PDAC 2017 Déjà-vu in Toronto

May 22, 2017
By Grigor Topev


It’s March and I’m back in Toronto for the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) 2017 trade show. Walking down the aisles in the Trade Show hall I get a strong sense of having seen it all before. Sure, you say, you have – last year.

But that’s not quite it. What I’m trying to say is that not only do I remember the same booths in the same locations with the same companies and the same people in front of them: it’s a feeling that nothing has fundamentally changed at PDAC since last year, and that I won’t see anything new from the drilling world.

I find that disappointing. I just wonder if the show’s organisers make any effort to attract new companies to the show. Maybe some stimulating participation from countries outside North America, or a quota or discounts for new participants. I understand that the main consideration is having all the stands occupied, but for the PDAC, I would think that’s practically a given. If I were in their place, I’d want further improvements. Perhaps I’m being too critical, and my interest is only in drilling, but I guess it’s a similar situation in the other sections of the show.

But let’s go back. I’m starting my review with Drillco. Why? Because when I sit down and try to recall what I saw that was interesting, they spring first to mind. Secondly, their work impresses me. It’s innovative, its practical and they know how to present it. Operations Director Sylvain Brisson explained so many things about their engine and hydraulic system to me – things I’m not even familiar with – that I have to stop him and ask: “OK, Sylvain, let’s assume that I’m taking that rig with me underground to put it in action. What spares do I need to take with me?” And he says, this hose, this controller and maybe this one. That’s all I need to hear. I’ve plenty of other questions but unfortunately I have to step aside because a scheduled group of visitors led by Vladimir Shehovtsov from the Economic Development Department of North Bay, Ontario, has turned up.

Later on I have the pleasure of meeting Vladimir and getting to know a few interesting things about North Bay. I don’t know the history of the city, but it seems to be more drilling-oriented than anywhere else in Canada. This small city has Boart Longyear, Atlas Copco and Sandvik factories, Foraco Canada’s headquarters, Di-Corp’s Drillers Edge diamond products factory, Pilot Diamond Tools, Drillco, Odyssey drill rigs, the famous Canadian Diamond Drilling Association and probably more besides. Drilling apart, I’m impressed to find out that Redpath’s headquarters are also there. It’s quite impressive for city with no actual mining activities.

Another thing that attracted my attention at PDAC this year is mechanical rod handling. I’m very pleased that safety is becoming more of a focus among all parties at the drill site – clients, contractors, subcontractors and so on. Automated rod handling is a major step towards real, practical safety, and almost all manufacturers are nowadays capable of providing their drill rigs with rod handling mechanisation and often automation too.

One company in particular was attracting a lot of attention: Usinage Marcotte, with their Cyborg rod-handling system (photo 1). It looked quite different to what I’m used to seeing, resembling a giant steel hand that picks the rods up from the side of the rig, lifting and turning them until they’re ready to be placed on top of the previous rod. Top marks for creativity, but as to practicality I can’t comment, as I haven’t seen it in action.

The next company I want to mention is TIME (Temiskaming Industrial Mining Equipment) (photo 2). I had an interesting conversation with owners Peter and Mike Henderson and Tate Byberg, VP Sales, at their booth. TIME are Canadian mining and drilling equipment manufacturers best known in the drilling industry for their steel and retrievable wedges which, I can confirm from experience, are of very good quality. We discuss the pros and cons of wedging in what turns out to be a long and interesting technical conversation.

But enough about Canada. Let’s shift focus to South America, and Ingetrol (photo 3). I met owner Luis Silva and learned that Ingetrol has offices in Chile and Peru and an office and manufacturing plant in Mexico. They have a large fleet of drill rigs, but are best known for their small but powerful portable drill rig – the new Sandy Jr. – which can actually be seen at their booth. It weighs 286kg (626kg with the power unit), and can drill to 120m with N-size and 150m with B-size rods.

Next to overview is DBC Makina from Turkey (photo 4). DBC Makina has a long history, starting in 1991 as Diamant Boart Craelius’s exclusive distributor in the region. Since then, DBC Makina has grown in size, and now has 7,000m2 facility. They offer total core drilling solutions, from drill bits to drill rigs, and are the largest drilling manufacturer in Turkey. Nevzat Cemiloglu is DBC Makina’s assistant general manager, and explains their products in detail. It’s interesting to learn that, besides Turkey, their main markets are Russia, Iran and South America. They also sell about 20-30 drill rigs a year.

I‘m curious about diamond drilling in Turkey, and Nevzat explains that total core drilling in Turkey amounts to about 1.5 million meters per year, but that drilling contractors are feeling the pinch from low returns on drilling.

And that closes the Coring review of PDAC 2017. Here’s hoping that next year’s show will have more of interest in terms of new products and new faces.