Kala Cassinelli, Driller Assistant with Major Drilling USA, poses next to a drill rig outside of Winemucca, Nevada.
Like other driller assistants, Cassinelli begins a typical workday by sharing cross-shift reports and completing safety and equipment checklists. She likes the pace of drilling after working hands-on at mining and construction projects since 2005. “It’s non-stop go once the driller starts,” she said.
That hard work, coupled with a feeling of belonging to a crew that works toward a productive goal, is a big part of why Cassinelli values being part of the Major Drilling team.
When we connected with Kala Cassinelli in late 2019, she had just earned a red hard hat from her foreman. She recalls, “A red hard hat comes with more responsibility, and it’s like a badge out here. I have become a valuable and appreciated member of the crew and feel like I belong.”
Cassinelli is one of the first women working for Major Drilling as a driller assistant in northeastern Nevada, USA. She joined the Major Drilling team in fall 2019, after watching her brother and close friends try out the profession.
Cassinelli is pictured atop the the drill rig after tripping rods from the crow's nest.
Cassinelli helps keep the drill rig running efficiently.
During the unbroken pace and action of a driller’s workday, her favorite part is harnessing up, tying off for safety, and working together with her team to remove or replace rods when it’s necessary to change the bit or other piece of the drill string, known as tripping in and out.
From day one, Cassinelli knew she had the instincts and capability to drill. “Two hours in on the first night of my first hitch, I was pulling core from a tube without help. I noticed the shoe looked chipped, so I switched it out. The driller saw and smiled at me. After that I knew I could do this job,” she recalls.
Drilling comes with inherent challenges for anyone who enters the field. “Having the strength to either get a shoe off the core tube or carry bags of gel seems to be the most challenging so far,” Cassinelli said.
Undaunted, she does her part to help the team work together to accomplish each task. When the rods stop, Cassinelli must move quickly to the drill shack, move a rod, drop the wire line, and get the other core tube ready, all while keeping the mud tank full. “I’m still fairly new, but speed is coming, and I can usually stay a few steps ahead.”
Cassinelli says it can also be a challenge to work far from family on site at remote drilling projects for three or more weeks at a time. Her advice? “Tell them you love them every day.”
More hours on the rigs and on the job mean Cassinelli is becoming an expert at the skills valued by Major Drilling and for which the company is known at its operations worldwide.
Adding a drill rod is a duty Cassinelli performs to ensure steady core drilling operations.
Cassinelli (right) changes a tire on a truck-mounted drill tilt deck.
“Since Kala started with us, her attitude and work ethic are second to none,” George Fox, Superintendent – Surface Exploration, said. “Kala loves to work and is not scared to get dirty. She is a valuable part of our team, and we wish we had 10 more of her.”
So far Cassinelli enjoys learning every aspect of the drilling process from dropping a tube down to mixing mud. She says it was a great feeling when the driller she helped recently gave her a thumbs up when he saw her mud formula. “In time I will be fast and know mud inside and out. In a few years I will be a driller with my own rig.”
The future looks bright for the beginning driller who now has experience mining ore from surface and underground. She loves to be on the frontlines of mineral exploration and be part of a team that finds where the gold is before anyone else.
No matter the job, Cassinelli always keeps in good spirits. Here she is pictured inside a core drill shack.
When Cassinelli considers her place on the operations team, she likes that she is accepted with no special treatment, “Major Drilling saw something in me and gave me a chance to prove to myself and the company that a woman can be in this field.”
At the start of another shift, Cassinelli presses her red hard hat snugly over her braided hair and knows she’s right where she belongs.
Five Women at Major Drilling Making Strides to Support the Mining Industry
In 2020, the world marks March 8 as International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate the varied contributions women make to society. This month, Major Drilling is highlighting five women who inspire the industry to support, expand and change minds about women in mining and drilling:
See our full story and features of our other Major Drilling Women in Mining: