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Tips for Diamond Drilling in Permafrost

posted by the Epiroc Exploration & OreBody Solutions team

January 15, 2018

At least up here in the Northern hemisphere, winter has arrived in full force. In many regions, the coldest temperatures over consecutive days were recorded, breaking many previous records. The experts say that extreme temperatures are likely to continue.

Fordia Driller training 2018 Drill Site Security

For diamond drillers, that means some of you will have to drill in arctic-like conditions. It also means that more regions will have conditions that are colder than you may have expected or that you may have experienced in the past. You may arrive at a drill site and have no idea that your water circulation is at risk of freezing.


I wish there were many tips I could offer to help avoid this but prevention is really the best. Making sure your water doesn’t freeze is much better than having to deal with drilling equipment that is frozen and stuck in the hole.


Having a water heater can help to a certain degree, as it will be able to heat the water from the reservoir to the pump and to the borehole. Keep in mind though that the water going into the hole may be warmer, but once your hole descends deep enough, it could still freeze. Furthermore, a water heater is not a viable option in areas where water must be delivered by truck.


The best preventive solution is to add something to your water beforehand to help keep it from freezing. Many drillers add salt to the drill water. The presence of salt in water reduces the freezing point of water. The more salt in the water, the lower the freezing point will be.


Another option is to add calcium chloride. Calcium chloride actually generates heat as it dissolves and this forms ice-melting brine. The good news is that calcium chloride is relatively harmless to plants and soil and as a de-icing agent, it is much more effective at lower temperatures than salt.


Of course, another safety issue is that calcium chloride can irritate skin so drillers must be sure to have their protective personal equipment (PPE) with them when using calcium chloride.


Diamond drilling often demands that you deal with Mother Nature, whether that is in the form of permafrost, extreme weather, remote locations, difficult ground conditions or other inconveniences. Our goal is to try and make it easier for you.