A Straight Line to Success for GO Drilling
Company masters the art of drilling straighter and more productively in tough terrain
Drilling straight holes in unstable rock formations is an accomplishment and GO Drilling Inc. does it all the time. As a result, the Ottawa drilling and blasting company enjoys a reputation as a “straight-shooter”. “We face lots of different types of rocks in Ontario: soft rocks easy to drill, soft abrasive rocks, and hard granite with lots of seams,” says Mat Oswald, the company’s operations manager. “The seamy rock is especially challenging. It is our biggest challenge in keeping straight holes and accuracy.”
Seams are tricky because when a drill bit strikes a fault, the unequal pressure encourages deviation from a true course. Cohesion of the drilled material also becomes problematic and the binding force along cleavage planes is reduced. Result? The vertical hole starts wandering.
In short, it’s a tough job descending from here to there in a straight line; yet GO Drilling routinely succeeds at it. “We are known for drilling straight holes,” Mat says. “We have taken work from our competitors for being able to produce straight holes through fractured rock.”
Mat credits his drills and his skilled crew members for the company’s performance, with GO Drilling being the first in Canada to turn to Sandvik hydraulic drills. Today, they own 17 Sandvik rigs. They range from one 11,000-pound Commando hydraulic unit to five Pantera 1500 top hammer drills, each weighing 48,000 pounds. Other Sandvik models in the equipment yard include one Pantera 1100, a DP1500 and a DX800.
The DX’s articulated boom rides on a work platform that can be rotated up to 180 degrees to keep work in front of the operator. The superstructure is powered by a Cat diesel engine and counterweighted for optimum stability on uneven terrain. It can drill holes 3.5 to 5 inches in diameter. The DP series, just like the current DPi series, can punch holes 3.5 to 6 inches in diameter and are also equipped with powerful Cat engines. The DP series have robust construction supported by oversized components and strong feed.
“Sandvik drills always have been good for us,” says Mat. “They are very powerful drills, very reliable, and it is easy to keep parts for them because they are all the same. Personally, I don’t think there are any other drills like them. We have demoed other brands, but they don’t seem to hold up to Sandvik’s production.” And, of course, the machines drill straight. “They do very well in drilling through the seams to give us straight holes.”
Some of the drills’ accuracy is attributed to the Sandvik Rock Pilot system incorporated in each rig. The sophisticated monitoring system typically keeps course deflection to under two percent. The practical consequences for operators are fewer drilled holes for placement of charges, quicker completion of a drilling operation, and less stress and fatigue on the drill string.
Sandvik rock tools also help keep drills on track. The tools used by GO Drilling include the Sandvik GT60 drilling system, which the company employs for blast holes. The GT60 features larger-dimension rods that can ream out holes 3-5/8 inches to 6 inches in diameter; an unusually broad range. The Sandvik rods are fabricated in the only rolling mill in the world that exclusively rolls drill steel.
Leading the way down a hole is a Sandvik pilot tube that sets a sure course. “The GT60 has great quality,” Mat says. “We have found that Sandvik tools last quite a bit longer than other brands.”
The other key contributors to all those straight holes are GO Drilling employees who operate the machines and maintain them. The company has 15 to 25 employees, with the number depending on the season, including drillers, blasters, excavator operators and shop technicians.
A company garage handles most drill servicing and repair.
Mat Oswald takes pride in the fact that some employees have been on the payroll for two decades, a statement about company loyalty and expertise. “We have some of the best drillers there are. Certainly all of our customers think so! We train until we produce the best. We spend a lot of time and money training our drillers, making sure they are up to our standards.”
GO Drilling sinks bits into rocky terrain all over Ontario, a province that is home to thousands of kinds of minerals. The company specializes in drill-and-blast operations in quarries and for construction projects. Construction work includes rightof- way clearance and anchoring foundations, with drilled holes ranging from one to six inches.
GO Drilling recently completed work on a 300-home development by Ottawa-based Taggart Construction Ltd., with drillers creating trenches for placement of sewer lines and water and storm drains.
Solar panel projects have kept GO Drilling operators especially busy in recent years. The Ontario Power Authority is pushing to diversify its power sources and make the province a leader in the renewable energy industry. A recent Authority project was a 10-megawatt solar installation about 30 miles from Ottawa that featured 44,000 solar panels on 80 acres. GO Drilling drills rock for foundations for solar panels and blasts trenches for power cables running from panel fields.
The company relies on an Ottawa sales and service firm, Selix Equipment, to supply drill parts that eventually wear out battering themselves against granite and other rock. Selix is the Ontario-wide distributor of Sandvik drills and components. Prior to establishing a business relationship with Selix, GO Drilling dealt directly with Sandvik offices in Lively and Montreal. “It has been very good for us that Selix is so close,” says Mat Oswald.
“Proximity is important to a busy company like GO Drilling,” says Selix representative Mario Roussel. Our goal is to keep the drills turning. To that end, we have factory-trained mechanics, fully equipped service vehicles and a large inventory of Sandvik parts. We coordinate with Sandvik to make sure our priority is prompt service.”
Mat’s father, Gary, founded GO Drilling 31 years ago after he decided to work for himself. He had been drilling and blasting for other companies on pipelines. He first bought a Gardner Denver drill, but soon switched to Sandvik. His fleet of machines quickly grew along with his work load, first on construction sites and then in quarries.
Today Mat heads the family company that he joined 14 years ago. With his father as a consultant on decisions, Mat moves smoothly between estimating jobs, blasting rock and repairing drills.
His younger brother, Nicholas, operates drills, is learning the delicate work of blasting, and manages the company’s work with solar projects.
“What I like about my job is that every day is different,” says Mat. “There never is one day the same as another. Every day the job and the drill surprise me. I always have something new.”
Giles Lambertson is a freelance writer who has been writing about the construction industry for nearly two decades.
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