Vitaly Valeriyovich, why did you decide to create a separate drilling subdivision for performing operational exploration with the use of RC method?
OJSC Polymetal has been using RC drilling rigs (RC means “reverse circulation”) for a long time. First “Schramm” rigs were purchased 7–8 years ago for advanced and accompanying operational exploration for OPM (open pit mining). Moreover, almost all types of exploration drilling works (core drilling, rotation/rotary, cable-tool drilling, air-hammer drilling, and reverse circulation drilling are entrusted to contractors (outsourcing). It was decided long ago in OJSC Polymetal that a specialized organization with the appropriate equipment, qualified personnel and, most importantly, with special knowledge and skills can cope with the task of RC drilling better than a producing company whose competencies are in other areas of mining.
What scope of work had to be performed by a new subdivision?
What difficulties were encountered? When mastering equipment and RC drilling rigs that were new for us, we had a lot of questions, mostly related to the selection and training/retraining of specialists, selection of correct and optimal modes of drilling, drilling tools, preparation of sites for the location of a drilling rig and its accessories, and many others aspects. As a result of problems associated with mastering of new equipment by the specialists, our drilling rigs stood idle for a long time at first and did not show performance declared by their manufacturer. The fact is that RC drilling rigs and their accessories are not a common equipment on the territory of the former Soviet Union, that is why the servicing of such rigs, repair, selection of drilling tools are not very organized, developed and broad markets. There were cases when a rig was idle for up to a month or more when we had to wait for a specific spare part. The personnel basis for RC subdivision was represented by the former specialists in core drilling or drillers who worked with air-hammer drilling rigs for blasting. Both of them had to learn new methods and techniques of drilling. The mastered this equipment and learned to work with it.
It is known that on some enterprises of OJSC Polymetal you do not use your own drilling subdivision for drilling, but engage contractors for performance of these works. What is the reason for it?
A specialized contracting company has a narrow business, compared with a mining company. The main competence of a contracting company is much more developed. The personnel have specific professional skills and knowledge. Equipment and resources in these organizations are selected only to achieve excellence and success in drilling. Therefore it is more expedient to entrust this function to a contractor. We had managed to control our specialized drilling subdivisions for a while. However, when the company began to grow and develop, a number of exploratory and production facilities increased considerably. So we realized that these works could be performed by a contractor; but a contractor can do it better than we and with the same quality (and often better), on time and for the same money.
How justified was the creation by the companies of their own drilling subdivisions?
If to take a detailed look at a drilling and to divide this process into several ones: exploratory drilling, test-well drilling (let’s say, hydrogeology), blasthole drilling, here one should think – what works to perform using own resources and what works to entrust to professional contractors. We are guided by the following principle: if the type of work is associated with the main competence of the enterprise (i.e. ore gold mining with minimum losses and contamination of ore), then it is better to perform blasting operations using our own resources, and to entrust preparatory works (various stages of exploratory drilling) to professionals.
What advice would you give to your colleagues in the industry concerning the creation of their own drilling subdivisions?
Geography of OJSC Polymetal is quite impressive – from the Kazakh steppes to the Chukchi tundra, and working conditions there are different, both in terms of climate within the territories and climate in the business environment. If in the region where the mining company operates, a market of specific services (such as, for example, RC drilling and blasting operations) is well developed, the performance of one of the business processes shall be entrusted to the professionals. This allows the subsoil users to focus on the main works and to adequately perform their tasks (mining operations). If the business environment offers a wide range of possibilities for selecting a contractor, it is better to give preference to outsourcing.