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.
“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.