Plant & Equipment

Drilling hire company follows a straight line to success

GO Drilling sinks bits into rocky terrain across the Canadian province of Ontario.

The company specialises in drill and blast operations in quarries and construction projects, including right of way clearance and anchoring foundations, with drilled holes ranging from 25mm to 150mm.

A recent project has seen GO Drilling complete works on a 300-home development by Ottawa-based Taggart Construction, with its drillers creating trenches for the placement of sewer lines and water and storm drains.

Solar panel projects have also kept GO Drilling operators busy in recent years.

The Ontario Power Authority is pushing to diversify its power sources and make the province a leader in the renewable energy industry.

A recent authority project was a 10-megawatt solar installation about 30 miles from Ottawa that featured 44,000 solar panels on 32 hectares. GO Drilling drilled rock for foundations for solar panels and blasted trenches for power cables running from panel fields.

The company was founded 31 years ago by Gary Oswald, who decided to work for himself after a period working on drilling and blasting projects for other companies. After acquiring his first drill rig he soon switched to Sandvik drill rigs and tools, with his fleet of machines quickly growing along with his workload, first on construction sites and then in quarries.

Today Gary’s son Mat heads the family company he first joined 14 years ago.

His younger brother, Nicholas, operates drills and is learning the delicate work of blasting while managing the company’s work with solar projects.

“It is a lot easier to work in a family business,” Mat Oswald said. “The working relationship is a lot closer.”

He added that the unpredictability of his work was energising.

“What I like about my job is that every day is different,” he said. “There never is one day the same as another. Every day the job and the drill surprise me. I always have something new.”


One thing that always stays the same is that the company prides itself on the quality of its work.

This has proved vital to its customers, as drilling straight holes in unstable rock formations is a skill, and GO Drilling has a reputation for doing it all the time. This has allowed the company to enjoy a reputation as a “straight shooter”.

“We face lots of different types of rocks in Ontario: soft rocks easy to drill, soft abrasive rocks and hard granite with lots of seams,” Mat Oswald said.

{{image2-a:r-w:220}}“The seamy rock is especially challenging. It is our biggest challenge in keeping straight holes and accuracy.”

Seams are tricky because when a drill bit strikes a fault, the unequal pressure encourages deviation from the true course.

Cohesion of the drilled material also becomes problematic, and the binding force along cleavage planes is reduced. This results in the vertical hole starting to wander. In short, it’s a tough job descending from here to there in a straight line, yet GO Drilling routinely succeeds at it.

“We are known for drilling straight holes,” Mat Oswald said. “We have taken work from our competitors for being able to produce straight holes through fractured rock.”

He credits his drills and his skilled crewmembers for the company’s performance, with GO Drilling being the first in Canada to turn to Sandvik Construction hydraulic drills. Today, it owns 17 Sandvik rigs. These range from one Commando hydraulic unit to five Pantera 1500 top hammer drills.

Other Sandvik models in the equipment yard include one Pantera 1100, a DP1500 and a DX800.

The DX800 in particular has proved a highly productive piece of equipment, with its articulated boom riding on a work platform that can be rotated up to 180 degrees to keep work in front of the operator. The superstructure is powered by a

Caterpillar diesel engine and counterweighted for optimum stability on uneven terrain.

It is suitable for drilling holes 76-127mm in diameter.

The DP series has proved equally productive, being able to drill holes 89-152mm in diameter, and coming equipped with powerful Caterpillar engines. The series is of robust construction, supported by oversized components and strong feed.

“Sandvik drills always have been good for us,” Mat Oswald said. “They are very powerful drills, very reliable, and it is easy to keep parts for them because they are all the same.

“Personally, I don’t think there are any other drills like them. We have demoed other brands, but they don’t seem to hold up to Sandvik’s production.”

And, of course, the machines drill straight.

“They do very well in drilling through the seams to give us straight holes.”


The drills’ accuracy is partly attributed to the Sandvik Rock Pilot system incorporated in each rig.

The sophisticated monitoring system typically keeps course deflection below two per cent. The practical consequences for operators are fewer drilled holes for placement of charges, quicker completion of a drilling operation and less stress and fatigue on the drill string.

The tools used by GO Drilling include the Sandvik GT60 drilling system, which the company employs for blast holes. The GT60 features larger dimension rods that can ream out holes of 92-150mm in diameter.

This is an unusually broad range, with the rods being fabricated in the only rolling mill in the world that exclusively rolls drill steel. Making the tool particularly effective is the fact that leading the way down the hole is a Sandvik pilot tube, which sets a sure course.

“The GT60 has great quality,” Mat Oswald said, adding tools from other makers tend to break. “We have found that Sandvik tools last quite a bit longer than other brands.”

For equipment and support the company relies on Ottawa sales and service business Selix Equipment, which is the Ontario-wide distributor for Sandvik Construction drills and components.

“It has been very good for us that Selix is so close,” Mat Oswald said Selix representative Mario Roussel agreed.

“Proximity is important to a busy company such as GO Drilling,” Roussel said. “Our goal is to keep the drills turning. To that end, we have factory-trained mechanics, fully equipped service vehicles and a large inventory of Sandvik parts. We co-ordinate with Sandvik to make sure our priority is prompt service.”

The other key contributors to all those straight holes are GO Drilling employees, who operate the machines and maintain them.

The company has up to 25 employees, including drillers, blasters, excavator operators and shop technicians, with the number depending on the season. A company garage handles most drill servicing and repair.

Mat Oswald takes pride in the fact some employees have been on the payroll for two decades, a statement about company loyalty and expertise.

“We have some of the best drillers there are. Certainly all of our customers think so! We train until we produce the best.

We spend a lot of time and money training our drillers, making sure they are up to our standards.”

With his father acting as a consultant on decisions, Mat Oswald moves smoothly between estimating jobs, blasting rock and repairing drills. It is an eclectic routine worthy of a company that is wide open to job opportunities.

“We drill everything and anything that there is,” he said.

With reliable drill rigs and tools, and support from a valued distributor, the company is sure to carry on drilling straight and true for many years to come.

Source: Sandvik Construction

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