by Robert Fleming, President and CEO at Team Drilling
Before we joined forces to create Team Drilling in June 2008, Al Lamy, George Presseault, Sylvain Brisson and Robert Fleming each had over 20 years of direct experience working for major companies in the diamond drilling industry. Each of us had a vision to lead our own venture.
We were able to turn our vision into reality thanks to a strategic partnership with Athabasca Basin Development. Athabasca Basin Development is an indigenous-owned investment company committed to building and investing in successful businesses.
We based our headquarters in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Originally, one of the main goals was to provide an industry-leading underground and surface drilling service to the mining and exploration industry. We wanted to consistently exceed our clients’ expectations by building a strong team-based relationship, providing a safe and empowering workplace for our employees, adhering to the highest standards, continuously striving for excellence, and developing innovative solutions to deliver optimal performance.
In 2008, we were fortunate enough to be awarded with our first drilling contract shortly after our start-up. The company that gave us that opportunity was Hathor Exploration and the project called for one fly drill on their Northern Saskatchewan property. The program proved to be successful, and we were requested to provide additional drills the following year. Team Drilling was off and running!
Growth and expansion
Within our first two years of operating, we had grown from that one drill to 14, including two underground rigs because in the spring of 2009, we were awarded our first underground project at Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine. We are very proud to say that we are still providing our drilling services at the mine site 14 years later.
As Team Drilling continued to grow, Sylvain Brisson moved on to other endeavors. At that time, we made our first acquisition, purchasing the assets of Elite Drilling, based in Saskatchewan and owned by Glen Sigstad. Glen was brought in as a shareholder of Team Drilling and his extensive surface and underground drilling experience from various domestic and international projects is a valuable asset.
For Team Drilling, finding and implementing creative solutions forms part of our everyday operations. We are always challenging ourselves to improve every aspect of our business. Whether it’s providing a better service, improving safety, or reducing our footprint on the environment, we are constantly questioning things. We listen to the ideas of our employees and when we do find a new solution, we put our successes behind us quickly to meet the next challenge. Equipment innovations and customizations have led to some big improvements in service.
Thus, Team Drilling continued to grow organically, increasing our drill count to 30. In 2021, we made another acquisition, that of Aggressive Drilling. This purchase increased our drill fleet to 40 drills.
In 2023, Team Drilling is celebrating its 15th anniversary of servicing the mining and exploration industry. We have provided our drilling services to clients in locations across Canada. Throughout the years, we have been recognized by many organizations, such as the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce with the ABEX Award for Best New Venture, and Team Drilling was listed as one of Saskatchewan’s Top 100 companies. We are also a proud member of the Canadian Diamond Drilling Association (CDDA).
Knowledge, experience, and achievements aren’t everything. We know that we are the strongest when we work as a team. That’s why we focus on building strong relationships with our clients based on honesty, integrity, respect, and open communication. We welcome feedback from our clients and employees, and we continually evolve and adapt to satisfy changing industry standards. A strong partnership is the key to not only meeting and exceeding expectations but delivering the best possible service.
The end result? A history of providing long-term safe and productive drilling services.
Our drills are customized to deliver the industry’s best surface, underground and specialty drilling and our team gets the job done with them in even the most challenging conditions. Lightweight and powerful, our drills are modified to accommodate different sizes, depths, tracked-mounted, skid-mounted, flyable to drilling on a barge or frozen bodies of water, and any other requirements for our client’s projects to deliver a safe and optimal performance. In all, the fleet consists of the following rigs and equipment:
- 14 TD-1500 surface drills capable of depths to 1500 m (4921 ft) N-size;
- 10 A5 Zinex drills;
- 10 TD-2500 surface drills capable of depths of up to 2500 m (8202 ft) N-size;
- 5 TD-1500 underground drills;
- HC 2000 Hydracore drill;
- 80 pieces of mobile equipment consisting of skidders, dozers, loaders, and snowcats to facilitate drill moves and trail access.
Since 2008, Team Drilling has provided industry-leading drilling services to some of the best companies in the mining and exploration industries. Each team brings over 100 years of drilling experience to every project. Each one of us is focused on providing a safe and empowering workplace for our employees, continually striving for excellence, and developing innovative practices and solutions that adapt to the industry’s changing demands. Because of these unceasing efforts, Team Drilling has a reputation for drilling excellence and consistent results that exceed our clients’ expectations.
Drilling services and capabilities
Team Drilling has successfully undertaken many diverse and specialized drilling projects:
- Underground specialized core drilling techniques to overcome high water pressure;
- Core drilling from B- to P-size core and depths to 2200 m (7218 ft);
- Directional drilling utilizing wedging, mud motor, Devico and Aziwell directional core barrels;
- Drilling off barges and frozen bodies of water;
- Small reverse drilling sampling.
Team Drilling has undertaken many interesting projects over the 15 years of our operations. Most notable would be Cameco’s Cigar Lake Freeze Hole project.
Team Drilling was awarded this project in 2011. At the peak of the drilling, our team had five drills operating. We continue working on this project (our second longest-running project) having completed over 1200 freeze-holes.
