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Adding value with reverse circulation drilling at Pueblo Viejo


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Author M Almond and L Ventura


The Pueblo Viejo project in the Dominican Republic installed an innovative sample system on its reverse circulation (RC) drilling rig during commissioning and subsequent commencement of operations. As knowledge of the orebody increased with mining and plant production, cost pressures became apparent that raised questions concerning the continued use of RC drilling versus blasthole sampling for ore control.

To justify the continued use of RC drilling for grade control, an in-depth study was undertaken to determine the quality of the sample and prove its value-add to the operation.

To investigate the differences in sample quality, a complete bench trial was initiated across both ore pits to compare RC drill results with blasthole assays on a side-by-side basis. The results indicated that based on ore block comparison between RC and blasthole sampling, RC identified an additional 20 per cent of high-grade (+ 4.5 g/t Au) ounces.

Previous work indicated that Au, Ag and Cu were all elevated in the drill fines at Pueblo Viejo (Goers and Almond, 2012). This previous test work did not consider the quantity of fines in an RC sample therefore new test work was undertaken to include particle size distribution analyses. This study would determine if the inclusion of fines in the sample was occurring and compare the quantity of fines in the sample against other sample systems and blasthole samples.

Comparisons between RC samples and blasthole samples indicate that for the RC samples a range of 30–35 per cent of the sample passed 300 mesh as compared to blastholes where the range of the sample passing 300 mesh was 15–30 per cent.

This paper includes a case study on the importance of accurate samples and how they have impacted throughput through the pressure oxidation process plant at Pueblo Viejo. The accurate samples provided by RC allow for improved stockpile and blending strategies, showing the importance of accurate samples to manage risk and create value, against the perception that savings can be made at the risk of poor sampling performance.


Almond, M and Ventura, L, 2017. Adding value with reverse circulation drilling at Pueblo Viejo, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 277–284 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).