Energold – a global drilling company – operates more than 100 exploration drill rigs and has a worldwide presence with operations in Central and South America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. However, its philosophy on mining with minimum impact to the environment and communities led it to become Norge Mining’s drilling partner on the ground in Norway for exploring deposits of Vanadium, Titanium and Phosphate. Here Craig Patterson, the Vice President of Business Development at Energold, gives his insight into this unique project and partnership.
Q. Does Energold have particular drilling specialisms?
Craig Patterson: We are an international organisation with projects around the globe, but we maintain a client-focused philosophy. Our expertise is in delivering technically and logistically challenging projects with minimal impact to the environment and communities – always drilling safely and productively. We’ve seen increased demand in critical minerals and green metals projects that are essential for the green energy revolution and electrification of transportation. We typically get involved at the front-end of projects, as we have with Norge Mining. We like to get involved early, giving our clients the benefit of our expertise of working in challenging locations.
Q. How does Energold ensure its drilling is as ‘low-impact’ as possible?
Craig Patterson: The selection of equipment is important. There is often a feeling that big is best – but that’s not our philosophy. Smaller footprints, less intrusive access requirements and communication with the communities are all key. On that last point, Norge Mining is excellent at this. It’s already been bringing communities along on the journey, explaining the benefits of the project and giving them an understanding of the potential endgame.
Q. So far, how have you put that into practice in Norway?
Craig Patterson: We are very much at the exploration stage of this project; Norge is still defining what’s in the ground before further plans are fixed. How mining companies use clean energy to power their projects is, of course, a hot topic in the industry. Around the world there are now solar powered mines, and ones using hydro and wind generated power. This really is the step change and a direction of travel which will undoubtedly continue.
Q. How key is mining to a more sustainable future?
Craig Patterson: Mining has to play a big part in our green revolution including the electrification of transport and the production and storage of clean energy. Without the raw materials to build turbines and make batteries and so on, it’s just not going to happen. The mining industry has not always been synonymous with environmental protection, but there’s been a transformation in driving green credentials and mining safely, with minimal environmental impact and in a sustainable way.
Q. Is it energising for Energold to be working on deposits of EU Critical Raw Materials that have the potential to change supply chains in the future?
Craig Patterson: The Critical Raw Materials element is interesting to us. It’s nice to be involved in something that may have a positive impact. It’s important for the world that mineral supply chains become more localised where possible. The carbon footprint of moving minerals, processed ores or even partly produced products around the world should not be underestimated. For example, the carbon footprint of an EV battery once it reaches the end user can take years to pay back in regards to its environmental benefits. That’s really driving the need for closer-to-home supplies of green minerals.
Q. Energold managed to start explorative drilling in Norway during the summer of 2020 – just months after the pandemic locked down Europe. How was that achievable?
Craig Patterson: Summer 2020 was a difficult, uncertain time for the world. But through excellent collaboration with Norge Mining and its partners on the ground, we developed specific operating procedures for the project to ensure safety for all our drill crews. It was challenging, but we are immensely proud to have started a big programme like this during those times, with the challenge of moving equipment around and tight travel restrictions. It was real testament to the team ethos between Norge Mining, ourselves and consultant partners involved. It was new territory for everyone at that time. Our Health and Safety teams worked really hard to pull it altogether. But it was a logistical challenge, above all.
Q. How does exploring EU Critical Raw Materials in Norway differ from some of your other projects?
Craig Patterson: Norge Mining has always been so clear about its objectives. This has been hugely helpful for us; we’ve known where to invest in the right equipment for the site conditions and drilling depth requirements. We have mobilised operations in very remote places around the world for 25 years. Against this backdrop, Norway, geographically, is a pleasant jurisdiction in which to operate. We’ve recently mobilised a modular drilling rig for helicopter supported work, where the topography doesn’t allow for ground access to particular sites. The rig parts will be positioned by helicopter and assembled on the drill pad with crew flown in and out each shift. We have also done some fairly deep drilling, to almost 1,000 metres in Norway with rigs purchased specifically for the project.
Q. What’s life like for Energold’s drilling crew in Norway?
Craig Patterson: Norway is a new jurisdiction for us, but we’ve had a lot of support from Norge Mining regarding the practical side of things in the country and the crews have been very well looked after. Production and safety have been first class. And that motivates the crew. As does the excitement about the project and the nature of Norge Mining’s investigations (into Vanadium, Titanium and Phosphate) adds to the team spirit and the motivation there on the ground. Drilling ultimately is challenging. The crews work long hours – both day and night shifts – in difficult conditions. It can be bleak and cold. But the crews really get into a rhythm, share successes and spur each other on. And it’s been a fantastic project so far from that perspective.