by Garth Patterson, Director of U.S. Operations at Harris Exploration Drilling
Our company, Harris Drilling, was awarded the contract for exploration drilling for Lithium Americas. Lithium Americas Thacker Pass is the largest known measured and indicated Lithium resource in the US and we are excited to be working with them.
We started this project in mid-April, 2023 and we will run the drills 24/7 until November. We currently have two new diamond drills working for Lithium Americas and another on its way. We are drilling for Lithium Clays on this project and have anywhere from 15-20 people working.
Drilling in the high desert, we encounter various challenges in the kinds of terrain, from one hole to the next. The ground can go from steep and rocky to gentle rolling hills. The terrain can become extra challenging when the weather is not cooperating. To combat this, the roads and trails are maintained, and we have six-wheel drive vehicles and water trucks on site. We also have a truck-mounted core rig and two track-mounted drills to use on the rougher terrain. All of them can be serviced with a 6×6 water truck.
We have a fully rebuilt Christensen CT14 that was completely reworked by the team at our shop in Fallon, Nevada, US, a new VersaDrill KMN1.4 S-Track Drill, as well as a new Multi-Power Titan II Track Drill. The Titan II is the largest and is rated at 40 000 lb (18 144 kg) pullback. The VersaDrill has a 33 000 lb (14 969 kg) pullback. The CS14 has 31 000 lb (14 061 kg) pullback.
In addition, this project has some groups protesting it. As with many groups, they block the roads accessing the sites.
Sourcing enough water for the three drills is also challenging.
Despite the challenges, everything is going as planned on this project. We are drilling at a hole depth in the range of 100-900 ft (30.5–274 m). The number of holes completed at this time is more than 30. We could not complete only a few holes due to high-pressure flowing Artesian wells. Dealing with Artesian is controlled using a grout packer and cement.
Production has been steadily increasing and the crews have been working incredibly hard on better time management and more efficient moves to allow them more drilling. This has made for better results in footage rates.
Our biggest concern on the project, and in all our projects, is continuing to operate in a safe and productive manner, recruiting, training and retaining the right personnel to continue to provide our clients with high-quality service.
About the company
Harris Drilling has proved mining, environmental, water well, Lithium and mineral exploration in the Western USA since 1956. We take pride in providing our clients with a consistently high level of service. Our diversified equipment and experienced personnel give us the knowledge to complete projects to the highest expectations.
Our equipment acquisition and selection are determined by the knowledgeable staff anticipating the specialty services, challenging geographical limitations, and remote sites that projects may present.
In 2022, Harris Exploration Drilling became part of Earth Drilling’s group of companies out of Canada, allowing the Harris team access to a wider range of equipment and services. In addition to our coring operation, we continue with our RC Division, Large Mud Rotary Lithium Extraction Wells. We also added two new sonic drills to our fleet and DR24 (up to 24-inch) Casing Advancement.