Some 550 kilometers south of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, you’ll find Major Drilling teams readying dozens of umbilical cables equipped with magnetic trackers. The trackers are lowered from a winch system through a specially-drilled borehole into the vast Oyu Tolgoi ore body below. Block cave magnetic beacons are embedded into the orebody and spun to create a magnetic field. Magnetization has been found to be the most effective way to track the fragmentation as an orebody caves in allowing loaders to mine the ore from draw points deep underground.
Oyu Tolgoi is the location of Mongolia’s largest copper and gold deposits with combined open pit and underground mining operations. Years of exploration drilling and study prepared the area for the partnerships that are bringing the Oyu Tolgoi mine to life. Specialized drilling approaches and innovations in block cave techniques make up an important part of the partnership above and below the ground to disrupt the geology and extract gold and copper from deposits there.
In early 2000, Major Drilling established a drilling campaign in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Operational supplies needed to ramp up to support 20 rigs that were transported to the site. Major Drilling CEO Denis Larocque says that is the key to what Major Drilling does in terms of specialized drilling. “We are called upon by the senior mining companies like Rio Tinto when it’s a tough drilling campaign because we have high standards in equipment, people and safety,” Larocque said.
At Oyu Tolgoi, Major Drilling’s teams strategically place the magnetic beacons throughout the mine to create a 3D map and to track the position of the orebody cave-in flow. The cables are attached to the duct rodder, which is lowered from a winch system. Once the trackers are placed, block caving techniques will undercut and fragment the deepest points of the geology. The orebody is then collected and taken away for processing.
Block caving is a low-cost mining method used for the development of massive ore deposits. Mine planners often use an experienced specialized drilling company to precondition the block cave mining area through hydrofracking. Tracking the flow of the fragmented, caved ore is a critical part of accessing targeted orebodies.
Mine planners use the information from the magnetic tracking devices placed by the Major Drilling team to understand the direction of intended failure the stone is moving.
“We are nearing the completion of the cave tracking system installation at Oyu Tolgoi,” Shaun Hogan, Major Drilling’s Project Manager at Oyu Tolgoi said. “Over the past 2 years, we have worked very closely with our client and various stakeholders; this partnership has achieved a successful deep tracking network.”
In addition to block cave tracking, Major Drilling also performs 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. Major Drilling was awarded the Rio Tinto Growth & Innovation Group Award for the successful seismic drilling program at Oyu Tolgoi in 2017 where Major Drilling, as the worldwide leader in specialized drilling, continues to be a proud partner.
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. Rio Tinto has managed the Oyu Tolgoi project since 2010.
Major Drilling is one of the world’s largest drilling services companies with expertise in specialized drilling including block cave monitoring, hydrofracking, and other mine services. Contact us today to get started on your next specialized drilling project.