In recent decades, working conditions have gotten much better for drillers. While workplace health and safety are now priorities, it is still true that the job of a driller presents major challenges. Here are five that show the reality, talent and perseverance of the men and women who practice this trade.
1. The instability of the mining industry
Contrary to what you might think, the greatest challenge facing drillers is neither technical nor physical. Rather, it has to do with the stability of the mining industry and thus of employment. In other words, drillers have to accept a changing work situation. Since the dawn of time, the mining industry has been unstable and recognized for having its ups and downs. Whether because of fluctuations in the price of minerals, in the stock market or even in the social acceptability of mining projects, this industry has never been stable. When times are good, drillers have access to interesting opportunities and sometimes even the luxury of choosing what company they want to work for, especially as there are usually labor shortages. However, the frequent industry downturns bring with them great insecurity because most workers lose their jobs and contracts are both shorter and more rare.
2. Produce high-quality cores despite different geological formations
A driller’s main objective is to preserve the integrity of samples and to produce high-quality cores (soil samples). Keeping on top of changes in the soil and mastering the best drilling techniques are therefore crucial two success factors. Part of the challenge is to identify the geological formation of the soil, which may be different even within the same drilling perimeter. If the driller isn’t alert and lacks certain knowledge, then injuries, equipment damage, increased production time and reduced profits and drilling core quality can occur.
3. Underground drilling
Working hundreds of metres underground for dozens of hours, without feeling fresh air on your face or even seeing the sun, is a sensation that few know and can tolerate. This is no place for claustrophobics! Despite obvious improvements in working conditions and underground facilities, not all workers are comfortable in this environment. Underground drilling jobs, however, have the advantage of being more stable and more permanent than surface drilling jobs.
4. Health and safety
Exploration and mining companies put in place effective equipment, training and safety directives for their workers. Nonetheless, drilling is a trade with a high risk of injury. In the mining industry, one workplace accident is one accident too many!
So safety directives have to be followed to the letter. Before starting a shift, underground and surface drillers alike have a list of safety procedures to follow. Then they have to follow their work routine to the letter. Despite this, companies have to constantly increase awareness among employees because some drillers, once they have the routine down pat, will try new techniques to increase speed and production. This is definitely one of the main causes of workplace incidents.
5. Living far from home
Mining exploration rarely takes place near major urban centres, so drillers have to leave home and family for weeks at a time. This work schedule demands that drillers and their families be very adaptable.
Are you interested in drilling and do you want to learn more? See how drillers in South America differ from those in Canada!