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‘I Love Drilling’ Says Retiring Field Superintendent Gerry Chartier

By May 30, 2024No Comments

The Major Drilling Branch in Timmins, Ontario, bid a fond farewell to longtime field superintendent and veteran driller, Gerry Chartier, on May 31, 2024. Chartier, aka Big Ger, steps away from the best and only career he’s ever known and into uncharted territory—trying to relax with a fishing pole in hand.

For 47 years, he mastered major advancements in the mining/drilling industry like the advent of hands-off equipment, improved work rotations, myriad safety enhancements and innovative new technologies. Each evolution helped him effectively drill and supervise field teams as they delivered Major Drilling’s trademark specialized drilling results.

Canadian drilling is often a subzero temperature undertaking, threatening to freeze the features of the most indefatigable driller into a firm frown. That could explain why Chartier picked up yet another ironically apt nickname: Happy.

Gerry Chartier in his office in Timmins, Ontario

Dave Ruddy, Major Drilling Canada Area Manager, said Chartier’s gruff exterior belies the gentler person he’s come to know. “Gerry reminds me of the mascot of his favorite hockey team, which is a bear,” he chuckled, reflecting on the transition. “When a fully dedicated person like Gerry retires, it’s not only a loss to the company, but to all the people he has interacted with and inspired throughout those years. His passion, positivity, professionalism and hard work will truly be missed.”

‘I Love Drilling!’

Chartier got his start in drilling through a family member connected to the business. His brother, several of his uncles and his wife’s family were in drilling and helped him apply to his first employer, Bradley Drilling, on January 18, 1977. That was a cold, but happy day taking him to a camp job north of Matheson, Ontario.

A fuel truck services drills on the ice at Borden Lake, winter 2017.

He worked his way up the ranks working as a helper for three years, then as a driller for 11 years. He was promoted to foreman and held that position for eight years. In 1999, he became a field supervisor. When Major Drilling acquired the Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec-based Bradley Group in 2011, Chartier continued in his position and joined Major Drilling with other former Bradley field experts like Marc Poisson, now working as Suriname Operations Manager.

In January 2007, Chartier undertook the most challenging project of his career at Borden Lake, Ontario, where he and his crew of 15 expertly demonstrated the specialized drilling skills required to build up high quality “blue” lake ice to 155 centimeters and establish drill pads for more than two dozen exploration holes up to 700 meters deep through ice, overburden and bedrock. The six-rig drilling campaign placed the rigs in an area 453 meters wide by one kilometer long and drilled on the thick blue ice until warmer temperatures in May arrived. This work prepared the way for what is now the underground and under-lake Borden Lake Mine (Goldcorp).

“Borden Lake is what was considered a very successful project, because the client got all the holes they wanted, and we completed it safely,” he said.

Gerry Chartier (left) looks over a reflex instrument with project geologist Jacque Samson at the Timmins West property for client Lake Shore Gold in 2006.

Drilling is the first job serious job Chartier took, and he has stayed with it for nearly five decades for good reasons. “I love the job and the challenges,” he said. “The money was always good, and I love going to work. I love drilling!”

Gerry Chartier poses with an AVD8000 drill in Timmins, Ontario.

A Drilling Legacy All Around Him

Exploration for mining critical minerals is an essential part of the Canadian economy and is the foundation for many modern technologies. Chartier says being involved in mining makes him feel good because he’s part of that vital industry. He has the distinction of working on many successful drilling campaigns in Ontario that have turned into producing mines and finds it quite fulfilling knowing his small part in the process has brought about positive long-term results.

“Looking around Kidd Creek, I’ve seen the core there,” he recalls of the ultra-deep mine in northern Ontario where the copper, zinc and silver core are drilled from one of the deepest mines in the world. “Then I was drilling the gold mine at Detour Lake, and the battery minerals at Imagine Lithium in Nipigon and Rock Tech’s Georgia Lake lithium project.”

In the late 1970s, Bradley Group used heli-supported equipment like this Fly 205 Boyles 35 drill. Chartier and crew took drills apart and reassembled as needed.

Modern fly drill heli-support uses long lines as shown during the inaugural McVicar Gold Project drill program in 2022. Photo courtesy of Lori Paslawski, Exploration Manager, Cross River Ventures Corp.

He returned to Borden Lake after the ice campaign to do a grouting project along the lake shore where he led teams grouting over 1,000 drill holes across a three-year period. He’s proud he played a part and in establishing Goldcorp’s (Newmont) gold-producing mine operating under the lake today.

Yet, there’s one job that still gives him a shiver.

“Back in the 70s and 80s at Pickle Lake [Ontario], the heli-supported jobs used to drop gear with short lines, not the long ones they use nowadays.” He recalls how blasts of icy air, delivered directly overhead from a low-hovering chopper, would thrash him and his crew as they hooked drill equipment to the 30-foot lines.

“It would only last around 60 seconds, but with the wind chill it felt like minus 40 [degrees],” he said with a slight shudder. “So, it’s extra satisfying we always got the job done.”

His Next Campaign

Chartier remembers the days when he was away at various drilling camps in Canada 10 out of 12 months per year. “You missed a lot of birthdays and anniversaries in those days, but I’m grateful to my wife, Kellie. We’ve been married for 45 years, and she’s always been supportive.”

While he looks forward to reporting only to Kellie, he is very grateful for the five excellent drillers, supervisors and managers who have mentored him. This includes his first field supervisor Luke Leduc who put him forward to progress in his career; foreman Geatan Gagne, and current manager Dave Ruddy.

Most recently, he treasures the concern and care of Ruddy and his management team who saw him through a difficult period when his wife underwent cancer treatment. “The company was supportive, and I will always be grateful and appreciative,” Chartier said. “They’ve helped me through the hard times.”

Area Manager Dave Ruddy (left) and Gerry Chartier meet up at Major Drilling’s Sudbury, Ontario, offices.

He moves into retirement knowing that, of the many places he has explored, it’s the depths of his own lifetime of dedicated drilling and steadfast friendships that will sustain him through his next great adventure.

“We’ll certainly miss our ‘Happy’ friend Ger,” Ruddy said. “I wish him all the best on this new chapter in life and his future endeavors. May our hockey rivalry and betting last for years to come. Go Leafs, go!”

Follow Major Drilling onLinkedIn,X,FacebookandInstagramto receive the latest company news and updates.Established in 1980, and publicly traded as Toronto Stock Exchange ticker symbol TSX: MDI, Major Drilling is the preferred specialized drilling contractor for all tiers in the mining industry. The company has over 1,000 years of combined experience and expertise within its management team alone. It is creating value by partnering with customers and communities to discover minerals for building a better future. Major Drilling is a key player in the supply chain for the battery metals and critical minerals that are driving the green energy transition. Learn moreabout how to make your next drilling project safe and successful with Major Drilling.

Gerry Chartier is a stalwart fan of professional ice hockey team, the Boston Bruins. At home, he proudly displays this replica Bruins Stanley Cup national championship trophy in his “man cave.”