“We’re young, entrepreneurial and committed to changing the way diamond drilling is done in the industry,” Gove said. “Everything we do is focused on quality, which includes occupational health and safety, operational management systems, and the machinery we build and engineer. It is these core values that have driven Swick to the number one position in underground drilling in Australia.”
Sudbury was chosen as the company’s North American headquarters due to its proximity to mining operations and its abundance of mining supply and service companies. Swick’s North American operation was incorporated in July 2008 and began with Gove as a one-person start-up just before the global financial crisis hit a couple months later.
By May 2009, he secured a 10,000 square-foot building in Sudbury’s south end, just off Highway 69. A 6,000-square-foot shop is used to mobilize and service equipment for contracts, with the remaining space used for offices. The company has secured three contracts in Canada and the United States, and is now 40 employees strong. Plans to hire as many as 100 to 150 people during the next 12 to 24 month are underway. Gove hopes to have between 15 and 20 drill rigs in operation throughout North America within the next year to year-and-a-half.
The company is already breaking records for underground diamond drill rig move times in Canada and the United States due to its mobile underground diamond drill technology. Designed for underground mines with ramps, Swick’s mobile unit took the traditional five-component underground drill rig and transformed it into two modular parts, reducing assembly time and increasing safety.
“Traditional skid-based rigs can take between eight and 36 hours to assemble,” said Gove. “Swick’s mobile diamond drill rig’s average set-up time is less than four hours, which means we’re more productive for our clients. The concept is quite simple, but revolutionary in its effect.”
It propelled the company forward in revenues, which doubled every year for three years up until the global credit crunch.
Its North American clients are also recognizing Swick Mining as leaders in occupational health and safety.
“Swick’s belief is to engineer a product that reduces or removes safety hazards,” Gove said. “Our policy is no ladders and use of jack legs underground. We’re seeing a really good safety record due to the design of the machine.”
The mobile rig uses hydraulic jacks, so it is self-levelling, which increases safety. It is designed to drill at all angles within a 360-degree sphere, creating flexibility not available with traditional skid-based drill rigs. Its ease of mobility eliminates towing the assemblage from one drill hole to the next and only takes between five and 30 minutes.
Safety training for employees is closely tracked and detailed safe work procedures about how certain tasks are performed within the diamond drilling process are employed.
“We manage our business through the use of data and I think Swick is very good at that, which gives us an edge.”
Swick closely monitors work performed during each shift on every rig in use around the world. Drillers fill out shift activity reports called drill plods with detailed information about drilling tasks performed. The data is then fed into a computer software program that reports back to management.
“A lot of drilling firms only account for what happens after a given week,” Gove said. “We’re able to react quite quickly if we see that operations aren’t going according to schedule. Not many contractors can provide that with the clarity and detail and within the time frame that Swick can.”
For underground mines that don’t have ramps, Swick uses the latest skid-rig technology available.
As Swick Mining Services completes it first year of business in Sudbury, its rapid growth and aggressive goals are proving it is a company to look out for.