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CityPress - - Business - JUSTIN BROWN busi­ness@city­press.co.za

A local mine drilling com­pany this week launched a new type of tun­nel bor­ing method that it hopes will be­come a com­pet­i­tive means to make hor­i­zon­tal tun­nels, bring down costs, speed up min­ing and im­prove safety.

Mas­ter Drilling, which is listed on the JSE, is test­ing the method – hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing – at Pe­tra Di­a­monds’ mine in Cul­li­nan near Pre­to­ria in a trial that en­tails drilling a 220m tun­nel. The project em­ploys 30 to 40 peo­ple.

Danie Pre­to­rius, the CEO of Mas­ter Drilling, said the com­pany was hop­ing the sys­tem could be ap­plied in the min­ing, civil and en­ergy sec­tors.

In the civil sec­tor, hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing could be used for ex­ca­vat­ing tun­nels through moun­tains or hills, con­nect­ing par­al­lel metro and rail­way tun­nels, as well as for tun­nels re­quired to run un­der­neath roads.

In the en­ergy sec­tor, hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing could be used for nu­clear stor­age tun­nels or short tail races in hy­dro­elec­tric plants.

The ad­van­tages con­nected with hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing in­clude less need for sup­port com­pared with con­ven­tional drilling and blast­ing meth­ods, which use ex­plo­sives.

“The con­tin­u­ous ex­ca­vat­ing cy­cle, and the cir­cu­lar struc­ture of the ex­ca­va­tion, leave a stronger pro­file tun­nel,” Mas­ter Drilling said in a brochure is­sued at the Min­ing Ind­aba in Cape Town this week.

“In cer­tain lo­ca­tions, it is im­pos­si­ble to as­sem­ble a tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine due to its length and size. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, es­tab­lish­ing a plant for hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing op­er­a­tions is quicker and eas­ier to im­ple­ment,” the com­pany added.

“Hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing tech­nol­ogy is more cost­ef­fec­tive and is, in some cases, a more re­li­able sys­tem com­pared with a tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine sys­tem,” Mas­ter Drilling said.

Koos Jor­daan, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Mas­ter Drilling, said hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing could de­velop into a new tun­nelling method.

Hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing also con­sumes far less power than a tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine does.

Jor­daan said as­pects of the hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing sys­tem had been patented and added that hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing could di­ver­sify the ser­vices pro­vided by Mas­ter Drilling.

Hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing could dou­ble or triple the pro­duc­tiv­ity com­pared with drilling and blast­ing, which ad­vances at 2m a day.

Hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing also re­quires fewer peo­ple than drilling and blast­ing does.

An­other ad­van­tage of hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing is that it

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Pre­to­rius de­clined to dis­close the in­vest­ment that the com­pany had made in the new tech­nol­ogy.

Teon Swanepoel, Pe­tra Di­a­monds’ min­ing ex­ec­u­tive, said there were vast ben­e­fits that could flow from hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing “if it worked”.

Swanepoel said that hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing cre­ated a “con­sis­tent tun­nel shape” com­pared with drilling and blast­ing, which cre­ate an ir­reg­u­lar shape and is a “vi­o­lent ex­er­cise”.

“Hor­i­zon­tal raise bor­ing is an all-round safer ac­tiv­ity when com­pared with drilling and blast­ing.”

Mas­ter Drilling has op­er­a­tions in South Africa, in other African coun­tries, in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo, Mali, Zam­bia, Sierra Leone and Tan­za­nia, and in Latin Amer­ica, the US and China.

PHOTO: DEON RAATH

DEEP DIV­ING Cul­li­nan An ex­am­ple of the ef­fec­tive­ness of the ma­chine at Pe­tra Di­a­monds’ mine in

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