Our operations in Rogaland Country in southwest Norway involve investigating deposits of critical raw materials in some rather cut-off areas. Think steep terrain and no existing roads or tracks – no vehicle access, essentially. So, there was only one way that Energold – global drilling experts and our partner on the ground – could obtain core from these areas. And that was using a helicopter supported rig.
‘It’s a modular rig, that is assembled on the drill site,’ explains Craig Patterson, Vice President of Business Development at Energold (EMEA). “The rig is broken down into the various components – including the engines, control panel, mast and skid – with drilling and support equipment packaged in boxes and secured by strapping on to pallets. The key to ensuring safe operations is the thorough preparation beforehand. Norge Mining provided us with the helicopter, its crew and a load master and our team is responsible for the packing, securing and assembly of the rig in situ. In such remote locations, these types of helicopter supported operations ensure we don’t need to cut any access into the land, or chop down trees; that would leave a permanent scar.’
In places where helicopter supported drilling operations rigs are more commonplace – like Africa and South America – drill crews may sleep in camps on site. For operations in southwest Norway, however, Energold’s teams trek in on foot from cabins near by – although, there are reports of a few climbs needed to reach the rig everyday.
‘The use of a heli-supported rig is certainly indicative that this is an exciting operation,’ adds Craig Patterson. ‘Our modular rigs are super flexible and leave a smaller footprint on the land than larger conventional rigs. This is the first time we’ve used a heli-rig in Europe; typically the region has much easier access. The feedback from our teams onsite is that relations with local landowners is good, with a lot of support. There’s a real buzz for our crew out there. And that’s in large part because they’re involved in such an exciting project which is helping with investigations into EU Crtical Raw Materials that may have a positive impact on the world.’
With six experts used as part of the ‘move team’ and a further two to three on the ground per shift, Energold’s meticulous planning, protocols and communication have all been critical for this operation and for all future ones in Norway. Especially as winter approaches – with average temperatures of -6 to -8 degrees Celsius, and plenty of snowfall and wind; all important considerations when flying equipment in on a helicopter.
Back on the ground and earlier in the year Norge Mining announced the publication of a maiden mineral resource estimate for the Øygrei area – marking a major milestone. Exploration work is ongoing to upgrade and extend the resource.
Image: Jon Russill, SRK