Ausdrill: 37 years of innovation in safety, sustainability, and productivity

May 28, 2024

by Mary Jane Rowan, Marketing & Communications Specialist at Ausdrill

Ausdrill exploration site

Ausdrill was founded in 1987 by Goldfield’s legend and pioneer of the Australian drilling industry, Ron Sayers, who started the company with one second-hand rig at the Super Pit, where Ausdrill remains in action 37 years later. Partnering with Golden Shamrock in 1991, Ausdrill expanded throughout Australia and broke into the African market. Within five years, the one-person operation with a few contractors had grown to 225 employees in Australia and 80 employees in Africa. In 1994, Ausdrill was worth AUD 11 million and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

By 1996, Ausdrill had acquired assets from other exploration and drilling companies and entered the specialized lake drilling market. Then, with Eltin, Ausdrill created African Mining Services, diversifying into a broader mining offering. Ausdrill Northwest was formed in 2003, and in 2007, Ausdrill established Drill Rigs Australia as a manufacturer and maintenance service provider for drill rigs and drilling support equipment. The same year, Ausdrill entered a 50/50 joint venture with underground mining company Barminco, which led to the creation of African Underground Mining Services.

Over the years, Ausdrill Group continued to acquire and sell mining-related businesses, culminating with the 100% purchase of Barminco in 2018, transforming the company into one of Australia’s largest mining services companies. In 2019, the Ausdrill Group rebranded as Perenti, while the brand Ausdrill remained with the surface division where it all began 32 years prior.

Today, Ausdrill is a part of the Perenti Drilling Services Division, along with DDH1 Drilling, Ranger Drilling, Strike Drilling and Swick Mining Services, which were recently acquired by Perenti. Together, they form Australia’s largest drilling service provider. Ausdrill’s 590 employees continue to provide exploration drilling, production drilling, blasting services, and geotechnical services to mining majors and junior explorers across Australia.


Ausdrill’s exploration services offer clients assurance through dynamic scalability, reliable operations, and stringent quality control. Exploration rigs include diamond drill rigs with deep hole directional capability to 2000 m+ (6562 ft), RC drilling rigs capable of vertical and angled holes to 500 m+ (1640 ft), and air core drilling, which can be truck- or track-mounted. Ausdrill’s cutting-edge hands-free technology and advanced autonomous pathways have positioned them as an industry leader, and with their ‘hands-off steel’ approach, Ausdrill has taken safety standards to new heights in the field.

Ausdrill’s Fleet

Drill and Blast

  • Blast Hole  – 41
  • Grade Control – 6
  • Top Hammer – 13


  • RC Land – 20
  • RC Lake – 1
    Diamond Drill Land – 14
    Diamond Drill Lake – 3
  • Air Core Lake 2

Explorac RC30 Smart rig

In October 2023, Ausdrill acquired the Explorac RC30 Smart, a joint development project with Epiroc. This project has resulted in a rig, featuring fully automated rod handling, high-speed operation, process monitoring, remote control, and a range of other improvements. These advancements not only make the job faster, safer, and more efficient but also reflect Ausdrill’s commitment to delivering top-quality equipment.

The Explorac RC30 Smart rig improves operating performance and safety and has also been designed to support future scaling of rig features and functionality. As a result, Ausdrill can easily upgrade the equipment when new automation features become available, keeping pace with industry changes and getting the highest possible return on their investment throughout the drill rig’s life.

Explorac RC30 Smart rig developed in collaboration with Epiroc
Explorac RC30 Smart rig developed in collaboration with Epiroc

AustEx X1550TH

More recently, the AustEx X1550TH, a fully integrated electric over hydraulic diamond drill rig operated by a wireless remote, was dispatched by Ausdrill to a client in the Pilbara. The AustEx X1550TH surpasses all other rigs in terms of safety, with a cage barrier protecting the platform. Any access to the platform isolates all rig and sloop functions, creating a zero-energy workspace for the driller’s offsiders to perform tasks. To further strengthen safety, the Freedom Loader sloops have also been modified to use a virtual exclusion zone barrier, utilizing cameras with human recognition capabilities that immobilize functions to the sloop before any personnel can access a live work area.

The AustEx X1550TH is not just about safety; it’s also about efficiency. The drill rig handles rods and inner tubes with ease, even delivering the inner tube to the processing racks. Manual intervention is minimal; only changing the overshot and processing the innertube’s core requires it. Hole collaring and casing are performed hands-free, with the pusher sub seamlessly integrated into the drill spindle.

