Tahltan Nation Development Corporation and Geotech—a partnership based on shared values

“The Tahltan is a great partnership for us,” said Tim Mohring, vice-president, sustainability, for Geotech Drilling Services.

by Jessica Kirby
Geotech drill rig on a project in the Golden Triangle in northwest B.C.

Geotech drill rig on a project in the Golden Triangle in northwest B.C. — Photo: Geotech Drilling Services

The Tahltan Nation Development Corporation (TNDC) and Geotech Drilling Services Ltd., have created a partnership to provide opportunities in the drilling industry to communities within the Tahltan First Nation. TNDC is the business arm of the Tahltan First Nation. Tahltan territory covers 11 per cent of British Columbia and is rich in natural resources, including the Golden Triangle, which is the catalyst for dozens of existing and proposed energy, resource and industrial development projects in the region.

Through the agreement, Prince George-based Tahltech Drilling Services Ltd. will provide surface and underground exploration, geotechnical, environmental, construction and geothermal drilling services to natural resource and industrial development projects in Tahltan territory.

The partnership significantly strengthens TNDC’s capability and competitiveness in resource and industrial development, and is well-timed given the anticipated economic recovery indicated by commodity pricing activity, exploration and project acquisitions in the Tahltan Territory.

Geotech vice-president, sustainability, Tim Mohring said the company is a one-stop shop for geotechnical, exploration, reclamation and various construction drilling services, including cone penetration testing (CPT)—making it a good fit for operations with diverse needs.

“Tahltan Territory occupies 11 per cent of B.C.—an area the size of Portugal—rich in mineral resources,” said Mohring. “Our flexibility and diverse array of services should fit well with the needs of the territory.”

A number of technical advancements will bring cost and time savings benefits to TNDC projects, including combined geotechnical and diamond drilling from the same Hydracore geotechnical rig, which can help the client save money, especially in coal developments.

Tim Mohring is vice-president, sustainability, for Geotech Drilling Services.

Tim Mohring is vice-president, sustainability, for Geotech Drilling Services. — Photo: Geotech Drilling Services

The company is also one of the first to provide a sonic drill rig based out of the north—while an older technology in the environmental and geotechnical fields, circa mid-1990s, its use in mining has not seen its full potential.

“This technology allows for near undisturbed core samples through materials traditional diamond drills would have challenges with,” said Mohring. “It can also allow for geotechnical work and monitoring wells to be placed in the same borehole if needed."

Geotech also recently acquired Gregg Drilling and Testing Canada, formerly the Canadian division of the U.S.-based Gregg Drilling. The company will provide cone penetration testing through Geotech and to Tahltech.

This highly specialized equipment and expertise can be used for mine tailings assessments among other geotechnical applications, including a large track-mounted amphibious unit that the testing equipment can be mounted on and driven safely into mine tailing ponds.

“Having this technology more available to the north, rather than bring it from Vancouver or Calgary, will give industry more economical options as its potential is being realized more and more in the mining sector," said Mohring. 

Geotech’s track-mounted A5 is a hybrid machine prototype by Zinex. While this machine is typically skid-mounted, a mobile track platform allows for more economical rig move times in some mining applications, all while ensuring the power needed to complete deep hole diamond drilling. It also reduces the environmental footprint that is typically created by a skid and dozer combination.

As a multidisciplinary company working in mining, oil and gas, and other industries, Geotech places a strong emphasis on health and safety and has implemented best practices from some of the world’s most stringent industries into each of the company’s operational sectors.

“We are continuously improving,” said Mohring, adding the company earned the David Barr Award for leadership and innovation in mineral exploration for health and safety in 2014 and the Safe Day Everyday Gold Award from PDAC that same year. “We are multidisciplinary so we see a very wide range of health and safety requirements that does help us out with our mining projects”.

Geotech is one of a few companies that utilize non-destructive testing on its drill rigs and helicopter portable equipment to ensure structural integrity.

Heliportable drilling for the installation of transmission tower anchors.

Heliportable drilling for the installation of transmission tower anchors. — Photo: Geotech Drilling Services

Working in Canada’s North can be challenging, but the company has developed a reliable, quick response supply chain to help conquer most of the inherent obstacles.

“We work in Nunavut where permafrost is an issue, and in northern B.C. we have unpredictable harsh weather and extreme mountain terrain,” said Mohring. “There is also the remoteness issue—where are the guys going to stay? The long helicopter ride every day might not be feasible. Finding people who will work in the North is also a challenge.”

These scenarios have become opportunities for Geotech because the company has solved them to create a competitive edge.

“We can figure all of that out, meaning the logistics on remoteness,” said Mohring. “We have our known supply chains that can react quickly and we have a roster of solution-minded drillers we know will come on short notice and go to work anywhere.

“A lot of projects aren’t planned years in advance or if they are, we may not always know about them. Basically, having a good network of suppliers and employees is our biggest reason for success. Having the TNDC, which will have a more direct line to insight on projects in that territory, will only make the company stronger.”

Community engagement is also a key piece in successful project development. “The Tsilhqot’in decision in 2014 was a game-changer,” said Mohring, referring to the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision to grant the Tsilhqot’in people aboriginal title over a 1,750-square-kilometre tract of land in Central Interior B.C.—the first agreement of its kind. Many feel the decision will be the main catalyst for requiring consent–not just consultation–from First Nations for most natural resource development projects.

“For First Nations, they have yet to see a lot of difference, but we’ve decided as a company we are going to go that way, even before this was the trend,” said Mohring. “Several years prior to the Tsilhqot’n decision we decided we needed to work with First Nations to form business partnerships and for them to be a part of our business.”

The company makes business connections based on shared values and mutual partnerships, and the more experienced the partnering company or organization is, the easier it is to align and progress.

“The Tahltan is a great partnership for us,” said Mohring. “They have 30 years’ experience in business; we’ve only been in business for 20 so we are happy about that because they have the experience with many formal partnerships and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

The most promising aspect of the company’s work is its diversity of service offerings to include highways, hydro, minerals, mining, and oil and gas, to name a few. “We can supply exploration, infrastructure and environmental services—that is the goal,” he said. “Not to mention capacity training. The Tahltan people are entrepreneurial and while there is not a ton of jobs during exploration, there can be hundreds of jobs that come out of the mines if developed after exploration.”

Geotech has offered driller or driller helper training for both geotechnical and exploration drilling services and has worked in this capacity with government, industry, the Métis and a partner in Nunavut, completing four training programs in total in the last two years.

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