A $17 million contract at a Pilbara iron ore project awarded to JSW Australia has given the shares of parent company Hughes Drilling a much-needed boost.

JSW will provide drilling and blasting services at Mineral Resources' Carina mine for two years, with options to extend for up to two more years.

The job came on top of a geo- thermal project secured at a southern suburbs aquatic complex worth $2 million. It has previously drilled geothermal bores to heat swimming pools at Perth's Hale School and a public facility in Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Hughes Drilling shares closed up 2� to 19�. The stock hit a high of 21� during trading.

The shares had long been on the slide - down 39 per cent for the year to date - amid the mining downturn and despite it having rig utilisation rates superior to its peers.

Queensland-based Hughes Drilling bought JSW from its WA owners last year for $7 million in an all-share deal, including $17 million in debt.

One of the vendors, NRW co-founder John Silverthorne, last month further sold down his stake in Hughes Drilling.

A declaration to the stock exchange on Monday showed Mr Silverthorne sold shares worth $300,000 in an off-market trade, cutting his stake to 3 per cent.

The company this week injected a bit of star power to its board with the appointment of former rugby league player Gary Belcher as a non-executive director.

Mr Belcher has worked in sales and marketing since ending a playing and coaching career in which he represented Queens- land and Australia.

The West Australian

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