The prototype of the world's first coiled tubing drill rig (CT Rig) for exploration has been launched in the Adelaide Hills today.
The rig will be commissioned by the Deep Exploration Technologies Cooperative Research Centre (DET CRC), which was established in 2010 to uncover more cost-effective methods for exploration under deep rock cover.
The launch of the CT Rig is to be the highlight of the DET CRC's conference, which is being held today at the Brukunga Drilling Research and Training Facility in the Adelaide Hills.
DET CRC CEO Richard Hillis said the "the CT Rig promises to reduce the time and expenses associated with drilling operations to find new mineral deposits".
"The launch of the prototype CT Rig comes at a vital time for the mining industry," he said.
The exploration sector has been particularly hard hit during the downturn.
In Queensland the sector has shrunk by 31 per cent year-on-year.
“This is not just a Queensland trend, but a problem being felt right across Australia, and indeed globally,” the Queensland Exploration Council said.
Minex Consulting managing director Richard Schodde stated that "mining companies are under extreme pressure to lower costs and improve operating margins. Cutting back on exploration can save the company money in the short term – but at the expense of putting its long term security at risk.
"Junior companies, which make up nearly half of the total exploration spend in Australia have also had to cut back on exploration because of difficulties in raising equity from shareholders. Underpinning both cases is a perception about the risk/reward for exploration.
"At the moment investors are risk-averse, and the exploration industry (for both major and junior companies) is generally not good at identifying and making the business case on the likely rewards accruing from their exploration programs.
"More than ever, we need to find cost-effective methods of minerals exploration," Hillis added.
"Currently, 80 per cent of Australia’s minerals production comes from mines that were discovered more than 30 years ago, yet more than 50 per cent of Australia’s export income comes from mining. Indeed, based on current reserves, resources and rates of exploitation, half of Australia’s existing major non-bulk commodity mines could close down within 7 to 18 years," Hillis said.
"By reducing the time and expense to find mineral deposits hidden under deep, barren cover rock, the CT Rig will encourage more mineral exploration both in Australia and worldwide."
Instead of using drill rods like typical rigs, the CT Rig uses a continuous reel of tubing which eliminates the manual handling of drill rods, directly addressing many of the hand injury issues that arise during manual handling, while at the same time maximising the amount of time the bit is at the bottom of the hole.
The rig launched today uses steel tubing, however there are plans to experiment with other tubing materials such as carbon fibre.