RC drilling is similar to air core drilling, in that the drill cuttings are returned to surface inside the rods. The drilling mechanism is a pneumatic reciprocating piston known as a hammer driving a tungsten-steel drill bit. RC drilling utilises much larger rigs and machinery and depths of up to 500 metres are routinely achieved.
RC drilling ideally produces dry rock chips, as large air compressors dry the rock out ahead of the advancing drill bit. RC drilling is slower and costlier but achieves better penetration than RAB or air core drilling; it is cheaper than diamond coring and is thus preferred for most mineral exploration work.
Reverse circulation is achieved by blowing air down the rods, the differential pressure creating air lift of the water and cuttings up the inner tube which is inside each rod. It reaches the bell at the top of the hole, then moves through a sample hose which is attached to the top of the cyclone. The drill cuttings travel around the inside of the cyclone until they fall through an opening at the bottom and are collected in a sample bag.