Timing has proved fortunate for drilling contractor Mitchell and its commitment to north-west Queensland, where it recently invested about $150,000 in a new Cloncurry operations facility.
The facility opened in October – about the same time that the company noted a marked increase in customer enquiry, according to Mitchell Services general manager commercial Todd Wild.
“There’s certainly been a pleasant increase in activity,” Mr Wild said.
“Particularly in September/October this year – clients were eager to drill some metres.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that if gold (pricing) stays where it is and copper, lead and zinc continue their run, the 2017 drilling season will be a busier period.”
The company’s new Cloncurry facility has been purpose-built to service Mitchell’s 15 rigs based in the region, complete with accommodation facilities, a wash-down bay, two service and storage sheds, fuel depot, site office and storage for a range of equipment containers, trucks, light vehicles and support equipment.
It represents an upgrade from the previous Cloncurry base inherited as part of the Drill Torque merger in late 2013.
From the new yard, Mitchell is able to deploy rigs throughout north Queensland as well as the eastern Northern Territory.
“The Cloncurry region is a world-recognised, mineral-rich province with a proud history of generating high quality mining discoveries,” Mitchell Services chief executive officer Andrew Elf said.
“The time, resources and capital invested in this facility is a demonstration of Mitchell Services’ commitment to the region and the long term viability of mining and resources in north Queensland.
“The recent price increases in key commodities such as copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver is a sign that we’ve made the investment at the right time.”
Employment prospects improving
The positive signs Mitchell Services reported echoed recent Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG) survey results showing an upswing in employment prospects for that profession, which has been hailed as a sign of recovery in the exploration and mining sectors.
AIG quarterly survey results to the end of September showed a two per cent drop in unemployment (to 13.9 percent) and a 1.3 per cent drop in under-employment to 18.9 per cent for geoscientists.
The AIG said the greatest decrease in geoscientist unemployment was evident in Queensland, where the unemployment and under-employment rates fell by 5.5 per cent (to 11.7 per cent) and 3.2 per cent (to 22.3 per cent) respectively.
“Two successive quarters of improved employment prospects for geoscientists in Australia is most welcome,” AIG council member Andrew Waltho said.
“We haven’t seen that since September 2014, but Australia’s geoscientists are far from out of the woods as far as employment is concerned.”
He said there was growing anecdotal evidence that the situation for geoscientists had been improving as the exploration and mining sectors recovered from a prolonged and damaging downturn.
“The impacts of recent commodities prices probably came too late to be reflected in this survey but we will be keenly watching the results of the next survey in December,” Mr Waltho said.
More than 85 per cent of Australian geoscientists work in minerals and energy exploration, mining and production.
Mr Wild said Mitchell Services’ contracts in the Mount Isa region included underground and surface drilling at South32’s Cannington Mine, providing underground drilling services to Glencore’s George Fisher and Lady Loretta mines, as well as carrying out exploration work for Chinova, CST Lady Annie and Rio Tinto.
It is also carrying out work for a raft of exploration companies such as Aeon Metals, Hammer Metals and Exco Resources.
Mitchell Services has 58 drill rigs nationwide and has bases at Dysart in central Queensland and Muswellbrook in New South Wales as well as a head office in Brisbane.