My Trip to Ecuador and Chile


In October I took a trip to Ecuador and to Chile. I went to Ecuador to visit with our customers Hernan Roman, ENAMI and Lance Hubbard. Then I went to Chile to see Expert Drilling.

Ecuador is a very beautiful country. I think they have the windiest roads in the world. I think I traveled about 1100 kms through Ecuador and I only saw one piece of road about 1/2 mile long that was straight. One day I would like to return with one of my motorcycles. I will have to send one with the next drill shipment. While in Ecuador I visited two different drill sites and saw two new Hydracore machines and two older ones.

Typically when I visit drill sites I find that drillers are either doing things right or they are making the same mistakes that they all make. If a driller doesn’t make the common mistakes he will be way ahead of the guys who don’t pay any attention to these basic things. On the list below are the three most important things in diamond drilling. Please if you disagree with my list or you have another one that you think should be added so that there are four, tell me about it and maybe I will change this list. Once again on this trip I saw all the usual problems, as well as a lot of stuff being done correctly.

1. One of the most important things when you are drilling is water. If the water stops you won’t be drilling for more than about another thirty seconds probably, so drillers have to keep and eye on it. What often surprises me though is how often drillers have no idea how much water they are pumping. In order to pump the correct amount of water most drillers just guess! A driller should know how many gallons per minute they are pumping down the hole. This flow rate should be within the recommended limits from the bit manufacturer. It is usually true that too much water will not cause too much of a problem, but that is not always true. On some Hydracore machines using to much water can take a lot of power from the rotation circuit, if it is done the wrong way. With the TW systems that are often used with Hydracore machines pumping too much water will cause excessive water pressure. This can wear out the pump and cause water swivel problems. All the driller has to do is every once in a while is check the water flow by pumping water through the swivel hose into a bucket and timing it. Then the flow can be estimated, and that is close enough. That is the reason that all Hydracore machines come with a water manifold with two ball valves. If the hose going to the swivel is partly closed the pump can be put under pressure just like while drilling to check the flow under conditions that are exactly the same as while drilling.

2. Another thing that is very important is that the machine is perfectly aligned with the hole at all times. That is not always possible and it is not always easy to achieve, but if by spending an extra hour building the set up the machine will stay aligned it saves a lot of trouble. I don’t believe that drill rods ever get bent when they are in the hole. Really they can’t, even when a hole is crooked it is not that crooked, and the rods can go around a gentle curve without getting permanently bent. I think the rods get bent when they are being pushed into the hole when the machine is not aligned. Most older rods are not straight anymore. Imagine how nice it would be to always only have straight rods. Luckily I got to see a Hydracore machine drilling like that in Ecuador. ENAMI’s machine was brand new, all equipped with new rods, and the machine was very well set up so that it remained aligned at all times. The driller for ENAMI had a habit of building about the best set ups that I ever see anywhere. He liked to dig trenches and fill them with concrete with bolts set into the concrete to bolt the machine down. It seems a bit like overkill, but it really makes it impossible for the machine to move off line. In six months time his rods may still all be perfectly straight. Then maybe it will have been worth it. There are other ways of making sure the machine doesn’t move that are a lot less work than setting in concrete foundations. The extra time to make sure the machine is fastened down or weighted solidly is always worth it. During the part of the trip when I was in Chile I saw one of the Hydracore underground machines drilling when it was not lined up with the hole. After correcting this problem the torque pressure showing on the torque gauge to turn the rods dropped by about 800 psi. That was almost one third of the machine’s power being wasted. It is surprising how much power it takes to drill when a machine is not aligned, but I have seen it over and over again on machines from 25 to 250 HP. It is important to be lined up.

3. The third most important thing is rod grease. I always find it surprising that some drillers do not seem to think it is necessary to use drill rod grease. In many cases just by greasing the rods the power used to turn the rods can be reduced by 60% or more. You can tell by reading the torque gauge. Probably if there is less drag on the rod string there is also going to be less wear on the rod string. My guess is that the rod grease also reduces the wear on the rods by about 60%. Often by using rod grease on the casing it can be removed and if it is not greased it will get stuck. You need to grease the rods and the casing.

Later on during the trip when I was in Santiago I saw a prototype of a mechanical rod handler. This device was being built by Mining Parts Inc. in Santiago to fit onto a Hydracore machine or many other types of surface drills. It was a lot different than the style of rod handlers that I have seen before on Canadian machines such as the EF 50 or Duralight. This rod handler is more automatic than the EF 50 type. It worked by only two levers and nothing needed to be manipulated. I liked it. It was as simple as such a device can be, but it is still a lot of equipment just to pull rods. The trouble is many mining companies are pushing to have this type of equipment to reduce injuries to drill helpers. The trouble is I think they are going to far to get this result. I think maybe with the new device that I am currently building that injuries can be reduced without having to add so much machinery.

Seeing the Mining Parts rod handler started me wondering why the drillers never use the rod hoist that is standard equipment on the Hydracore 4000 and 2000. Most of the drillers use that hoist to lift the water swivel rod, but when they are lowering the rods they just get the helper to lift the rod from the pile onto the head. In the case of an HO rod that is a 77 lb. lift that may have to be repeated 200 times while lowering 2000 feet of HO rods. Apparently, the reason the rod hoist is not used is that it takes too long to insert and remove the hoisting plug. If it takes thirty seconds to insert the plug and thirty seconds to remove it then while lowering 2000 feet of rods in ten foot sections these two operations would each have to be repeated 200 times. That is 200 x 2 x 30 seconds. That is 3-1/3 hours! Even if you lower in 20 foot sections it would still be about 1-1/2 hours screwing the hoisting plug in and out. The hoisting plug is to slow. The hoist is pretty fast, it keeps up with the cylinder so what is needed is a faster hoisting plug. So I’ve designed a fast hoisting plug. Below is an illustration of the plug I have designed. I am having six of the H sized ones made right now. If you use this plug with the hoist all the heavy manual work of rod lowering and pulling will be eliminated, and it will be fast. A lot of people seem to want it already. If you want one please call me and order one.

Also we could use some drill orders right now. We are starting to slow down. In fact, we currently have a Hydracore 2000 single engine machine, and a Hydracore 4000 three engine Manportable machine in stock ready for immediate shipment anywhere.

Nigel Spaxman