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Canada Team Celebrates Two Drillers With Nine Decades in the Industry

By February 21, 2024No Comments

This year, Major Drilling Canada celebrates two longtime employees whose combined years of service in the drilling industry have tipped past the impressive nine-decade mark. In 2024, Ron Rivett of Sudbury, Ontario, celebrates 50 years and Martin Labrèche, Area Manager in Rouyn-Noranda, Québec, celebrates 41 years.

“Congratulations to Ron and Martin. Throughout the years, they’ve helped build Major Drilling’s strong foundation for our service regions in Canada,” Barry Zerbin, VP Canadian Operations, said. “They are great examples of the deep levels of expertise on our teams that sets us apart in the industry.”

Ron Rivett, Warehouse Coordinator, Sudbury, Ontario (50 Years)

Some still call him “Rocky.” More recently he’s simply called “The Old Man.” Ron Rivett jovially answers to either moniker from his desk at Major Drilling’s Sudbury Branch where he oversees the bustling stockroom and keeps supplies and parts for the region’s drilling fleet in good order. He’s in the golden years of a dynamic career brimming with tales of times when he “moved a lot of drills and saw a lot of polar bears.”

In this photo from the 1980s, Ron Rivett is photographed at the Macassa Creek Project (now Wesdome’s Eagle River Gold Mine).

Today, Ron Rivett works at the Major Drilling Sudbury Warehouse.

Those familiar with Canadian drilling history recognize Rivett’s first employer, Midwest Drilling, a prolific Canadian and international drilling company acquired by Major Drilling in 1998. “I started with Midwest in 1974 in Thompson, Manitoba, for two years helping, then drilling, and in the fifth year I was a foreman.”

He advanced to Midwest’s Flin-Flon branch, then headed north of Yellowknife in permafrost and Canada’s first diamond mines. In those days, work rotations lasted three or four months. Rivett adapted to working frigid shifts at the drill, living in tents equipped with little oil heaters and adapting to camp life that thankfully came with good cooks.

His favorite drill was the Super 56 Boyles cable conventional drill because “it had lots of power, throwing rods and the cables.”

He got pretty good at drilling, too. With his crew, he racked up certain 30-day periods of 10,000-foot drilling records at the Don Lake, Saskatchewan Uranium Deposit with the Boyles 37A conventional drill and again at the Leaf Rapids, Manitoba Copper Mine using a 250 Copco hydraulic rig .

Naturally, he became a cold-weather drilling expert in a variety of conditions. He says of the big difference between drilling in Manitoba-Saskatchewan, “There, it was four to five feet of ice, but in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut it was 13 feet deep!”

Prevailing through these forbidding conditions prepared him for two tours to Greenland, including one project in northern Greenland with fellow Midwest-Major Drilling veteran and friend, Bruno Zerbin who celebrated his 50-year anniversary with Major Drilling and the industry in 2018. Zerbin is father to VP of Canadian Operations, Barry Zerbin.

Rivett is grateful for all those who have influenced his career for good including Stan Swanson, Sr. and Andy Vasiloff who were part owners of Midwest Drilling; Alec Desrosier; Gilbert Farebrother; Bruno Zerbin; Big John Ozichuk; Kelly Johnson, former VP of North America & Africa, who Rivett knew from the Flin Flon stockroom; Doug Owen; Dale Lee (supervisor in Yellowknife); and Dave Ruddy (supervisor in Sudbury).

Martin Labrèche, Foreman, Rouyn-Noranda, Québec (41 years)

Martin Labrèche treasures his experiences in the drilling industry. With a career 41 years strong and counting, he’s forged unforgettable partnerships at dozens of Canadian specialized drilling projects and in three South American countries.

Labrèche got his start with Major Drilling in 1983, after the acquisition of Dominik Drilling in Val D’Or in northwestern Québec. He struck out on his own venture, co-founding Azimuth Drilling, a Québec-based company acquired by Major Drilling in 1987. He stayed on through the transition and has since been an integral part of Major Drilling’s operations leadership in the region.

The early 1990s were the dawn of Major Drilling’s international expansion beyond Canada, and developing markets in Mexico and South America were a key part of that strategy. So, Labrèche found himself working in Venezuela, Argentina and Suriname for several years, eventually returning to Canada.

His broad experience at the many notable mines and exploration projects in Canada led him to supervise work on the surface, underground and even on a barge at Eleonore Gold Project in James Bay, Québec. He can easily mark up an eastern Canadian map by retracing his steps through Ontario (Red Lake, Larder Lake); Québec (Windfall Mine, Otish Mountain and Osisko Malartic Mine—now Canadian Malartic); and Nunavut where he worked surface heli-portable jobs.

Still, it’s the relationships he’s built over the past four decades that he values even more than his travels. “Over the years I met and partnered with many people on every site,” Labrèche said. “This I will never forget.”

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