RC Drilling: What it is and what's good about it?
Introduction to RC Drilling
RC drilling is a percussion drilling method that has become increasingly popular in mining exploration due to its many benefits. This method uses a drill bit with round, protruding tungsten-carbide buttons to cut through hard rock and earth. The drill rods are hollow and feature an inner tube with an outer barrel. A downhole hammer delivers rapid impacts to the drill stem, transferring this energy through the drill bit, pulverising the rock. Compressed air is injected between the tubes to flush the cuttings from the hole and up through the inner tube, collecting samples at the drill itself for immediate assessment.
Short History of RC Drilling
Did you know that RC drilling originated in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia in the mid-20th century? Back then, traditional open-hole drilling was struggling in soft iron ore and mineral sands. As technology advanced, specific RC drill pipes were developed in 1972, and the first RC hammer was created in 1990. High-pressure boosters were added to improve performance and penetration rates, making RC drilling one of the most cost-effective and accurate drilling methods available.
How Does RC Drilling Work?
RC drilling uses a drill bit with round, protruding tungsten-carbide buttons to cut through hard rock and earth. The drill rods are hollow and feature an inner tube with an outer barrel. A downhole hammer delivers rapid impacts to the drill stem, transferring this energy through the drill bit, pulverising the rock. A rotational device ensures that the drill bit hits new sections of rock with each impact. Compressed air is injected between the tubes to flush the cuttings from the hole and up through the inner tube, collecting samples at the drill itself for immediate assessment.
The Benefits & Advantages of RC Drilling
RC drilling has clear advantages over other drilling methods. It achieves greater penetration in hard rock than air core drilling, providing greater sample accuracy, making it ideal for harsh environments with reduced water usage. The reduced risk of cross-contamination, faster and more efficient production rates, and the resilience of the equipment in harsh environments make it a cheaper option overall, reducing costs by 25–40%.
The Disadvantages of RC Drilling
All drilling methods have their quirks, and RC drilling is no exception. For example, RC drilling can be more expensive than air core drilling, and it cannot operate on poorly maintained surfaces. Additionally, RC drilling may provide less geological information through samples due to the pulverisation of rock by the drill bit. But with proper planning and execution, these challenges can be overcome.
Safety & Environmental Considerations
While RC drilling is an excellent drilling method for exploratory drilling, it has specific safety and environmental considerations to take on board. The percussive nature of the method and the use of loud air compressors can result in hearing damage, and personnel retrieving cutting samples from the cyclone can create potentially hazardous situations.
The Difference Between RC Drilling and Air Core Drilling
While RC drilling is similar to air-core drilling in that the drill cuttings are returned to the surface through the drill rod's inner tube using compressed air, it provides extra strength behind the drill due to its concussive force, making it ideal for use on harder surfaces. RC drilling is better suited for larger drilling programs and acquiring mineral samples in an exploration project's initial stages.
The Difference Between RC Drilling and Diamond Drilling
Diamonds are a geologist's best friend, but how does diamond drilling compare to RC drilling? Diamond drilling uses a rotary drill bit with diamond-impregnated bits to cut through rock and produces a solid core sample. RC drilling, on the other hand, produces a pulverised cuttings sample. Diamond drilling is more suitable for obtaining detailed geological information, such as rock quality, structure, and mineralization, while RC drilling is better suited for obtaining a general understanding of the subsurface geology.
Diamond drilling is more expensive than RC drilling, as it requires specialised equipment, more skilled operators, and more time to complete. However, it is a more accurate and reliable drilling method for obtaining detailed geological information. RC drilling, on the other hand, is a faster and more cost-effective drilling method for obtaining general geological information, making it more suitable for early-stage exploration programs.
Conclusion for Diamond Drilling
As a geologist, it's important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different drilling methods when planning an exploration project. Diamond drilling is a highly accurate method that produces high-quality core samples, making it an essential tool for detailed geological information and mineral resource estimation. However, it can be a more expensive and time-consuming method compared to other drilling methods. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different drilling methods, geologists can make informed decisions that lead to more successful exploration projects.
Conclusion for RC Drilling
As a geologist, it's important to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different drilling methods when planning an exploration project. RC drilling is a highly efficient method that can produce deep boreholes and provide accurate geological information. It's also a cost-effective drilling method, making it a valuable tool for many exploration projects. However, it may not be suitable for shallow exploration projects or those with limited budgets. By understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different drilling methods, geologists can make informed decisions that lead to more successful exploration projects.
Some Australian RC Drilling Contractors
One of Australia’s largest privately-owned drilling companies, Topdrill is a family-oriented business that offers RC, diamond, grade control, geotechnical and mud rotary drilling methods, Australia-wide. Topdrill is at the forefront of mining industry developments and is investing in advanced technologies to make operations safer and more efficient. Dan Price from the Topdrill team was awarded Driller of the Year at the 2022 Australian Drilling Industry Awards.
Learn more about Topdrill here
With a hand-picked team of experienced professionals and the rigs owner-operated, the JDC Drilling team is committed to delivering safe and efficient drilling solutions. Specialising in RC and grade control drilling, the JDC Drilling team are ready to support the Western Australian market,
Learn more about JDC Drilling here
Known for its safe and powerful slimline RC, auger and AC drilling methods, Gyro offers quality drilling services to their clients across Western Australia. The Gyro team has built a reputation for their ‘can-do’ approach by going the extra mile for their clients.
Learn more about Gyro here
How to find RC drill contractors
At CorePlan, we work closely with a number of RC drill contractors to help manage their drilling business needs. To make it easier to find them, we’ve created The Ultimate Drill Contractor Directory which covers where each contractor operates, how many rigs they have, what types of drilling methods they utilise and even what sets their company apart so we can match up the best partnership for the job.
More from our blog
CorePlan is a cloud based operations platform that helps people in mining work better together.
Exploration teams at Mining Companies (and Exploration companies) use CorePlan's Exploration Hub to plan, run and manage their drill programs.
Drilling Contractors use CorePlan's Drilling Hub to capture data from the field, share the data with their clients (which happen to be exploration companies and mining companies) and then invoice them.
As a modern SaaS platform you are able to easily subscribe and get started in a matter of days.