Mountain Mining, the environment and general set-up are the same as at KMR, except that here ELF's fleet of 10 FlexiROC and SmartROC rigs are drilling 10m holes in quartz rock and zinc ore.

Penetration rates per hour vary greatly depending on the materials encountered in the pits. Nevertheless, ELF Drilling says the rigs perform well in all material types and enable the company to meet its daily and monthly targets.

Fuel efficiency the key

Eduard Mostert, the very first operator and joint founder of the company, is now technical operations director. He recalls that price was an important factor back in 2012 but that it soon became apparent that the rig's superior performance was setting the standard for the future. Today, fuel efficiency of the FlexiROC rigs is a major factor for the company and highly appreciated by ELF Drilling's customers since they supply the fuel.

In terms of overall benefits, Mostert says the rigs produce high-quality holes "to pinpoint accuracy"; are "a blessing" on uneven surfaces and "effortlessly" drill angled holes. In addition, he says repair and maintenance work is easy to carry out thanks to the ability to position the rig's tower horizontally.

Summing up the FlexiROC D65, Mostert concluded: "This is a robust, multi-functional drill rig that is capable of taking on the toughest drilling challenges and exceeding expectations.

"Besides this, all our operators are unanimous in saying there is no better rig to drill with and that it's a pleasure to use every day. So, will we be adding more Epiroc equipment to our operations? You bet."

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