‘Master Drilling is a critical player in the mining industry’s transition towards remote mining and mechanisation’
SOUTH African-headquartered Master Drilling is one of the country’s technology success stories. Pretorius’s focus on diversification has taken the group’s home-grown raise boring drilling technology all over the world. This has resulted in a strong performance in the first half of 2023 and hopes of an improved annual dividend.
In South Africa, it has two XXXL machines on long-term contract and mobilised a third in the second half of 2023. Operations in Africa include long-term projects in the DRC and Botswana. South American operations have been under pressure. As a key client, Chilean copper producer Codelco had several weeks of operational stoppages. But this was more than offset by work in India, Mexico, Canada and Europe. A recent contract in Saudi Arabia could open up the Middle East region, too.
In November, Master Drilling successfully moved one of its drilling rigs to Western Australia, where it will be deployed in underground mining. The beauty of Master Drilling’s diversification is that it is not only across geographies, but also currencies, commodities and industries. Pretorius says he is seeing more demand from the infrastructure and hydroelectric sectors. In 2022, Master Drilling bought a controlling stake in A&R Group which provides safety and management solutions for the mining industry.
To stay competitive, Master Drilling has to consistently invest in technology, not only in cutting and drilling but also in digital technologies, such as proximity detection solutions and integrated data/resource management systems for mining. In this regard, Master Drilling is a critical player in the mining industry’s transition towards remote mining and mechanisation.
LIFE OF DANIE
Pretorius, who founded Master Drilling in 1986 and listed it on the JSE in 2012, is very much a hands-on technical leader. Under his control Master Drilling has developed innovations such as a Mobile Tunnel Borer for use in mining and a mechanised Shaft Boring System that is designed to replace traditional shaft-sinking methods. He is a certified government engineer and is actively involved in special projects such as directional and low-angle drilling and the design and modification of the raise bore fleet. Before founding the group, he worked for AngloGold’s Western Deep and Murray and Roberts.