by Herbert Vilcapoma Lopez, CEO & Executive Director at Rock Drill Group
This article is also available in Spanish: click here
Rock Drill is a Peruvian company founded in 2000 by Herbert Vilcapoma and Elizabeth Bravo. With more than 23 years of experience, the company has specialized in providing solutions for the mining sector, mainly in the Peruvian and Mexican markets.
Since its inception, Rock Drill has offered diamond, geotechnical, production drilling and geological services, applying the highest standards of operation, innovation, safety and environment.
Herbert Vilcapoma, who previously worked as a Mechanical Technician at Boart Longyear S.A.C., gained experience in machinery repair. He then went on to work at Sandvik del Peru S.A.C., where he had the opportunity to work with underground and surface mining production equipment, such as jumbos and track-mounted drills. With the accumulated experience, in 2000, Herbert Vilcapoma and Elizabeth Bravo founded their first company: Rock Drill Contratistas Civiles y Mineros S.A.C. This company started providing diamond drilling services for Compañía Minera Iscaycruz.
In 2007, they identified a new need in the market and founded Comercial Drilling Services S.A.C. (CODRISE), a company dedicated to the manufacture of drilling products to supply Rock Drill.
In 2010, Overprime Manufacturing S.A.C. was formed in association with a third partner. This company specialized in the manufacture, repair and maintenance of diamond drilling machines and heavy equipment in the mining sector.
In 2015, the Vilcapoma-Bravo family, together with their children, established the fourth company: Helix Renting S.A.C., dedicated to renting vehicles to cover the needs of Rock Drill. These four companies are currently part of the VILBRA Group.
Rock Drill focused on innovating its drilling rigs to adapt to the needs of each client. They modified a pneumatic machine to operate with hydraulic power, which allowed them to manufacture the first exploration drilling rig called RL30, which adapted to different projects in various environments.
The company’s portfolio of products and services includes standard, oriented and directional diamond drilling, geotechnical drilling for permeability testing and installation of piezometers and inclinometers, and geological services, such as soil and rock sampling and geochemical analysis. In addition, in production drilling, they perform slot drilling for chimneys and longhole drilling with down-the-hole hammer.
Challenges and growth
Rock Drill, had two big challenges, the first one was to face the 2008 crisis, when the fall of metal prices left them with only two machines working out of the 35 they had in operations. The company was left with a debt of 2.5 million to the bank for the leasing they had generated and 0.5 million of debt to suppliers for the large investments they had in terms of workload. Without hesitation, they had to prioritize the payments of the installments to the banks and avoid generating more debt with the reserves they had. Fortunately, in a short period of time, services were restarted and they were able to get new clients to pay the outstanding debts.
The company paid double to their suppliers and thus ensured that their services will continue. As a result, this turned into a strategic partnership, ongoing to this day.
Rock Drill learned that mining is cyclical and that exploration mines are the first to stop services in the face of a crisis. That is why, after the 2008 crisis, the focus of the services was on underground production mining. This is how Rock Drill decided to keep tighter control on indebtedness.
The second challenge the company faced was that little by little more diamond drilling companies started to be formed, which created a more competitive market. Therefore, Rock Drill was looking for a way to differentiate themselves, so they bet on the innovation of the equipment they had been working with. Due to the experience and capacities they had within the company, they designed semi-automated equipment to screw in and out the drill rods automatically, avoiding exposure for the operators and preventing accidents. The company considered that the equipment could be moved only by remote control within the operation and not depend on the mining company’s resources. Thanks to this, they achieved satisfactory performance and greater productivity and profitability.
It was at that moment that they consolidated themselves as an innovative company, applying the highest standards of quality, safety and environment, with certified competitiveness and capacity to identify objectives and needs, thus achieving customer satisfaction.
Rock Drill currently has a fleet of more than 100 drill rigs, 70 of them in Peru and the rest in Mexico. In addition, the company plans to reach a utilization rate of more than 75% in the second half of 2023, which demonstrates the confidence and demand of their customers.
Innovation at the core of business
Rock Drill has constantly sought innovation and has worked in collaboration with a Swedish manufacturer to implement a novel drilling system that solves the problem of deviation in production drills. This system reduces deviation to 1ᵒ every 50 m (164 ft), compared to traditional systems that can have deviations of up to 5ᵒ per 15 m (49.2 ft) of drilling. In addition, this system is more environmentally friendly as it does not generate dust or noise and consumes less power. Initial tests have shown savings of up to 30% in the production process.
The group’s business strategy is corporate, so Rock Drill is part of the VILBRA Group, taking advantage of various synergies between the companies that make it up and allows to have the necessary resources to offer and perform drilling services. CODRISE provides the products needed to efficiently execute drilling operations, while OVERPRIME develops and manufactures the equipment and machinery that Rock Drill uses to drill and improve operational efficiency and safety. On the other hand, Helix is in charge of managing the fleet of vehicles and utility equipment, such as generators, which are also essential for the work that Rock Drill does in the mine.
It is worth mentioning that OVERPRIME is not only dedicated to the manufacture of equipment but also to the repair of various subway and open pit equipment. The equipment it manufactures is tailor-made for the customer, so mines do not have to ‘adapt’ to the equipment, but the other way around, in line with Rock Drill’s operational strategy of flexibility. This benefits the company in the sense that they can maximize production and safety, providing a customized service for each customer.
Safety that enhances partnerships
At Rock Drill, safety is valued very highly. The vast majority of accidents in the activities they perform are related to drill rods handling, exposure to moving parts and equipment transportation. The technological developments the company has implemented are oriented to reduce the exposure of operators to the most critical processes. Additionally, Rock Drill offers self-transportable drilling equipment on mobile platforms, which dramatically reduces downtime for transportation between drilling pads and their preparation. Moreover, they increase effective drilling times, enabling Rock Drill to protect their operators and enhance efficiency.
In addition, Rock Drill implemented contact sensors to stop the moving parts of the drill rigs when the rigs’ guards are opened. The company has also recently implemented rod handlers that will reduce the operators’ exposure to any risks.
Rock Drill is characterized by the loyalty of their customers, whom they have been accompanying in their growth. This has strengthened the company’s collaboration of more than 15 years with the VOLCAN group, as well as their 10-year alliance with the ALPAYANA and CONDESTABLE groups. Furthermore, since 2022 Rock Drill has been working with MINSUR in its Raura unit where they have started geological and geomechanical services, which is an added value to the diamond drilling service. The company currently has two manufacturing and assembly plants in Peru and Mexico, 30 projects in both countries and more than 1500 employees.
By the end of 2023, Rock Drill wants to consolidate operations with their current customers, increase their market share and improve the position of the brand. The company is interested in looking for leads that will turn into long-term contracts and strengthen their services in surface exploration drilling.
Additionally, Rock Drill wants to consolidate their production drilling services and geomechanical and geological services. The company expects to be ready for 2024 and to have a greater share of the Peruvian market and to enter other international markets under their motto: ‘Where we drill, we find a future together’.
For more information visit: www.rockdrillgroup.com