Breaking Records in a Silver Mine
By the summer of 1546 Juan de Tolosa, a Spanish Basque conquistador, had grown frustrated. He had led several expeditions in search of silver in North-Central Mexico, with little success other than a handful of silver-rich rocks he’d obtained from local natives. On September 8th his luck finally changed.
De Tolosa had hit a mother lode that soon turned out to be one of the richest silver deposits in the world. Within a few decades, the mining camp he founded on the spot grew into a prosperous city called Zacatecas, which later became the capital of the state carrying the same name. By the 18th century, the state of Zacatecas produced no less than one fifth of the world’s silver.
Almost 500 years after de Tolosa, the silver deposits in the state of Zacatecas show no sign of depletion. One of the largest underground mines in the area is called El Saucito, near the city of Fresnillo, some 50 km north of Zacatecas City, owned by Fresnillo plc. Operational since 2011, it produces some 22 million oz (more than 620,000 kg) of silver per year, along with some gold, lead, and zinc.
To maintain and ramp up production, extensive mine development is constantly underway. In 2017, some 24,000 meters of rock will be excavated by the contractors at El Saucito. In such a scale, successful performance requires a reliable supply of all consumable parts of the drill string, such as bits, rods, couplings, and shanks.
Several contractors at El Saucito have chosen Robit’s tools, supplied by their local Robit distributor Rock Bits Tools. “It’s all about communicating and following up with the customer, so we can ensure we have the right drilling parameters and good conditions on the drill rig. Rock Bits Tools are doing a great job serving our customers”, says Sales Director Jorge Leal of Robit S.A.C.
Cominvi, one of the contractors Robit is serving at El Saucito, has reached impressive results with Robit’s tools in drifting and tunnelling. “Each drilling tool has a life expectancy relative to a specific mine or area. In El Saucito for example, a shank that lasts around 5,000 drill metres can be considered high quality. Recently, Cominvi drilled 9,196 metres on one of their drifters with our shank adapter COP1838 R38 038/435. To our knowledge, that’s a record”, Jorge says with a tinge of pride in his voice.
There may yet emerge new opportunities for breaking that record: the ore resources at El Saucito alone are estimated to last for another 25 years.
Picture: The Rock Bits Tools task force ready for action. From left: Gustavo Martinez, Jorge Rodriguez, Felipe Azpilcueta, Ricardo Castillo, Carlos Torres.