In Mongolia, Major Drilling is making big strides. The latter half of 2022 marks the beginning of a new era of energy exploration, even as the Branch celebrates 20 years of local employment, up-to-date specialized drilling rigs, expert crews, and readily available maintenance facilities for area clients. The Branch is well positioned to service the greater region’s exploration for a variety of commodities as it embarks on a third decade of specialized drilling services in Mongolia.
A large-size rig drills well pilot holes at Elixir Energy’s Nomgon IX CBM exploration project.
A New Era of Energy Exploration
Major Drilling’s specialized drilling expertise is bringing new opportunities through energy exploration. A contract signed in June 2022 with Australia-based gas exploration and development company Elixir Energy brought Major Drilling’s deep-hole rigs to the Nomgon IX coalbed methane gas exploration project for initial well drilling.
Drilling teams received commendations from Elixir for its first two Mongolia energy wells completed in record time.
“I congratulate our drilling contractor Major Drilling and our own on-site team, who have worked tirelessly to deliver a quick, safe and fit-for-purpose pilot well,” said Neil Young, Elixir Energy Managing Director. “Our CBM pilot production project continues to go to plan with the completion of the drilling of the two pilot wells.”
The first well in the country’s south was drilled to a total depth of 488 meters in 11 days. The second well was drilled to a total depth of 562 meters in 10 days, a new record for Elixir. This is the first time such a program has been undertaken in the Gobi region all completed safely, on time and on budget.
Until now, specialized drilling services have operated mainly on the Oyu Tolgoi copper project in South Gobi. Both copper and CBM projects require big rigs like the T130, UDR 5000 and the exploration expertise of Major Drilling’s Mongolia Branch workforce.
Sam Williams, Major Drilling Mongolia General Manager, is proud of his team for kicking off such a strong beginning to energy sector drilling in Mongolia. “We have the solid regional support Elixir needs to achieve their exploration goals,” he said. “These results create very good prospects of future energy sector work in the region and further commodity exploration for several clients.”
Prepared and Productive
Williams keeps an eye to the future while meticulously maintaining existing Branch resources. All rigs are serviced from the branch’s maintenance workshop in Ulaanbaatar where skilled mechanics keep equipment ship-shape. Drills are easily mobilized regionwide from Ulaanbaatar. “Progressive thinking and preparation are how we meet expectations at our branch,” said Williams.
Other areas of expertise include block cave tracking, a particular specialty at the Major Drilling Mongolia Branch. Block caving is a low-cost mining method used for the development of massive ore deposits. Working very closely with Oyu Tolgoi staff and various stakeholders, drillers completed a successful deep tracking network in 2020. Drill teams also perform seismic monitoring to help predict rock mass instabilities. Seismic monitoring is another specialized drilling service that makes large-scale block cave work safer and more productive.
The Major Drilling workshop in Ulaanbaatar makes older equipment good as new. It completed three full drill rebuilds during the winter of 2021-2022.
Drilling for the Long Haul
Major Drilling Mongolia’s beginnings started in early 2000 with the Oyu Tolgoi project in the Gobi Desert. Over two decades in the region have built a strong reputation as a reliable, preferred contract driller. The branch has been operating as the incorporated subsidiary, Major Drilling Mongolia LLC, since 2002.
The Branch received recognition as the 2019 Best Drilling Company from the Mongolia Drilling Association. The Oyu Tolgoi mine is jointly owned by the Government of Mongolia and Turquoise Hill Resources, a majority owned Rio Tinto mineral exploration and development company.
In 2022, the Major Drilling Mongolia celebrates its 20th Anniversary of operations as a national entity. “Throughout that journey we have had had a constant relationship with the Oyu Tolgoi project providing specialized drilling services and setting the industry standard. We are very excited to be now able to offer a full range of services to our energy clients as the coal bed methane and domestic markets start to heat up.”
Expert Personnel, Strengthening Communities
Williams said his Branch takes deliberate steps with a long-term view as it continues to develop a professional, highly capable team. “We ensure the framework is solid for a skills transfer right from the start for National drillers to become IADC certified.”
Good relationships with equipment suppliers provide the footing for a healthy drilling services supply chain. Major Drilling Mongolia Workshop Foreman Bradley (Bomber) Parsons (left) and Mark Gabel, Group CEO of MSM Group LLC connect at the delivery of the rig package destined for the Elixir Energy’s Nomgon-9 CBM project.
In 2020, the Branch received the “Best Employer of Umnugovi aimag” (South Gobi province) from the provincial governor’s office for training, job creation and diversity initiatives. The Mongolian Drilling Association awarded Major Drilling Mongolia as the “Best Drilling Company 2019” based on meters drilled, training and innovation.
Major Drilling Mongolia seeks to use its position in the mining community to advance diversity, equity and inclusion training opportunities and serve as a caring company with staff who find ways to give back.
“It’s fantastic to see the Branch ramping up and hitting new milestones every year,” said Williams. “In 2022 we’ll see our first group of women getting the opportunity to drill and lead crews. The industry has always struggled with the gender diversity, Our strategy has been to take an organic approach and these women have absolutely risen to the challenge starting as drillers offsiders and working their way up the drilling ranks.”
These hoodies are tailor-made by supporters of Mongolia’s National Center Against Violence, and proudly worn by the Major Drilling Mongolia team. This partnership helps local survivors of domestic violence.
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