International drilling group Indodrill has won favour with major miners on account of its bespoke deep-drilling rigs, flawless teamwork and spectacular safety record.
Those at the top of major companies often can’t relate that closely to what happens at the bottom. The down-to-earth directors of Indodrill, however, are more than happy to get in a rig and drill with the best of them.
Hailing from a small mining village in Fife, Scotland, Indodrill Group Managing Director John Horne has drilling in his blood. He operated his first drill rig in 1971 at the age of 16, working in the Scottish coal fields with his father. He went on to do further coal drilling and site investigation projects in Scotland, before moving onto overseas projects: first as a driller, then supervisor, then manager and finally managing director of the Indodrill group of companies, and most recently Managing Director of Indodrill (EMEA) Ltd based in the Scottish town of Alloa.
Horne’s close friend and business partner Joe Fisher began his drilling career in 1969. He has 45 years of true ‘hands-on’ experience of drilling for almost every mineral, in locations all over the world. For several years he was Managing Director of Asahi Diamond Drilling Products, before becoming Indodrill’s Group Business Development & Operations Director.
John Horne and Joe Fisher bought the Indodrill group of companies from the former management in February 2010, at a time that the company was having some difficulties. They bought out the old shareholders and before long had the company back on track: debt-free, with cash in the bank and growing, despite difficult market conditions.
Between 2010 and 2014, Indodrill’s fleet swelled from 23 drill rigs to 85, and its staff up to a high of more than 1,000 employees (it currently has about 300). The group’s operations spread outwards across Southeast Asia and beyond, so that it now has offices in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Australia and the recent addition in Scotland . Horne attributes Indodrill’s rapid growth to a strategy of giving clients “what they really want: work that’s good quality, done on time and within the best safety parameters”.
Indodrill’s commitment to safety is fully backed up by its audited 6.5+ million man hours without lost time injury (LTI), which could just be the best record in the entire drilling industry. “It’s a fantastic achievement for us – one we’re quite proud of actually,” says Horne.
“Safety is such an important factor, especially for large international mining companies such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto; it’s the first thing they look at. They will always look at a contractor’s safety record, and we have demonstrated our ability to operate safely year after year.”
The safety of Indodrill’s practices is demonstrated further through the awards its projects have won. These include two from the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) for Indodrill’s work on Gold Field Limited’s (JSE, NYSE: GFI) Agata Project: the 2010 Platinum Achievement Award – Presidential Mineral Industry Environmental Award – Mineral Exploration; and the 2010 Safest Exploration Award.
Another of Indodrill’s advantages is the management’s deep familiarity with the drilling industry. Having been drillers themselves, Horne and Fisher feel that they can relate to their workers in the field and truly appreciate the sacrifices they have to make for the job. Horne says he and Fisher are “very approachable” and that Indodrill is “like a big family”.
“We realise that our workers in the field are the people that make Indodrill, not us,” he adds.
“They follow our procedures and management style, but they’re the guys that go out there and work hard every day in the drill rigs. We’ve never forgotten that because we’ve been there ourselves, and it makes us a lot more passionate about what we do.”
Built to excel
Indodrill manufactures most of its own its own drill rigs, which not only saves money but also allows it to design and build rigs suited specifically to particular applications and clients. It specialises in man-portable and heli-portable rigs, designed for use in remote environments. The fact that Indodrill’s management are all drillers by trade enables them to design rigs that are more “driller friendly” than other manufacturers might manage, says Horne.
“We build rigs especially for clients and their specific applications,” he adds. “Sometimes there isn’t a rig on the open market that can meet a client’s needs, so we work with them to provide what they want.”
One such example is the ID 1800H, which Indodrill believes to be the largest heli-portable rig in the world with the greatest depth capacity. This rig has deep-hole capacity of up to 700PQ, 1200 HQ, 1800 NQ and 2000 BQ, yet it is also container portable with a small footprint. Indodrill’s current 85-strong fleet spans a wide range of rig sizes and drilling depths, offering clients great choice and flexibility.
“We also offer the Sandvik DE150 drill, which is recognised as the largest depth capacity underground drill rig in the world,” adds Horne.
“That means we can give clients the ability to go deeper underground than they’ve ever been able to do previously. We also have the expertise to do directional drilling and wedging, where we are able to steer drills underneath and into an ore body.”
As of June 2013, a strategic ‘partnership alliance’ with Geosonic Drilling Scotland has expanded Indodrill’s drilling capabilities further still. The company can now offer clients the ability to do geosonic drilling: a specialised method suitable for geotechnical, site investigation, overburden and mineral sands drilling that uses a vibration technique to achieve excellent core recovery.
Meeting the market
One of Indodrill’s most significant drilling projects to date was its work on the Far Southeast gold-copper deposit in Luzon, the Philippines, owned by Gold Fields and Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company. At the time of Indodrill completing the contract in June 2012, it was one of the world’s biggest underground drilling projects.
“It was a high-pressure drill from the client, because they had tight time scales to keep to and everyone really wanted the job to be completed in time and safely,” Horne explains. “We did that, and the client was very happy with the job that was done.”
Indodrill hasn’t worked on a bigger project since, largely due to 2013 being “the most horrible year in the past 20 for the drilling and mining industry,” says Horne.
“Many major projects are being put on hold because mining companies do not have the capital and the investors to afford the drilling, due to the commodity markets and fund raising being at an all-time low. This has put the drilling and mining industries into recession.”
Nevertheless, Indodrill has several tenders in the pipeline and is hopeful that business will pick up again this year. “We can see the market starting to make a slight turnaround,” Horne remarks.
“Our goal for 2014 is to get more of our current drill rig fleet out working, and we’ll also be looking into expanding into Africa, Europe and the Middle East.”
While the company’s directors are keen to extend Indodrill’s global reach, their greatest priority is to strengthen its reputation worldwide. Horne says the ultimate aspiration is for the Indodrill name to become synonymous with quality within the mining and drilling industry.
“We want people to hear ‘Indodrill’ and to think of a quality product and a quality service, done safely,” he says. “That’s where we want to be, and I feel that we’re getting there.”