HELM Diamond Drilling: Tackling the harsh northern terrain

February 11, 2023

by Alan McPherson, Owner of HELM Diamond Drilling

Helm Drilling

Breaking into the drilling sector

HELM Diamond Drilling (HELM) is bringing highly skilled, new competition to one of Canada’s largest, and most competitive drilling sectors. This prospect would seem to be a difficult task for a new drilling company, but HELM is successfully doing exactly that.

Being a newcomer in a highly competitive drilling zone of Canada is no easy task. The number of competing companies in a single area generates some of the most challenging obstacles for a new diamond drilling company to face. The financial and production pressures that come with going up against bigger, more industry-established entities as a newcomer can be quite cumbersome for most, but the success that HELM has accomplished so far has greatly impacted the direction the company is going. HELM’s drive to accomplish some of the best results in this area came from a strategic forward-thinking mentality, a love for innovation, a keen focus on safety, and the proper investment into industry-leading equipment. These foundational pillars have led HELM to hold records in this area with the highest meterage recorded so far: 144 m (472 ft) in a single shift.

Building strong relationships

Among HELM’s active contracts is the exploration company Enduro Metals. Thanks to the relationship with the locals, the geological findings, and choosing the appropriate drilling company, this exploration team has one of the largest junior land positions in the famous Canadian region known as the ‘Golden Triangle’. It contains some of the most important gold deposits in the Canadian history. The name is derived from the abundance of gold, silver, and copper in the area and has played a major role in Canada’s mining industry for decades. This land position in the ‘Golden Triangle’ is located in northwestern British Columbia on the Tahltan First Nations territory. The property is known as ‘Newmont Lake’ and has at least four large mineralized systems: Burgundy, McLymont, Cuba, and Chachi.

Accessing remote locations

To access the drilling location, HELM drill crews boarded a flight at a regional airport located in Terrace, British Columbia. A shuttle then transported the crew north on highway BC-37N for roughly six hours, passing three junctions before reaching a radio-controlled dirt mining road. Once on this controlled road, the shuttle continued an additional hour into the valleys of the surrounding mountains to arrive at the designated camp location (Truffle). Once ready for shift, drill crews drive an additional kilometer and a half to a staging location before being airlifted by a helicopter to the drilling sites.

HELM’s drill site in the Golden Triangle
HELM’s drill site in the Golden Triangle

When drilling on top of the approximate 1900 m (6234 ft) above sea level zones, the task of dealing with a sufficient water supply becomes one of the more technical challenges posed. Due to the remote, elevated location, it is extremely difficult if not impossible at times to find a local water source that produces enough flow and pressure to enable drilling at the depths required by the contract. This becomes even more challenging if drilling is continued past the 600 m (1969 ft) target depth. Drill crews have the laborious task of running high-pressurized hose lines across kilometers of undeveloped terrain which is largely traveled by foot.

Conquering challenges

Many challenges need to be faced when remote drilling, but there is one that cannot always be predicted; the weather. When working at such high elevations the weather sometimes does not coincide with the weather at the staging location where crew changes commence. With drill site locations being in such early stages of development, the focus of leaving minimal environmental impact is also of extreme importance and high priority. Due to this approach, there is often not enough space for the amenities the average person is familiar with when facing changing meteorological conditions. When the weather fluctuates to either side of the spectrum, the drillers have to rely on strategically selected items previously delivered and assembled at the drilling sites. The weather can sometimes also affect crew changes if the pilot deems it to be unsafe for flying. Thankfully, HELM is always prepared for circumstances like these and takes the necessary precautions to be proactive as much as possible.

Before drilling can commence the team needs to fly in, via helicopter – at roughly 816 kg (1800 lb) a load – all the drilling equipment and water supply gear, along with all the safety equipment to accommodate for unforeseen circumstances. This safety equipment includes a survival shack, heating and sleeping gear, generators, and sustenance in case crews get stuck for long durations of time. This needs to be methodically approached so the safety of the crews is the main priority while drilling takes a back seat until the conditions improve and are deemed safe. Once this is accomplished the drilling equipment is given the crews’ full attention, and loads are transported up piece by piece.

HELM’s crews are no strangers to drilling on the side of a mountain. Luckily, Multi-Power’s Discovery II makes the move as easy as possible.
HELM’s crews are no strangers to drilling on the side of a mountain. Luckily, Multi-Power’s Discovery II makes the move as easy as possible.

Drill rig

The choice of machinery was decided with safety, reliability, performance, elevation, and transportation in mind. In order to accomplish the required drill targets, the design choice of Multi-Power’s Discovery II drill was made. These drills have the capability and convenience of being transfigured for both ‘Skid’ and ‘Track’ mounted drilling, allowing for HELM to eliminate boundaries when considering a contract. The Discovery II has the power to drill up to 1285 m (4216 ft) with N-size bits and 875 m (2871 ft) using H-size with possibilities for expansion if needed.

Choosing this drill set up allows the entire drill rig to be broken into 10 pieces for fly transportation. These include the drill shack, stinger, drill head, control panel, engine, mud tank, rod rack, helper’s stand, toolbox, and frame. Having a system like this generates some of the most efficient drill moves attainable in this location with record timing, allowing the crew to safely continue drilling as soon as possible. With the mentality for constant improvement this will only get more efficient as HELM continues to grow.

About the company

The heart of HELM Diamond Drilling has a deeply rooted aboriginal connection, consisting of two owner/operators who are official indigenous members of Canada, making HELM 100% indigenous-owned. Alan McPherson belongs to the Tahltan Nation located in the northern parts of British Columbia (and southern Yukon) while Devlin Luck is a member of the Binche First Nations group located in the Fort St. James area of central British Columbia. With over 30 years of combined drilling experience throughout Canada and connections to two highly economically active indigenous mining territories, HELM Diamond Drilling not only offers a leading approach in safety and innovative drilling, but also provides personal relations with each respective indigenous Band.

Incorporated on September 7th of 2020, specializing in mineral exploration, and beginning operations in December of the same year. HELM first spun rods at Gold Mountain Mining Corp’s ‘Elk Gold Project’, HELM has been building its name and expanding its capacity to numerous projects across BC. With the HELM headquarters situated on the Binche First Nations territory, the company respects the rich history of the indigenous peoples of Canada and actively seeks to follow aboriginal beliefs while safely integrating modern economic growth.

HELM Diamond Drilling looks forward to continuing its expansion and creative approaches to resolve any issues that may arise, no matter the complexity of the environment in which operations take place, while adhering to its number one concern; safety. This also includes actively seeking ways to properly train and introduce more indigenous members of all backgrounds into this industry with hopes to provide life-changing careers and further build the capacity within aboriginal communities.

For more information visit: www.helmdiamonddrilling.ca

Read Issue 22 here: 

Issue 22 / 2023