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Exploration diamond drilling differs from other geological drilling (see Drilling rig) in that a solid core is extracted from depth, for examination on the surface. The key technology of the diamond drill is the actual diamond bit itself. It is composed of industrial diamonds set into a soft metallic matrix. As shown in the figure, the diamonds are scattered throughout the matrix, and the action relies on the matrix to slowly wear during the drilling process, so as to expose more diamonds. The bit is mounted onto a core barrel which is attached to the drill stem, which is connected to a rotary drill. Water is injected into the drill pipe, so as to wash out the rock cuttings produced by the bit and also to reduce the heat produced due to friction which causes less wear and tear of the bits. An actual diamond bit is a complex affair, usually designed for a specific rock type, with many channels for washing.
The drill uses a diamond encrusted drill bit (pictured on the right) to drill through the rock. The drill produces a “core” which is photographed and split longitudinally. Half of the split core is assayed while the other half is permanently stored for future use and re-assaying if necessary. Although a larger diameter core is the most preferred it is the most expensive. The most common diameter sizes of core are NQ and CHD 76.