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Mining Upturn: Australasia Branches Respond to Drilling Demand

By September 28, 2021May 31st, 2022No Comments

It’s official. The mining industry is in an upturn. In the Australasia region, new and ongoing projects are underway as the mining industry upswing takes off in earnest. While COVID-19 pandemic factors are still at play, drilling is on the rise.

At the massive Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia, drilling continues. In Indonesia, block-cave preconditioning enhances work at the Grasberg Mine. The Philippines sees ongoing gold, copper and nickel drilling in several provinces. The addition of new innovative rigs in Australia means specialized drilling contracts are solidly in place.

Australasia Vice President, J.R. Davies, has hands-on experience working with Major Drilling and the Australasian region for more than 30 years. He recognizes the company’s significant achievements in the area.

“I see progress not just in the diversified multi-cultural and highly-skilled employees we have developed, but also through the challenging projects we have completed,” Davies said. “Our presence in the region, including the recent acquisition of McKay Drilling being one of the leading drilling contractors in Australia, is a big part of Major Drilling’s global operations.”


Since purchasing McKay Drilling in June 2021, the acquisition is proving positive. First quarter 2022 fiscal reports show McKay Drilling added encouraging results to earnings.

President and CEO Denis Larocque, said, “While still in the early stages, the integration is going very well and operations are performing at a high level in a very busy market, as anticipated.” He said the workforce at McKay Drilling is the key. “McKay teams bring a level of quality to their work that truly sets them apart in the region and the industry. They are extremely effective and reliable in all they do.”

McKay Drilling RC iRig delivered in Perth, Australia, August 2021.

McKay’s 20 innovative rigs swelled the Major Drilling fleet to well over 600 drills. New RC iRigs serve valued clients in Australia with remote operation capability increasing Major Drilling’s specialized drilling reach worldwide.

That reach includes connecting with the local indigenous community through the Clontarf foundation. It supports local youth with schooling and work experiences like drilling.

Additionally, in August 2021, McKay teams celebrated three years lost time injury free. Team achievements include:

  • Logging 1.7 million hours
  • Completing 216 safety audits
  • Conducting 156 emergency response drills
  • Submitting 16,793 hazard reports
  • Implementing 4,165 “Stop the Jobs,” a program where employees stop work whenever they recognize any change in safety risk
  • Issuing 144 hazard awards

Aaron Earl, McKay Drilling General Manager, said, “It’s been a smooth and welcoming transition into the Major Drilling family. Our 200-plus employees are excited to be part of a global team that has a reputation for delivering safe and quality specialized drilling services throughout every region.”

The Philippines

A hallmark of the Philippines Branch is cohesion and team spirit among workers. This creates productive days for clients with particular focus on safety best practices and social responsibility. Since the branch was established in 2011, it continues to achieve milestones in ISO certifications, client satisfaction and helping the community.

Notable employee achievements include the ongoing contributions of Bhing Maglantay, a woman in mining who is responsible for accounting every transaction that takes place in the Philippines, Mongolia and Indonesia.

Continued social responsibility and ESG commitment came through 167.5 volunteer hours from the branch when they assembled 1,666 hygiene kits to bring relief to victims of typhoons in the region.

Philippines teams showed how Major Drilling Cares through donations of PPE and other COVID-19-related supplies. They organized and distributed to government units in four areas: Carmona Cavite, Aroroy Masbate, Monkayo Davao de Oro & Tubod Surigao del Norte.

“Major Drilling’s specialized drilling expertise is a reliable resource for miners in the Philippines,” Daniel Paradis, Philippines Branch General Manager, said. “Our clients can expect not only a top-shelf commitment to operations and safety, they can also count on us to do our part to be a good corporate citizen.”

Drillers Isagani Castillo (left) and Anjo Domingo, of the Philippines Branch recently celebrated 10-year employment anniversaries with Major Drilling. Each progressed from assistant to full-fledged driller bringing quality, safety and results to the Filminera Resources Corporation project in Aroroy Masbate.


