First Nations Drilling JV preps to train Indigenous drillers in northern Ontario

Dino Lombardi, left, vice president of G4 Drilling and Leslie Quedent at a celebration for the launch of their First Nations Drilling JV, on Sept. 1 at the Lac Seul First Nation. Credit: Leslie Quedent

Engagement with Indigenous peoples in the resource sector can mean many different things, and for veteran driller Leslie Quedent, it means an exploration partnership.

Quedent, a member of the Lac Seul First Nation, brought his drilling company into a joint venture with G4 Drilling on Aug. 1 to form First Nations Drilling JV. His namesake company had already been operating for several years in his nation’s traditional territory near Sioux Lookout, about 400 km northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont.

“I was looking for somebody to help me start my own business to train my fellow natives because I know how it is,” Quedent said. “When you first come off the reserve you don’t want to get training with fellows you don’t know.”

The Anishnaabe driller, who has more than 40 years of experience with surface and underground exploration in northern Ontario and Manitoba, learned last year about the work of G4 Drilling at Green Technology Metals’ (ASX: GT1) Root lithium project, about 150 km north of Dryden in Ontario’s northwest. From there, he took the partnership idea to G4, a Val-d’Or, Quebec-based drilling services company that also manufactures its own drills.  

The JV operates with Quedent holding a 51% interest and G4 the remaining 49%. Its geographical focus is the traditional lands of Lac Seul First Nation. They cover about 200 sq. km from Red Lake in the west to Pickle Lake in the east and south towards Dryden.

In August, the JV began using two of G4’s drills at the Root project, drilling at a rate of 6,000 to 8,000 metres per month. Quedent has been working as the foreman for the drill crews.

“The goal of the agreement is to provide Mr. Quedent with capital to be able to buy up equipment that the JV will own [such as] drill rigs and auxiliary equipment and be able to operate as a separate entity,” said Dino Lombardi, vice president of G4 and co-owner of the JV.

With initial drilling under its belt, the JV’s next focus will be providing internships in diamond drilling in October for students from Northern College in Sioux Lookout.

“We’re setting up an apprenticeship in the area to develop a local workforce on the rigs,” Lombardi said. Students will study drilling at Sioux Lookout and conduct the practical part of the course at the Root Lake site.

“I got people who really want to know when I can start teaching them,” Quedent said. “I tell them maybe you won’t learn quick but you keep trying. Things take time sometimes.”

Neither of the JV owners ventured to talk about specific future plans, but Lombardi said they have their eyes on gold projects in the Red Lake area and potential lithium exploration around Sioux Lookout.

In the meantime, they’re glad to be drilling out a space for young Indigenous people in the sector.

“We’ve always been aware that’s an important side of the industry,” Lombardi said. “I think it’s a really important opportunity, especially in the context of labour shortages. Clearly there’s a need for a workforce that’s available, if not we’ll lose another industry. It’s better to be at the forefront of that.”