Dan Carrocci uses drilling knowledge, geological skills and entrepreneurial spirit to make Determination Drilling a success

Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.
Dan Carrocci (centre) with third-semester Fleming College Drilling students.

With a business plan and a diploma in hand, Dan Carrocci was only 21 years old when he walked into a bank to request a loan. The Fleming College graduate needed the money to purchase a geotechnical drilling rig to start his own drilling business, Determination Drilling.

“I saw a demand for it,” said Dan, who graduated from both the Resources Drilling and Blasting Technician (2003) and Geological Technician (2005) programs at Fleming’s School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences. “I could combine both worlds; I know how to drill and I know what’s in the ground. I went into the bank with my business plan and they seemed to realize the demand as well.”

With the goal of one day being a full-service drilling contractor, Dan purchased the rig and hired one employee. 14 years later, Determination Drilling is now a full-service drilling company that specializes in environmental, geotechnical, water well, geothermal, hydro power, solar, wind, and mining/exploration drilling with 22 employees and growing.

And that first rig Dan purchased at 21 years old is still in use, along with 10 geotechnical drill rigs, seven solar rigs, one water well drill, and many other small portable rigs for limited access projects.

“We’ve had sustainable growth,” said Dan on Determination Drilling’s success. “And by being so diverse we haven’t been at the mercy of economic downturns. When one industry goes down, another goes up; when mining is down, the geotechnical side is up as a result of government infrastructure spending, for example.”

Determination Drilling has travelled across Canada for thousands of drilling projects, including exploration drilling of kimberlite pipes in James Bay, diamond core drilling of iron ore in Newfoundland and Labrador, mining and infrastructure projects in Nunavut, geotechnical drilling on the 400 series highways in Ontario, and more.

Dan on the job holding rock core
Dan Carrocci, pictured here holding rock core

“What I love is that it’s challenging. Nothing is easy, you have to wear many hats. You have to be a mechanic, a geologist, a weatherman, and a little bit of everything to make it work. There are long hours and long days, there’s cold and heat…,” said Dan. “It’s a huge accomplishment when you defy all odds and make the impossible happen.  We have a team of dedicated, smart and determined operators that are the key to Determination Drilling’s success– teamwork makes the dream work!”

One of Dan’s favourite work experiences is drilling in Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut, where he takes a two-hour helicopter ride over the Arctic Circle in – 60 degree weather to get to the job site. “It was like the ultimate camping trip…with wolverines,” said Dan.

He also enjoys taking breaks to bond with staff, which includes bringing them hot chocolate and barbequing on the site. “I want my employees happy,” he said. “It’s a tough job and I’m proud of the way they represent our company. We’re all best friends and look out for each other like a big family.”

75% of Determination Drilling staff are Fleming College graduates, mainly from the Resources Drilling Technician and Heavy Equipment Operator programs. He credits the college as being a very valuable hiring resource.

“These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry” – Dan Carrocci on Fleming College faculty

“They graduate with the fundamentals, tooling identification, very strong safety knowledge; and usually have their DZ license, which saves me as an employer from having to pay for it,” said Dan. “Their instructors are excellent. I see Brian Gerry (Earth Resources Technician Co-op program coordinator) and Steve Wilkinson (Resources Drilling Technician program coordinator) at the PDAC every year working on their own dime to keep up-to-date with current technologies and industry trends. These teachers should be working at NASA and they stay on top of the industry. They deserve a lot more credit; without their passion for the industry, where would we be? I certainly would not have the same quality of drillers, and I might not have even become a driller at all without their leadership.”

As a safety advocate, Dan truly appreciates Fleming’s emphasis on safe working practices. Every employee at Determination Drilling is educated in drilling safety practices, and has First Aid/CPR training and common core training. Dan also delivers safety presentations in North America, Australia and England, and in 2009 he hosted a safety conference at Frost Campus and invited drilling managers from around the world.

“For the International Drilling Safety Conference, Fleming provided a venue for that,” said Dan, who is thankful for the strong network he has at Fleming. “I can always call my college professors for help when I’m in need of advice or direction.”

One day, Dan said, perhaps he’ll be the one at the front of the classroom… but only as a guest speaker to share his experiences with the next generation of drillers. Dan still enjoys being out in the field learning every day and loves the adventure, plus – he added – it’s tough to get dirty in a classroom.

Earth Resources Technician Co-op is a gem for Fleming graduate Crystal Smith

helicopterCrystal Smith was stuck between a rock and a hard place when considering her post-secondary options for geology. As a kinesthetic learner, the applied approach of college appealed to Crystal; but industry professionals recommended a university degree. Luckily for Crystal, Fleming College’s Earth Resources Technician Co-op program offers the best of both worlds through Education Pathways.

“I still haven’t stopped talking about my experiences at Frost Campus, so I would say it was great! The programs at Frost Campus offered so many opportunities to learn outdoors and gave me the confidence I needed going into outdoor and industrial workplace environments,” she said.

