Cheaper, faster mineral exploration

May 13, 2019

The $218 million MinEx CRC is the world’s largest exploration collaboration and brings deep new tech to the challenges of depleted resources.


The RoXplorer Coiled Tube Drilling rig enables safe, efficient mineral exploration.

The RoXplorer Coiled Tube Drilling (CTD) rig that was commercialised by mining firms IMDEX and Barrick Gold in 2018 is now the platform for two complementary research programs at the new MinEx CRC.

Developed originally by the Deep Exploration Technologies (DET) CRC, CTD technology replaces multiple individual rigid drill rods with a single, flexible steel tube wound on a spool. This makes drilling exploration holes much faster and cheaper, says Andrew Bailey, CEO of the MinEx CRC.

The CTD system’s flexible steel tube is led by a drill that uses recirculated high-pressure water to hammer or slice through rock, and can dig up to 110m a day, says Bailey. The assay samples are carried back up to the surface by the water for analysis.

Barrick Gold is now one of 35 participants in the MinEx CRC that began operations in July 2018, focussing on mineral exploration technologies and inheriting some of the now- defunct DET CRC’s research and commercialisation licenses.

Typical exploration holes are 500m deep and the MinEX CRC research aims to double this. A parallel research program aims to harness data generated by on-board sensors for the first time to geo-steer the drill, either towards a predicted mineral lode, or around a known or suspected obstacle.

As well as being faster and cheaper than conventional drilling techniques, the CTD technology is also safer as less direct human intervention is required, and environmentally superior as the system uses water rather than the oil-based ‘mud’ compounds used in conventional drilling.

Gregor Ferguson

This article was published in KnowHow Issue 9.

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