Specialized drilling is ongoing at the massive Oyu Tolgoi Mine in Mongolia where Major Drilling is a key part of the family of contractors supporting gold and copper production. Teams reached record depths including several holes over 2,000-meter (6,561 feet) PQ3 diameter. Block cave tracking is a particular specialty. Major Drilling has been operating as the incorporated subsidiary, Major Drilling Mongolia LLC, since 2002.

The branch welcomes the diverse opportunities associated with servicing Tier 1 mining clients and offering tailored services for junior miners in the metals and energy sectors. Access to top equipment is a big part making that happen.

The branch took delivery of two Mercedes-Benz Actros 8×8 heavy-duty trucks in August 2021. These vehicles will be fully equipped as support trucks to be used on drilling projects in the region.

Work in Mongolia extends to the community through strides in employment for women. In 2020, Major Drilling Mongolia received the “Best Employer of Umnugovi aimag” (South Gobi province) from the provincial governor’s office for training, job creation and diversity initiatives. It’s another way Major Drilling is strengthening communities and acting on its ESG commitments.

Togtokhmaa is one of two Major Drilling female drill assistants who began her career working at the Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia.

Heavy-duty drilling calls for heavy-duty support equipment like these 8×8 trucks at the Major Drilling Mongolia Branch.

Samuel Williams, Mongolia Branch General Manager said, “Our workers, history of safety and excellence as well as the awards this branch has received are testaments to the excellence we strive for in Mongolia.”

Williams said the adage that people are a company’s biggest asset rings true with the Mongolia Branch. Its work is associated with producing first-class crews which are capable of working the world over. He said he often sees drillers go on to explore other parts of the world such as Africa and Australasia, and then return to Mongolia to advance the mining industry at home.


Exciting news for the Indonesia Branch is a new underground PQ core rig with hands-free safety and innovation features. In August 2021, the Indonesia Branch announced the arrival of this drilling first for Indonesia. It can core up to 600 meters PQ, and unlike other drill rigs within Indonesia, it can directly handle P-sized rods and core barrels. “We’re pleased to bring greater diversity to our Indonesian fleet and continue our specialized drilling expertise for clients throughout the region,” said Kerry Hornby, Indonesia Branch General Manager

This hands-free underground PQ core rig is a first for Indonesia and is now available for projects.

Relationships with clients is a big factor in the success of the branch. Valued client, Sumbawa Barat Minerals turned to Major Drilling for its exploration drilling program finished ahead of schedule, within budget, and with zero harm to all personnel and equipment. It also included social responsibility efforts that brought meaningful change to the local community.

“Our teams helped out in the community as COVID-19 hit some of the already needy areas really hard,” Jon Emmerzael, Major Drilling Indonesia Operations Manager, said. “We got together with like-minded businesses and government leaders. What we did relieved some of the suffering there.”

Much of Major Drilling’s work in Indonesia enhances the vast Grasberg Mining District at the Deep Mill Level Zone underground mine operated by Freeport Indonesia. Block cave pre-conditioning work is making mine expansion possible.

Over the past three years, Major Drilling teams worked closely with Freeport engineers who directed a hydrofracking program carried out by drilling teams. From among the 15 LM underground core drills Major Drilling provides at Freeport Indonesia, up to seven are dedicated to supporting the hydrofracking project. Drillers also operate three hydrofracking pump systems.

During a seismic event, the team’s approach to hydrofracking now results in reduction of damage. The rate of damaging seismic events has been significantly reduced since control measures, including hydrofracking, were implemented at DMLZ.

Local government officials, contracting staff and Major Drilling Indonesia staff celebrate completion of a renovated house in Indonesia.

Hornby said success at DMLZ is through a true team effort among the engineers, the hydrofrack equipment supplier and Major Drilling. Drilling teams executed the practical aspects of the fracking process that follows Freeport’s designs.

“We worked closely in initial stages of construction of the pumps all the way right up to the point when fracking began,” he explained. “We are proud of our continued partnership with Freeport.”

As with other branches, safety comes first for Indonesia. It’s a top priority yielding 4,435,466 LTI free hours over the since January 2018. A strong culture of safety contributed to winning a project where the branch mobilized two DE710 drills to a new exploration project with NHM – PT Nusa Halmahera Minerals.

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