“It was crazy. Companies came from all over and interviewed them. The cost of the course at Northern College was $10,000, and this was the students’ ticket for employment. These guys will make enough money that they’ll be able to pay that off in two months.”
MacVeigh has been around long enough to see the diamond drill industry go through several boom and bust cycles.
After graduating from the three-year mining program at Northern College in 1972, he was hired to design diamond drill bits for Christensen, and then got a job in sales with the Wheel Trueing Tool Company.
MacVeigh eventually went back to Christensen, and sold the company’s diamond drill products for nine years in Edmonton and Vancouver.
In 1986, he left his position, and bought a diamond drilling company in Haileybury. The exploration market went flat in 1989, and MacVeigh sold his business.
But that year, MacVeigh was offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Northern College had won a contract from the United Nations to start up a diamond drill school in India, and he was asked to head up the project.
The Indian government had been doing drilling to look for coal deposits, but the workers had very low drilling productivity. It was hoped that a diamond drill school would remedy the situation.
MacVeigh was in India for three years. When he returned to Canada in 1992, he did consulting work for various companies in the mining industry.
That’s how he met Dale Clarke, with whom he started Canadian Driller Training Ltd. in 1996. MacVeigh eventually bought Clarke out and is now the sole owner of the business.
At the time, the provincial government had just introduced legislation that made common core training mandatory for diamond drillers.
“We trained about 100 people from 1996 to 1998 and then it died off. Exploration had slowed down a bit, but the demand had really decreased because a lot of the contractors were doing the training themselves. That took away a lot of the market.”
Since that time, MacVeigh has been training diamond drillers for Northern College, Cambrian College, NORCAT and diamond drill companies. He also does safety audits for diamond drill companies.
In December 2007, he and partner, Bernie Levert, started a diamond drilling business called Levert Drilling.
Canadian Driller Training Ltd. will train future employees before they go out in the field. It takes a special kind of person to become a diamond driller, said MacVeigh.
“You definitely have to be an outdoors type. Being mechanically inclined is very beneficial, and patience is a virtue.
If you want to be at home, forget about it. If you can’t do without your girlfriend for awhile, forget about it.”
Diamond drillers are well paid and have a chance to travel across the country and around the world, he said.
The common core training for diamond drillers consists of both theory and practical work. After a diamond driller gets a job, it takes him another year or two before he is fully trained, and it takes even longer to become a master driller, said MacVeigh.
“I like to rate drillers on the depth that they drill instead of the number of years of experience that they have. A lot of people will drill for 20 years and never drill a hole below 3,000 feet,” he said.
“You’ve got many millions of dollars of equipment turning at 1,000 rpm. It’s a very responsible job. You double check and triple check your equipment before it goes down the hole. If your core spring isn’t put on properly, you’ll send it down 6,000 feet, and it will take you an hour to pull it out.”