At the forefront of trenchless solutions in Canada
By: Mudeeha Yousaf


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Standing as one of the oldest players in Ontario’s drilling industry, Marathon Drilling Ltd. has time and again proven its expertise and commitment through each project they endeavour and utilize the latest in trenchless technologies to redefine industry standards. Well-versed in all aspects of the environmental and geotechnical sectors, the corporation provides unparalleled services to the national market and work alongside multiple stakeholders to develop effective drilling solutions that cater to industry demands.


Marathon Drilling was founded in 1981 by Stu Cameron who saw a niche opportunity to launch a diverse drilling company in Eastern Ontario. It was not until 1994 when the company was bought out by current President David McPhedran, a then 18-year-old co-op student, that the company was able to grow its abilities. David grasped the complexities of the market and added larger diameter horizontal auger boring and pipe ramming to its already successful vertical geotechnical and environmental drilling services. He refined the brand and took on projects of significant size and calibre and quickly secured a reputation of success. “He’s the brains behind the organization,” boasts older brother and Vice President Andrew McPhedran, an integral member of the company overlooking all aspects of strategic business development. “He has a solid team of experienced and hard working people to help move things forward, but ultimately it is David’s drive, his willingness to listen and collaborate, and his ability to visualize a project solution that makes Marathon successful. That is not to say there aren’t significant challenges. It is how he approaches them in a common sense manner.”


Under the new leadership, Marathon Drilling acquired Can-Bore, a company with an expertise in rock boring, and developed the skill which became their core competency shortly after. They went on to do bigger projects, acquired new tools and technologies and moved into various venues. “We pushed the envelope of our own services and developed a proficiency in rock- which sounds easy but it a different level of technical challenge and risk.” Today, the company is a full-service ‘trenchless technologies’ expert – the methods used for utility tunneling of both earth and rock. This alternative method of utility installation offer a niche solution to the traditional open-cut construction method; offering large diameter horizontal earth boring, rock boring, tunnel boring, pipe ramming and bursting and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) services through innovative but globally proven technologies and Marathon Drilling was among the first of its peers to broaden its technological prowess.


“North America has been about fifty years behind, in terms of tunneling,” says Andrew.  “But we are catching up very fast and have some strong players in the industry. The old-school engineers always pushed back on tunneling because it was considered more expensive than standard operations and we had a lot of space. As we became more competent and as methodologies became more solidified, engineers began to wake up and understand that the solutions offered by these globally accepted methodologies were true and there were advancements being made in the tunneling world every year.” The world of trenchless technologies has seen a rapid change in the last decade, and as prices for rehabilitation started to increase, the distance between tunneling and open-cut construction began to get smaller, as there are many societal, physical and political costs associated with the traditional model.

Drilling is an intricate and risky business and must consist of individuals who are knowledgeable in rock mechanics. “You have to adapt and be thinking ahead; and of what new technologies can be brought in to fix a problem,” advocates Andrew. “We’re a specialty niche provider. Just owning a drill doesn’t make a drilling company.” The company works with all stakeholders involved in a project to ensure that each party is content with the end result and are “committed to our customers’ success. We understand their jobs and reputations are on the line with every project we undertake with them.”


Never shying away from a tough project, Marathon Drilling works all year round and through arduous weather conditions. Currently, they are working on two projects in Alberta and one in Ottawa, and though they feel there is enough work across Canada, pursuing international projects is on the agenda as well. The corporation has received an international “Tunneling Project of the Year Award” for a project conducted that was plagued with technical and geotechnical problems, and received recognition for their efforts in communicating effectively and finding a solution that benefited all parties.

Andrew closes, “we want to manage effectively and continue on our path in developing new technologies. Through research and experimental design in our drilling, we always try to find new ways of doing the job faster, and are willing to share our expertise from a practitioner’s point of view.”

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