Safer, cleaner and more efficient diamond drilling

December 1, 2020

by Raúl G. Lyon, Vice President at Geotec Boyles Bros. S.A.

Geotec drill site
Geotec’s drill site

This article discusses the successful development and implementation of new technologies, developed by Geotec Boyles Bros. (Geotec) in collaboration with selected Chilean vendors and manufacturers of diamond drilling products and equipment. The collaboration helped Geotec optimize their work process and contributed to safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly diamond drilling operations. The endeavor was made possible thanks to Diamantina Christensen Chile, Safedrill, and Mining Parts; Geotec appreciates the efforts and support they have lent.

Geotec has developed and upgraded three technologies over the past 15 years, implementing what could be called today the standard for ‘perfect’ diamond drilling operations.

The rod handler

Geotec’s rod handler is 100% automatic and hands-free; combined with a rod sloop to hold and transport the drill pipe, it eliminates two major industry risks: serious arm and hand injuries of drillers’ helpers, and all risks associated with lifting and moving drill pipes between platforms.

Rod handler
The rod handler
Features and benefits
  • Suitable for all sizes of drill pipes (B-size-P-size) and casings;
  • Robust and way faster than a driller;
  • Efficient and low-maintenance – it requires only one driller and one driller’s helper;
  • Powered by the drill – angles -45 to -90 degrees;
  • Floating sub for rod make up and brake out;
  • Saves thread life;
  • Fast set-up and movement between platforms;
  • The rod sloop can be moved with a flatbed truck – sloop capacity – 1200 m (3936 ft) H-size, 2000 m (6560 ft) N-size.

The core pusher

The core pusher allows the driller’s helper to extract the core from the core barrel without effort, as the core barrel is placed on a flat tray about 3 ft (0.91 m) above the ground. Then a hydraulically powered piston pushes the core out of the barrel onto the core recovery tray. Inside the core barrel, the core is encapsulated within two split tubes, which allows the core to slide freely. This encapsulation provides another important benefit – it keeps the fractures in the state they have initially been during down-the-hole recovery, and eliminates the fractures that have been additionally induced by drillers’ helpers and the hammers they use during the process of extracting core from the barrel. As a result, a better quality core is delivered to Geotec’s customers.

Core pusher
The core pusher
Features and benefits
  • Safer, as it eliminates hammering and lifting of the inner tube by the driller’s helper;
  • Better core quality;
  • Eliminates induced fractures;
  • Powered by the drill;
  • Easy to transport;
  • Robust and low-maintenance;
  • Handles 5- and 10-feet inner tubes.

The mud plant

The mud plant provides three important benefits for drilling operations. The first and most important one is constant clean mud, free of cuttings. This makes the drilling process and core bit action more efficient, and bit life longer due to lower chances of ceased inner tubes, caused by the presence of cuttings in the system. The second benefit is lower water consumption; depending on mud returns, savings can be as much as 30-40%. This entails less use of the resource and less water hauling for the water truck between the source and the drill rig. Finally, it also results in lower use of mud products as these are efficiently recovered and recirculated.

Mud plant
The mud plant
Features and benefits
  • Efficient cleaning by a centrifuge system;
  • Efficient mixing of bentonite and other products;
  • Clean mud storage of 6000 L (1585 gal) and 4000 L (1056.7 gal) in a mixing tank;
  • Powered by the drill;
  • Operated by one driller’s helper (the same one working on the drill);
  • Easy to transport;
  • Sloop-mounted;
  • It eliminates the need for excavating and filling up mud pits. Thanks to the mud plant, backhoes are no longer a necessity;
  • Fast set-up and movement between platforms;
  • It can be transported with a flatbed truck;
  • It allows automatic and efficient mixing of mud products, liquids and powder.

Case study

All three technologies have been used together in several long-term projects throughout Chile. One of these projects is located at a large copper mine in Northern Chile. Geotec have had between three and five drills operating there constantly over the past six years (2015-2020); they have enjoyed great success, thanks to the rod handler, core pusher, and mud plant. These three technologies have also been used in a medium-sized copper mine in Central Chile, where Geotec operated between four and seven drills ceaselessly during the past four years (2017-2020), except for a few months during each winter when drilling operations had to stop due to harsh weather conditions.

All projects have been completed safely, in a timely manner, complying with all Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). As with most drilling operations, the teams did face some difficulties every now and then, however their experience and the use of the three technologies, helped resolve all problems and resulted in safer operations, less water consumption and delivery of good quality core samples to the clients.

Geotec drill equipment
Geotec’s drill site and equipment


Geotec has been operating successfully with this great combination of technologies for the past seven years. At the beginning, there had been an adjustment period as not everything worked as expected. The company experienced some setbacks, but the improvements made along the way, helped Geotec overcome them. Today the company’s operations are much safer, more efficient, with less but higher-skilled people. Everything on site is dependent on and controlled by the drill, even the lights. Therefore, no additional power units are required, which results in lower noise levels and fuel consumption.

Geotec’s message

Geotec is always striving to emphasize the importance of training. One piece of advice they would offer to all companies: give lots of training to all personnel (supervisors, drillers, drillers’ helpers, drivers, mechanics), both in classroom and on site, as this has been a critical success factor for them. The most significant change for Geotec has been in culture – operating with one driller and one driller’s helper per shift, as well as the change from conventional to more intelligent, safer, cleaner, and more efficient equipment. The more companies see the benefits of these technologies, the higher the chance for a new standard to be set everywhere.

About the company

Geotec Boyles Bros. is part of Boytec S.A. (Boytec) group of companies, a leading contractor of drilling services for the mining industry in Latin America since 1974, serving major and medium-sized mining companies with diamond drilling, reverse circulation drilling, horizontal drains, water well construction and maintenance.

Boytec operates in Chile, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador and other Latin American countries. Boytec is a long time affiliate of Granite Construction Inc. from the US and its headquarters are located in Santiago, Chile.

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