Crystal recommends Frost Campus to those wanting to gain skills for resource and environmental industries, and to those who prefer an outdoor learning and working environment.  “Also with the new GeoCentre being developed, it’s a great time to take the opportunity of using new labs and modern equipment,” she added.

After graduating from Fleming College in 2016, Crystal used Fleming College’s Education Pathway to Acadia University in Nova Scotia and entered into the third-year of the Bachelor of Science in Geology program.

“Nova Scotia has an amazing geological history and the variety of rock types in such a small province makes for a great place to study,” she said.

Crystal said she shares the knowledge and skills she gained at Fleming College with her peers at Acadia, and that Fleming prepared her for university in terms of time-management and hard work.

“I would recommend the Education Pathway to any Fleming grad that thrives to learn more about geology and would like to travel and experience the East Coast,” said Crystal. “Since I have been at Acadia, I have developed a greater understanding of petrology and continue to learn in detail about igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, along with their economic importance.”

This summer Crystal put her knowledge and skills to work as a Field Assistant (Summer Student) for the Department of Natural Resources, Geological Division, where she stayed with three geologists and two other students.

As a Field Assistant, Crystal conducted soil sampling, surficial mapping, operated vehicles (including off-roading vehicles), and navigated using GPS, compass and maps. Once samples were collected and dry, they were processed in the lab; Crystal’s lab duties include splitting samples, sieving, operating a portable XRF for geochemical analysis and performing clast lithologies.

“Exploring by helicopter was hands-down the most exciting thing I did all summer. My field supervisor allowed me to navigate to a site using a GPS and a LIDAR map while in the helicopter and the best part of it all was flying around with the door open,” said Crystal.

Crystal credits Fleming College for preparing her for this job. Through Fleming’s Earth Resources Technician Co-op program, Crystal learned how to navigate using GPS, compass and maps. And through the program’s Digital Image Interpretation course, Crystal learned how to use LIDAR images and remote sensing images, which helped her navigate and interpret results.

“One of the biggest skills that I continually used in the field and lab was safety awareness, mainly on trenching sites,” she said. “Safety awareness was constantly stressed to students at Fleming College and after being in the field I am grateful that I know what to watch out for.”

Crystal’s advice for current students is to know when you need motivation and to seek it. “I’ve always felt inspired to learn more after listening to professional geologists tell their stories and share their great adventures in the field,” said Crystal. “My favorite was a lecture told by a Fleming graduate who also transferred to Acadia, who came and gave a speech to undergraduate students. I could relate to the academic route and at the same time the worldly adventures that person had throughout their career gave me enough inspiration that moment to gladly study more.”

Earth Resources Technician student gets golden opportunity at Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop

garrett-hooeyGarrett Hooey, second-year Earth Resources Technician student, has earned himself a spot in the hotly contested Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop (S-IMEW). The workshop, which is hosted by the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, is an all-expense paid trip to Sudbury to learn about careers in the mineral exploration and mining industries.

Twenty-six of the top nominated Canadian geoscience post-secondary students are selected to attend the two-week workshop, and Garrett is the only college student. Garrett will have the opportunity to network, attend field trips to world class mining camps in Ontario and Quebec, and listen to lectures and presentations from May 4 to May 19, 2017 at Cambrian College.

“Having the opportunity to attend this workshop is something I can’t even explain, I’m beyond thrilled,” said Garrett. “The fact that it’s predominantly dominated by university students speaks to Fleming College’s reputation.”

Garrett says he is looking forward to the mentorship opportunities at the S-IMEW. “There’s going to be high-end mentors who are going to be there, professionals in the field to steer you in the right direction and give you advice, and that’s important to me,” said the Fleming College Earth Resources Technician student. “As my career goal is to get into mineral exploration – whether it’s off into the mountains or in the deserts or over flat ground – being able to be selected and attend the Student Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop, there’s going to be so much information to take in and soak up like a sponge.”

Garrett decided to pursue this career after playing Major Junior Hockey for the Ontario Hockey League for five years. “Being an outdoorsman, it’s something to test your limits– and finding gold was the underlying reason why I wanted to get into this program,” he said. Garrett added that there is family history in the industry as well. “My great-grandfather was a mineral exploration surveyor and my grandfather was a mineral exploration chemist for a couple years back in his day.”

Garrett said he enjoys the Earth Resources Technician program at Fleming College because of the course material, labs, lectures, field trips, facilities, and faculty. “What I like best about the Earth Resources Technician program is essentially everything,” he said. “Everything just kind of adds up and it’s been one of the best experiences I think I could possibly ever have.”

Faculty member Joanna Hodge nominated Garrett for the S-IMEW because of his passion for mineral exploration and because he is a class leader. “I’m excited for Garrett that he has this opportunity, which I think will benefit his career immensely,” said Joanna. “The workshop is highly contested by geoscience students around Canada, most of whom are studying at university, so it speaks highly of our program that we can nominate students who compete with the best students in the country.”

Joanna added, “I’m a little envious, I’d really like to attend the course myself!”