With Cortex’s advanced rig control system, the AustEx X1550TH takes remote monitoring and control to a whole new level. Operations and maintenance workers can monitor all drill rig data points live from anywhere in the world. This data can be stored for further analysis, helping to optimize the drilling process and maximize productivity.

Drill and blast

Ausdrill is recognized as a top-tier provider of drill and blast services. With over 35 years of drilling experience and the use of advanced technology, Ausdrill is capable of addressing the specific needs of its clients while ensuring the protection of the ore body, minimizing dilution, and optimizing the mine-to-mill process. The company has a wide range of drilling capabilities, including probe drilling for voids, drilling at heights, hard-to-reach drilling, and extensive blasting capabilities for both civil and mining projects.

One touch Rock Commander

Ausdrill’s commitment to innovation is a cornerstone of its success. The company has a long history of designing and building custom rigs in-house, such as the iconic Rock Commander, a constant symbol of progress and innovation in the mining industry. The Rock Commander was recently upgraded with the introduction of the One Touch Drilling feature, marking a pivotal moment in Ausdrill’s drilling operations and streamlining the entire drilling process with a single touch of a button. One Touch not only optimizes the drilling process for efficiency and precision but also enhances safety by reducing the need for manual intervention and reduces wear and tear, extending the life of components and saving time and money.

The Rock Commander has also been upgraded with advanced features like a training cabin, Trimble Groundworks High Precision GPS, Starlink for remote access to electrical diagnostics, and the latest PLC air control. These additional features enhance the machine’s performance, ensuring precision, safety and efficiency in every drilling operation.

Ausdrill One Touch Rock Commander
Ausdrill One Touch Rock Commander


Ausdrill has extensive expertise in blasting with a strong emphasis on ensuring safety. They are adept at working in challenging locations, including those near town sites, powerlines, and gas pipelines and have developed controlled blasting techniques that effectively limit noise, vibration, air overpressure, and dust, ensuring minimal disruption to the surroundings. Along with extensive blasting knowledge and experience, Ausdrill also offers a range of bulk-licensed products and mobile mixing units, which complement and reinforce the dependability of their blasting services. These additional resources enable them to deliver exceptional blasting solutions while maintaining the highest safety and efficiency standards.

Grade control

Ausdrill recognizes the pivotal role of grade control programs in mine planning and design, adopting a collaborative approach to ensure their clients achieve the mine’s optimum operational capability. What sets Ausdrill apart is its ability to design and build its own purpose-built rigs, a testament to its commitment to delivering the highest-quality samples and the most reliable service.

Ausdrill’s custom-built auto-sampling drill rig is at the forefront of technology, providing specialized grade control. The autonomous sampling feature is enabled by integrating the Ray-Trac RFID sampling system, which provides clients with a trackable chain of custody, allowing for programmed, executed, and tracked sampling. Their grade control rig also features the Trimble DPS900 high-precision survey guidance system, eliminating the need for drill hole survey mark-out and pick-up. The Trimble and Ray Trac features facilitate data interface with clients’ software, improving transparency, accuracy, and productivity.

The auto-sampler rig designed by Ausdrill offers notable efficiency improvements and safety enhancements. Its autonomous feature allows operators to avoid exposure to high levels of dust, noise, and hazardous materials typically associated with traditional RC drilling. Moreover, the rig can now be operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so operators previously limited to day shifts can now work around the clock.


The geotechnical team at Ausdrill places great emphasis on workplace safety to ensure that client operations are both productive and safe. Services include technical access drilling, cable bolting, rock bolting, and self-drilling anchors. A team of IRATA-qualified rope access experts can perform manual and hydro scaling operations, drape meshing, catch fences, and safety barriers. Other services offered include shotcreting and fibercrete services, prism and monitoring installations, depressurization drilling, dewatering installation and repairs.

With a large fleet of geotechnical plants and equipment, Ausdrill’s extensive experience is further enhanced by detailed information collected daily in the field. This adds value through informed service delivery, prediction of potential issues, and identification of efficiencies.

The geotechnical team at Ausdrill offers its services to various sectors, such as infrastructure, civil works, construction, and rail. Additionally, Ausdrill invests heavily in designing, building, researching, and developing semi-autonomous and remote geotechnical alternatives, like the virtual reality and rock scaling robotic system HALO (High Access Localized Operations). These alternatives remove safety risks, efficiently address geotechnical project needs, and offer seamless and integrated data collection experienced across other industry equipment.