The challenges our team faced on this project were various. Probably the biggest was that the team had to maintain a hole target of 2 m (6.56 ft) from vertical P-sized holes to a depth of 461 m (1512 ft). To keep the drill holes on target, we utilized directional drilling techniques with a 4.75 ft (1.45 m) mud motor and in-hole retrievable wedges. Overall, the project was a huge success and continues to be.
Additionally, as a result of our success, Team Drilling has been awarded other freeze-hole drilling projects for other clients.
Another challenging project wasn’t so much related to the drilling, but the mobilization, support, and demobilization of the job. The challenge was to access the project area, which was 180 km (112 mi) away in the wilderness. Trails and ice roads needed to be made and maintained to support the drilling campaign.
Winter was the only time that the area could be reached since numerous lakes had to have ice roads made safely in order to mobilize all the drilling and support equipment for the client. Needless to say, lake ice had to have sufficient thickness to safely move the equipment. This meant constant GPR (ground penetration radar) readings, ice building, and plowing 180 km (112 mi) of snow. A one-way trip with a skidder and load of equipment would take upwards of 22 hours. Bunkhouses were placed along the trail, enabling the crews to have a place to eat and sleep.
Specialized underground drilling
The underground projects we tackle are challenging as well. Our current projects require ‘hole security’, meaning we are drilling into high water pressurized zones. The drills are outfitted with hole collar security, which includes Blowout preventers, HD gate valves and Rot-packs. We use a quad latch coring system for core retrieval in high-pressure zones and utilizing a Kelly valve system to safely retrieve the core.
As a result of our success in these jobs, we have been awarded additional long-term projects.
Safety and environment
Our Number One priority is making sure all members of our team go home safely to their families! We have a responsibility to every team member – our employees, contractors, clients and shareholders – to proactively work on strengthening safety.
We believe safety starts with the people who make up our team. Fostering and encouraging a culture, where safety is a part of every process, is paramount to achieving a zero-incidence record. We also believe that investing in training for our employees keeps everyone safe. A single investment per team member isn’t enough, though. To keep everyone sharp, we provide annual safety refresher course updates for our supervisors and field crews.
Recognizing the need for a standardized safety and management program, Team Drilling is D.E.C (Driller Excellence Certification) certified. We worked closely with MiHR providing input into their development of the National Occupational Standards. Additionally, Team Drilling was the first Diamond Drilling company in Saskatchewan to have signed with the Saskatchewan Health and Safety Leadership Charter and pledged to accept and encourage Mission: ZERO – a pledge to support the principle that nothing is more important than the health, safety and well-being of employees, contractors, clients, visitors, and whenever possible the surrounding community. On top of that, we have received numerous safety awards from AMEBC, CDDA and our clients for outstanding safety records.
Our company strives to ensure our drilling and ancillary equipment is state of the art. We are committed to outfitting our drills with rod handlers, ergonomic work areas, such as enclosed road sloops with core tables and vices, to assist the helpers in performing their duties without excessive bending, and complete guarding of all rotating parts and interlock systems on the guards.
As proof of this philosophy, Team Drilling is proud to say that we have worked 2960 days without a Lost Time Injury.
In addition to the yearly safety refresher courses, Team Drilling actively provides training for northern residents. The goal of the course is to prepare participants for potential upcoming jobs in the drilling industry. Each year, Team Drilling conducts two to four training courses, with up to five people per course.
We organize these courses because Team Drilling recognizes that most of the work that we are involved in is located on indigenous traditional lands, therefore the focus on recruitment is from these communities. We have had great success with these courses.
Team Drilling recognizes the importance of working closely with Indigenous communities that are impacted by the work that we do. We have formed numerous partnerships and joint ventures within indigenous regions. Most recently, we have signed a partnership with Clearwater River Dene Nation providing many opportunities for local employment and giving back to the communities.
Being that Athabasca Basin Development is a shareholder and represents seven communities in Northern Saskatchewan, we are proud that our efforts are invested back into these communities.
Team Drilling has provided drilling services to major and junior mining companies. No job is too big or small for us. We have drilled every ground condition and formation out there and we have successfully completed projects for:
- Hathor Resources’ Roughrider project (uranium);
- Shore Gold (diamonds);
- DeBeers (diamonds);
- Rio Tinto Exploration (diamonds and uranium);
- Diavik Diamond Mines;
- Ekati Diamond Mines;
- IOC / Rio Tinto (iron Ore);
- Forum Energy (base metals);
- Alamos Gold;
- Argonaut Gold;
- Fortune Bay Resources (gold/ uranium);
- Evolution Mining (gold);
- SSR Mining (gold);
- Teck Resources (coal and copper);
- Cameco (uranium);
- Orano (uranium);
- NexGen Energy (uranium);
- Denison Mines (uranium);
- Nutrien (Potash).
With an emphasis on reducing our carbon footprint, we see a bright future for the diamond drilling industry. The need to explore and find new mineral resources will continue to be ongoing. Exploring for minerals that provide a ‘greener’ impact on our daily lives will continue to be strong.
Team Drilling has aligned itself on a number of long-term contracts with our clients that our actively exploring for those alternative resources both from the surface and underground.
For more information visit: www.teamdrilling.com