Drilling contractor beats skills shortage

DRILLING contractor Ausdrill has flagged its strategy of investing in high-performance equipment to overcome the current shortage of skilled operators.

DRILLING contractor Ausdrill has flagged its strategy of investing in high-performance equipment to overcome the current shortage of skilled operators by placing the biggest order for surface tophammer track drills ever won by Sandvik Mining and Construction globally.

Ausdrill has purchased 20 of the latest DP1500 tophammer surface drills for delivery by the end of 2008. Ausdrill’s General Manager – Australian Operations, Andrew Broad, said the current manpower shortage in the resource sector made it increasingly important to maximise output per machine.

“It’s a simple equation – fewer machines with more grunt mean we can achieve more productivity with less operators. The new 1500s are 30% more productive than our 1100s,” said Andrew.

“Some of the new units will be used to absorb the expansion of our mining contract business and new work in civil contracts, and the balance to replace some of the older units in the fleet.”

Ausdrill and African Mining Services (AMS), which has major open-cut mining contracts in Ghana, have traditionally been heavy users of Sandvik drilling equipment, and the companies played a key role in developing the Australian specification for earlier model DP1500s in the mid-1990s.

“We invested time with Sandvik design and production staff to make sure we got exactly the drill we needed for Australian conditions, and today’s 1500s are a very different proposition to the first model we were shown,” he said.

While Ausdrill and Sandvik have enjoyed a long relationship, Andrew said that, when the decision was made to re-equip the drilling fleet, Sandvik was not an automatic choice.

“Our surface drill fleet comprised more than 30 CHA1100s and over 20 DP1500’s, and our strategy was to purchase 20 of the larger drills.

“That’s a serious purchasing decision, and we took a careful look at all the alternatives.

“We had decided to order a fleet of identical machines. We have always been big on standardisation because it offers a whole range of savings, from operator training to spares inventory and maintenance.”

Ausdrill’s analysis and trialing of a range of competitive drills underlined the superior productivity and reliability of the DP1500s, and the multi-million dollar order was placed late in 2007.

Five units have already been delivered, with the balance of the order to be completed during the current year. Sandvik Account Manager, Bert Butter, says the intention is to run all the machines with Sandvik GT60 drill strings. However, rather than using the standard MF rod, the units are being set up to drill with extension rods and couplings, a configuration better suited to some tough Australian conditions.

At the completion of delivery of the 20 new DP1500s, Ausdrill will boast the world’s largest fleet of Sandvik drills. This consolidates one of the longest and most successful supplier/contractor relationships in Australian surface mining – a relationship that began with the purchase of a single Sandvik drill in Ausdrill’s maiden year, 21 years ago.

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