Equipment – Asset Management Maintenance Team

Ausdrill is an OEM in its own right and continues to manufacture and evolve the Rock Commander product line while supporting operational projects across the Drill and Blast, and Exploration divisions. With over 70 years of combined experience, Ausdrill employs experienced drill fitters, electricians, hydraulic specialists, boilermakers, and component rebuild mechanics. They are capable of rebuilding and refurbishing rigs within 10-16 weeks, and their offsite support provides first-class operational service to their project teams. Ausdrill also has dedicated specialist mechanical and design engineers. Additionally, they have an award-winning apprenticeship development program that currently employs 17 apprentices both on-site and in their Canning Vale workshop.

Ausdrill driller's offsider
Ausdrill driller’s offsider

Project case studies

KCGM Super Pit

The KCGM Super Pit, a monumental feat in Australia’s mining landscape, stands as one of Ausdrill’s most enduring and significant projects. Beginning with the first award in 1989, it continues today, a testament to Ausdrill’s commitment and expertise.

The project employs approximately 115 employees and operates 13 long-reach Rock Commander drill rigs and two grade control GC600 drills, all owned and manufactured by Ausdrill’s in-house maintenance division. These machines have proven their worth in the KCGM project’s ever-evolving nature.

The long-reach Rock Commander was initially designed for KCGM operations for its effective void approach. It later developed into a more diverse drill, a multi-echelon approach that can drill three lines without tramming. The dual-cab Rock Commander, a two-seat operator training unit for hands-on training, was recently added to the KCGM operations and was followed by the successful launch of the one-touch Rock Commander, with a second one-touch machine scheduled for delivery in mid-2024. Ausdrill continues to develop and modify the Rock Commander to meet the industry’s evolving mining and operating nature.

Ausdrill supports having a locally based workforce and presence in Kalgoorlie, and all key management on site reside locally and are supported by the Ausdrill Kalgoorlie branch.

St Ives

Ausdrill has been operating at the St Ives Gold Mine for more than 25 years. The mine is located on the 510 km² (197 sqr. mi) salt pan known as Lake Lefroy, which is situated 57 km (35 mi) east of Kalgoorlie. The primary output of the mine is gold, although some nearby regions produce nickel as well.

The conditions on the lake can be treacherous, with soft mud and clays upwards of two meters deep hidden below a two-inch layer of salt, which is very harsh on equipment. Other conditions include drilling in up to three feet of water with 40-50 km/h (25-31 mi/h) winds blowing across the lake. Drill sites can also be located one or two hours of tram ride from shore without any navigational landmarks, requiring the use of a GPS and compass.

Ausdrill uses tracked vehicles to traverse between the drill rig and the lake shore, as well as custom-built drill rigs with extra-wide tracks and high decks to distribute the rig’s weight across a large surface area, allowing the machines to navigate the lake surface without sinking. However, sometimes even that is not enough. Depending on feasibility and proximity to the shore, the client may opt to build causeways out of waste rock to the drill hole location. This allows Ausdrill to drive truck-mounted drill rigs with greater hole depth capabilities onto the lake surface.

Over the last 25 years, Ausdrill has drilled thousands of holes across the lake and surrounding bushlands using every drilling discipline, including Rab, Aircore, RC, and Diamond Drilling. At St Ives, Ausdrill has custom-built Lake RC (DRA RC 600), Aircore, and Diamond rigs that are mostly mounted on track bases. Ausdrill’s rigs can access areas where no standard drilling equipment would even be considered. At one point, Ausdrill built a hovercraft with a 60 m² (646 sqr. ft) deck and mounted an RC 600 shramm on top to complete 180 m (591 ft) RC percussion hammer holes in some of the most inaccessible areas of the lake where if someone tried to walk on the surface, they would sink to waist level.

The deepest hole drilled by Ausdrill at St Ives was completed with an Austex 1550. The hole was drilled NQ² down to precisely 2001 m (6564.96 ft) and took approximately five weeks to complete. Some of the issues encountered were pockets of gas and shear zones that were intermittent throughout the hole.

The future

Ausdrill’s commitment to its workforce is unwavering, as evidenced by its continued investment in its 590 employees. This year, the company is particularly proud to celebrate the tenure of its longest-serving employees, some of whom have been with the organization for an impressive 35 years. As Ausdrill honors its history, it also looks to the future with a progressive 50:50 leadership team led by female general manager Kym Low and a commitment to creating a safe and respectful workplace and achieving gender balance.

Joining the Perenti Drilling Services Division, alongside DDH1 Drilling, Swick Mining Services, Ranger Drilling, and Strike Drilling, marks an exciting new chapter for Ausdrill. As part of Australia’s largest drilling contractor, Ausdrill continues to focus on innovation in safety, sustainability, and productivity as it provides clients with quality equipment and services.

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