Drilling can be a high risk process in any environment where not regulated and controlled. The industry works hard to ensure safety standards are set high, and operations at Norge Mining’s two sites in Eigersund are no exception.
Gold-standard safety record
Norge Mining’s drilling partner Energold EMEA has recently achieved 73,934 metres drilled (and counting), with zero Lost Time Injuries (LTIs) on site in Norway. In fact, right across the company’s operations throughout Africa, Europe, and Asia there have been no LTIs at all in the last three years; all the more impressive in the context of observed increases in the reporting of potential near misses, a sure sign of a healthy reporting culture.
People and process
Industry norm is for drill crews to work 12-hour shifts, and Norwegian labour laws allow for some flexibility in work patterns, but mindful of individual wellbeing, Energold run two eight-hour drilling shifts each day. Many of the drill crew are away from home, so appropriate rest days are key to keeping everyone fresh, safe and motivated. Equally as important are following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) when it comes to ensure safe working practices are always adhered to.
Safety is always paramount. Each shift begins with a rig inspection and a comprehensive check list to complete. Then comes the ‘toolbox talk’ where specific operational details are covered – reviewing any requested operational changes, rig running issues and SOPs. Once a week, generally on Saturdays, there’s a main safety meeting to capture and implement any required improvements. This is important, because as Matthew Durdin-Robertson, Energold’s Training, Safety and Security Manager explains,
“It’s one thing to sit at a desk and say we have all these procedures, as per our ISO 45001 certification standards, but it’s critical that they function well at site level to have the desired effect.”
Meeting external challenges head-on
Keeping a site safe is a 24/7 responsibility, and one that Norge Mining and Energold take extremely seriously. Drilling at Eigersund began just as Covid was hitting, which presented additional safety challenges on the ground. Stringent site safety procedures and ongoing risk assessments ensured that throughout the whole pandemic there were only ever one or two isolated Covid cases across the two Eigersund sites, and drilling was able to continue uninterrupted throughout.
Energold has a comprehensive induction programme for new starters with the company, and close monitoring of operational practice by experienced site supervisors. If anything doesn’t meet expected safety standards, then further training is implemented, tailored to the precise needs of each individual. Given the specific nature of its operations, Energold has developed its own training programme to ensure its crews have the knowledge and skills to be safe and productive on site.
“It’s definitely something we’ve had to do in-house. We have not yet found an external qualification programme that fully meets our needs. Our own programme ensures we cover every aspect of our operations.
Maritime Norway has a relatively milder climate than that experienced at Norge Mining’s inland drilling sites. Winter operations at Eigersund therefore present fewer challenges than Energold teams have experienced previously, working within the Arctic circle. Recent years have seen unseasonably warm conditions in Norway, resulting in cycles of freezing and thawing that have caused the ground at the two drill sites to fluctuate between solid surface layers and muddy, slushy strata. Variable conditions on site mean constant fine-tuning of operations – and while extremely challenging, the Energold procedures mean teams can safely adapt to the various situations arising.
Safely unlocking Critical Raw Materials
Through its operations at the two Eigersund sites, Norge Mining is exploring and sourcing three EU Critical Raw Materials: vanadium, phosphate and titanium – all on the European Union’s 2020 list. Matthew and the Energold drill teams are proud to play their part in unlocking these precious new resources powering us all towards net zero:
“For the crew it’s definitely exciting to be involved in such a significant project as this. The guys keep up with regular developments, and their contribution to the project is certainly something for them to be proud about.