Australia’s newest underground diamond drilling specialist, Webdrill, was founded by industry expert Jared Webb in 2014. The company is contracting at the Nicolsons Gold Mine in North Western Australia, making first-class underground diamond drilling machinery a priority for the operations. Prior to making the investments, Webdrill conducted thorough research before settling on Epiroc as its exclusive supplier.
Webdrill’s first purchase was the Diamec Smart 6 rig with the integrated Rod Handling System (RHS). The machinery makes the underground drilling less laborious and improves safety. Mining & Construction brought together Webdrill’s Jared Webb and Epiroc’s Dave Brooker for a discussion on their budding partnership.
Why was Epiroc chosen as exclusive supplier?
Jared Webb: ”During my time in the drilling industry I have been involved in the evolution of the range of rigs common to the industry today, and underground diamond drilling rigs are very different from the larger machines you might see drilling on the surface. Visiting the Epiroc factory in Sweden, as well as seeing a Diamec Smart 6 rig in operation at Boliden’s Kristineberg mine, I was impressed with the setup and operation of the rigs –including the RHS. The decision was made there and then. I knew what I wanted in a rig, and I was convinced that Epiroc could supply me with what I needed.”
Dave Brooker: ”Webdrill had specifik requirements Safety, productivity and technology were key focuses, and we were pleased to cooperate. The Diamec Smart 6 rig that Jared mentioned also has very powerful self-diagnostics, making it extremely easy to troubleshoot –which results in more uptime and less downtime for his operations.”
What are the key benefits of the RHS, the integrated Rod Handling System?
DB: ”The RHS device significantly reduces the manual workload of the driller’s offsider when replacing drill pipes. The key benefits of the system are button activation, offsider safety and the fact that it can handle the entire weight of a full core barrel and inner tube. It operates on a constant cycle time, reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries, and the rig can drill unattended.”
JW: ”Dave points are spot on. The RHS automation has reduced manual handling of rods for the driller and the offsider. It isn’t as fast as manual rod running, but the elimination of repetitive strain injuries is worth it from a safety point of view. It’s fast and easy to use –not to mention the unattended drilling function and programmability of the rig.”
Would you say this type of machinery is innovative for the mining industry?
DB: ”A lot of contractors still use non computercontrolled rigs, so it’s not completely common. At Epiroc Australia we have a team that is dedicated to the support of the RCS control systems, and that local expertise has been beneficial in the introduction and ongoing support of the machines and RHS rod handler. The system is a result of great collaboration between the local Epiroc team here in Australia and the global R&D department in Sweden.”
JW: ”The industry has really progressed, and Epiroc has remained among the industry leaders in this area. It still surprises me how much of the operation can be left to computers, and the benefits this has for working conditions and safety. For example, we have a laser barrier that goes across the drill cuddy and when unattended drilling is under way, if anyone walks through the laser the rig shuts down.”
Does the remoteness of the Nicolsons Gold Mine pose any challenges for your partnership?
JW: ”Not at all. We mainly communicate by phone and email with the Epiroc teams in Townsville or Perth. They are very knowledgeable and even take our calls after hours, which is rare. And when there have been issues, they have been resolved quickly.”
DB: ”For smaller on site issues, the RCS screen will show a fault message that can be sent to our service guys, that is then rectified immediately. The rig’s self-monitoring has proved to save a lot of on-site servicing, and the Webdrill personnel have become very proficient with the RCS. Epiroc also has branches and centers close to all of the mining centers, so we are very well placed to quickly support our customers.”
How would you describe your experience of the working relationship?
JW: ”It has been a learning curve for me, around the new drill technology and how the equipment operates. Overall it has been a positive experience. The Epiroc team allows me to have a custom-built rig to suit most mine types and ground conditions in the world. Having the ability to pick from a range of drills is an added bonus for Webdrill.”
DB: ”The two-way communication has been excellent. Jared provides a lot of feedback, and as a supplier we need feedback from people that are operating the equipment. He will come in to the office occasionally to review the machines and possibly ask for some level of customization. We have a local engineering team at our Perth facility, and we customized the drills to meet his specific requirements. It’s been a win-win.”
What does the future look like for Webdrill and Epiroc Australia?
JW: ”Webdrill plans to grow our fleet of Epiroc machinery in the coming years, so I would like to think we will have a long and prosperous relationship with Epiroc. They have done the right thing by me and I know they are continuing to develop new designs and improvements in Sweden, which is why they obviously appreciate my feedback and we are in constant communication.”
DB: ”I would say technology is a focus for both of us. We are both interested in modern technology, safety and automation. Webdrill has established their position in the marketplace and Epiroc are continuing to work on more features to be added to the RCS system. The future is looking bright for both parties. ”
4 keys to a successful partnership
Building and sustaining a strong supplier-customer relationship can be challenging. Here are some suggestions for how to maintain an effective partnership, according to Jared Webb and Dave Brooker.
1. Common goals
Both parties share a commitment to innovation, as represented by the RHS rod handler. Epiroc’s research department remains in close contact with operators, enabling both parties to regularly exchange ideas and suggest improvements.
2. Two-way communication
A willingness for the supplier to involve and consider customer opinions is utmost. Epiroc and Webdrill are in regular contact regarding feedback and customization.
3. Trust and integrity
Both parties appreciate a level of mutual trust. Webdrill trusts Epiroc to deliver the customization requested in order to give Webdrill a competitive edge. Webdrill also gives
regular constructive feedback to the Epiroc team based on their field operational experience with the machines.
4. Post-sales cooperation
Prompt responses to consumable requests, as well as regular material deliveries to the drill site, are part of a considered service program devised by Epiroc.