Quality sampling using coiled tubing drilling in deep mineral exploration
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The sampling time, the costs and its quality are the three factors that determine the best method of drilling in mineral exploration. The two principal methods of reverse circulation (RC) and diamond core drilling are often used in combination by mine operators. RC is used for drilling shallow holes and in-pit grade control, and core drilling for deeper holes to identify future resources. The RC method is faster and more flexible than coring and provides virtually uncontaminated cuttings (ranges from dust to 25 mm chips) to the surface cyclone suitable for geochemical anomalies. The diamond coring produces core samples to increase the level of geological knowledge and the 3D extension and distribution of the orebody. However, both of these methods are subjected to certain limitations and inefficiencies in reaching deeper depths and drilling complex hole geometries. Examples of such shortcomings include the inability to provide enough air pressure for RC drilling and high friction between drill pipe and the hole wall in diamond core drilling.Considering that delivering large volume of reliable samples from deep zones to the surface in shortest possible time is of paramount importance in mineral exploration, and assuming that obtaining core samples over whole overburden is not always essential, then drilling small size holes as fast as possible and delivering the small chip samples to the surface would be a good alternative with several advantages over conventional drilling methods for deep hard rocks mineral exploration. As a result, the use of coiled tube (CT) drilling technology has been proposed recently for such applications. CT is a continuous length of ductile steel or composite tube stored and transported on a large reel; and allows fast drilling by eliminating the connection time and providing continuous circulation during drilling. This enables quick access to the zone of interest to collect the cuttings or obtain core samples. CT is advantageous particularly in drilling directional boreholes and multi-laterals. In this paper, feasibility of using CT delivering reliable samples is discussed for deep mineral exploration. In addition, recent developments and practices are presented that make CT a reliable drilling technology to drill cheaper, faster and deeper and to deliver more continuous and reliable data and samples from deep formations.
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