Walker Drilling: Meeting Ontario’s drilling needs since 2002
By: Mudeeha Yousaf
The drilling industry in Canada provides fierce competition. Mineral exploration rises and falls according to commodity prices, and when the prices are high there comes an increase in drilling companies who want to succeed in Canada’s harsh geological climate. Walker Drilling is one such company that sets itself apart in the industry because of its diversity of services. Located in Utopia, Ontario, the company boasts 14 operating drill rigs and has an abundance of projects under its belt.
Established in 2002 by owner and President Dave Walker, the company was built from the ground up to be different than others in the drilling industry. Prior to starting his own company, Dave worked for another drilling firm in Toronto for 11 years where he got a taste of the industries ups and downs. Because of the hit in the mining business in recent times that caused the industry to be at an all-time low, the drilling industry is, consequently, affected and business has depleted.
“The mining sector is dead right now and we do a lot of work with the mining industry with our remote access equipment and none of that work’s happening right now,” says Dave. “That’s one part of our market that’s non-existent right now.”
“It’s no secret that there’s lots of controversy [within the mining industry]. Commodity prices go up and down which is all tied to the market. Some people say the big players in the industry do that for a reason to keep control of junior miners coming in and control the prices of precious metals… Whether it’s true or not,” says Dave. To battle the industries harsh downfalls, Walker Drilling follows a strategic business model by diversifying its business. “If the mining is down we do soil testing, hydro G studies [and] monitoring wells so if one thing is down maybe something else is booming. We drill holes for a lot of reasons.”
Optimistic business measures become a sort of mantra for the Ontario-native company. When asked about the restructuring of the company, Dave replied that he was “confident [the operation] will be going ahead as usual. I can’t foresee letting people go or downsizing.”
The drilling firm has a certain niche and is diverse in their drill rig types; whether it’s working on the water or fly in, heli-portable work Unlike many drilling companies, they work on very remote locations to cater to the industry’s needs.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary last year, the company has dived into some significant projects in its time, specifically the Iron Ore project in Baffin Island, which was different because of the remoteness of the environment. They struggled with the unsympathetic climate and had to fly everything up to the location. They have also succeeded in many hydro-electric projects, particularly in Little Jack Fish river just north of Armstrong, Ontario, which was especially draining since they had to stay at a base camp and air-lift all materials to the work site.
The company’s portfolio consists of three types of drilling services. Diamond drilling is rock drilling for precious metals and used for exploratory work. They cater to clients who are looking to get certain information from the ground and look to this specific drilling method to do so. Geotechnical drilling is based on soil testing, from anywhere between 5ft – 250ft and is used for foundation design, building structures, homes and roads. Lastly, Environmental drilling is also used to test soil after samples are taken by the engineer to test for contamination in the soil or water.
To perform the arduous tasks outlined by the oil and gas industry, it is important for the business to only use top of the line, quality equipment and products, to ensure a job well done. “All our equipment is newer, modern. [It] can get expensive but it’s an investment at the end of the day,” says Dave.
The business heavily emphasizes its extensive safety measures to guarantee that any project is handled with meticulous care and diligence. The company abides strongly by the OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) and is equipped with a full time health and safety coordinator.
“We’re well respected in the industry being one of the top drilling contractors. [We] have big players as our clients,” said Dave. Amongst the 70 plus clients that Walker Drilling serves, the company has developed close partnerships with Ontario Power Generations, Hydro One and PCL, all of whom “require stringent health and safety protocols, which has helped us develop a high quality Health and Safety program.”
With a staff of 35 the drilling company embraces the hard-working individuals that make up their exceptional team.
Dave comments that “the staff is [working in a] blue-collar industry but we prefer to hire staff with college-education… [We] get them younger so that we can develop their work habits according to our company policies” The company leans more towards training skilled workers rather than hiring skilled workers, which is difficult to find, and they mold their employees to meet the industry’s needs. “We’re only as good as the people we have on the field. It’s a combination of the good equipment and good people [which] sets us apart from the rest.”
When asked if Walker Drilling sees expansion in its future, Dave says he “is not opposed to it but in the next 3-4 years we’ll probably remain the same. Until I see the market really take off I’m comfortable with where we are: I’m sure down the road as opportunities open up, there will be expansion to some degree, adding equipment and people.”