Aboriginal man finds success as driller

Heather Latter

Jaysen Indian didn’t grow up dreaming of being a diamond drill operator.
But after finding success at the position within the mining industry, that’s what he’s become.
From the small First Nation community of Big Grassy, Indian was working as a carpenter when he saw an advertisement for a driller’s helper training program at Confederation College.
Since his carpentry contact was near its end, Indian decided to take the two-week course. Upon completion of the program, Indian was ready to work as a driller’s assistant and did so for several months with Bodnar Drilling.
Then he was able to get on with Rainy Lake Tribal Contracting here back in the spring, working on Rainy River Resources’ gold project in Richardson Township, north of Barwick.
“I liked it,” Indian said about diamond drilling. “I paid attention and asked lots of questions, and soon they let me work the controls.”
Now, almost a year later, Indian is working as a driller—moving up from the position of driller’s helper.
“It’s a good job, a good experience,” he enthused, noting he’s able to support his family and stay close to home.
“It can be frustrating, though. It’s nerve-wracking stuff,” he warned. “If one thing goes wrong, it can turn into a really big problem and it’s expensive equipment.
“It’s a lot more responsibility being a driller, but I like it.”
While Indian has been working the drill alone for two months now, Jeff Morrison, another area First Nations’ man, moved up to being a driller this past summer.
“They’ve been doing really well,” said Dan Galloway, operations and maintenance manager at the site.
“It nice to have some local drillers.”
Galloway said drillers often are brought in from other provinces, but that it’s good when local people gain the skills for this kind of employment.
“The mining companies do want a relationship with the First Nations and provide economical opportunities, and that comes in many forms, one of which is employment,” agreed John Bagacki, business development manager for the RLTC.
“It’s an important partnership and again part of what they desire to do to make sure that they can move the project forward,” he added, also noting that having local workers is more cost-effective.
“If you have the local expertise and skills to do the job, it’s a good benefit,” Bagacki stressed.
Part of training members of the local First Nations comes through the diamond driller’s helper training program, which Confederation College began to offer at its Fort Frances campus last November—the same program Indian participated in.
“We’ve had a number of First Nations’ students go through the program,” noted campus director Anne Renaud.
“In fact, the first 40 students that we were able to put in the program were through an Emerging Sectors for Aboriginal People grant we received, that we applied for in collaboration with nine local First Nations and the Métis Nation of Ontario,” she explained.
 She said the program gives them a lot of the skills and training they need in order to get those entry-level positions in the diamond drilling field.
Renaud indicated the students take a five-day safety course at the campus, then spend 15 days at a camp where they get a lot of hands-on experience with the drill.
“A lot of our students have been very successful in finding employment,” she remarked. “I think a lot of students see it as a first step, so they are getting into the exploration at this point and then hopefully move on when the mines do get developed in this area.
“Then they’ll be very experienced to get other good jobs that might be coming up.”
“They’ve worked their way up from not having any skills, starting as a driller helper and then becoming a full-fledged driller,” said Bagacki.
“It’s great to see that—that they progressed and developed opportunities for themselves,” he added.