How Fordia Powered by Epiroc and Major Drilling created a faster head assembly

February 11, 2023

by Michelle White, Business Development and Key Account Manager at Fordia Powered by Epiroc

Early beginnings: safer, faster and better productivity with DiscovOre

Improving drilling performance has always been a priority on mineral exploration sites, so manufacturers have been focusing on ways to do that while still maintaining the safety of drillers.

In 2016, Epiroc achieved that goal with the launch of the DiscovOre and Arrow 3S core barrel system, an innovation in drilling equipment that addressed both productivity and safety. After years of development, the Epiroc team, namely Patrick Salvador, applied their decades of in-depth diamond core drilling knowledge, along with extensive input from drillers in the field, to develop the most innovative coring system on the market in at least a quarter of a century. Some of the highlights include an automatic locking overshot that descends the back end faster, no roll pins and robust, leveraged latches that result in fewer stuck inner tubes and ultimately increase productivity. To this day, the DiscovOre has been vastly adopted across the globe.

‘When Ian Wilson, Innovation Manager at Major Drilling, was shown the DiscovOre, he was impressed,’ recalls Brent Kubish, Account Manager for Midwest Canada, at Fordia Powered by Epiroc. Yet, he felt that there was still more that could be done. Ian said, ‘Major Drilling is a leader in the industry for providing specialized drilling solutions. We have continual demand to meet expectations with the best solutions possible. That’s a big reason we were happy with this meaningful collaboration.’ Ian saw the potential for an even greater performance increase.

Working at one of the largest drilling contractors in the world, he knew that to sell this new concept in the field there would need to be a significant increase in speed.

DiscovOre Prime
The DiscovOre Prime is introduced to new sites in complete cases that ensure there is never a missing piece and that the first runs always go as smooth as possible

From DiscovOre to DiscovOre Prime

As Innovation Manager, Ian and his team had been working on ways to improve drilling performance, always looking to be at the forefront of new solutions. The innovation team had recently developed a fast latch head assembly that focused on improving speed and he felt his team would be the perfect partner to collaborate with Fordia Powered by Epiroc to take the benefits of the DiscovOre even further. Both companies saw the synergy that was possible, and so a collaboration was born that resulted in the DiscovOre Prime, a premium, fast-descent head assembly.

The DiscovOre Prime was developed in partnership with drillers to be the safest and fastest core tube on the market. When the original DiscovOre was launched in 2018, it focused on mitigating the risk of injuries related to the roll pin and spearhead. It eliminated the failures associated with the spearhead design by using automatically locking lifting dogs and eliminating the roll pin altogether. What made the DiscovOre exciting was that these extra safety measures were automatic. With the DiscovOre and Arrow 3S, the built-in safety features are automatically engaged and did not require additional, manual steps. What’s more, the features did not add time to the coring cycle, so productivity was maintained.

Better speed was achieved with the Arrow 3S overshot which had a design that made it more efficient in terms of descent time. It was designed to be centralized in the drill string for smoother, faster descent speeds. All in all, the DiscovOre system is still faster than any traditional head assembly, but with the work that Ian and his team had done, Ian thought that some of the team’s ideas for faster descent could be incorporated into this new product resulting in a significant performance increase.

DiscovOre Prime vs DiscovOre
The DiscovOre Prime design is very similar to the regular DiscovOre, but those
small changes make a huge impact on productivity (H-size shown above)

A fruitful collaboration

Fordia has been manufacturing drilling equipment for mineral exploration since 1977 with a focus on exceeding customers’ expectations regarding both product quality and customer service. With offices across the globe, Fordia had been expanding successfully until 2019, when it was acquired by Epiroc, a global productivity partner for mining and infrastructure, creating Fordia Powered by Epiroc. The two companies combined their expertise to bring more to the world of mineral exploration.

Major Drilling International Inc. is one of the world’s largest drilling and mine service companies primarily serving the mining industry. A global company with field operations and offices in Canada, the USA, Mexico, South America, Africa and Australasia, it provides a complete suite of drilling services for both surface and underground projects.

DiscovOre Prime in use
A DiscovOre Prime head assembly being used by Major Drilling

Major Drilling had been a customer of both Fordia and Epiroc and the collaboration on the DiscovOre Prime had started shortly before Epiroc acquired Fordia. Despite the timing, teams from all the parties worked together seamlessly to ensure the project would be a success.

The collaboration began in 2018 and within the year, the DiscovOre Prime was developed and ready to be tested. Both Fordia Powered by Epiroc and Major Drilling had set aggressive targets for speed and both are proud to say that the DiscovOre Prime exceeded those targets.

In addition to function, there was more focus on fluid dynamics in the design of the Prime. More emphasis on how the water runs through the assembly, providing more room for water flow, and the speed at which it moved through the equipment were a few of the major differences between the DiscovOre and the new Prime version.

‘This thing will go as fast as you can feed it’

The feedback from drillers has been impressive and highlighted that as drillers become more experienced with the system, they are able to push it further, increasing speed while not reducing the proven reliability of the system. A faster head assembly means that a drilling company uses less water and fuel – and drills more meters.

Appreciating the DiscovOre Prime
Drillers appreciate the DiscovOre Prime for its lightweight and impressive speed

‘This is not just another head assembly,’ explained Ian Wilson. ‘This is a system that was designed by drillers for drillers to help them get more core in the box. The result is a substantial increase in productivity – an experienced driller can double production at depth,’ he added. Results show that at a depth of 1000 m (3280 ft), up to 60+ m (197 ft) of core per shift is drilled as opposed to the usual 36-39 m (118-128 ft) of core. The Prime is also lighter, smaller, and easier to handle. The design also made sure that it’s easier to change latches and replace parts. As one driller said about the Arrow 3S overshot, ‘This thing will go as fast as you can feed it.’

Both Major Drilling and Fordia Powered by Epiroc are pleased with the results of their collaboration. Innovation has been a cornerstone of our operations. We are really pleased with how Major Drilling and our company have come together to develop solutions that benefit both customers and employees. These co-development opportunities help drillers outsmart drilling challenges which is one of our priorities.

The DiscovOre Prime is ideally suited for drilling companies that are focused on performance. Its higher price point is easily justified when you calculate the cost per meter drilled and payback can be as fast as a few shifts. Now the DiscovOre Prime and Arrow 3S overshot are available to all drilling companies worldwide. The system will be revealed to the drilling community at large at the upcoming PDAC, scheduled to take place on March 5-8, 2023, in Toronto.

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Issue 22 / 2023