To succeed, it is critical for firms to understand clients’ needs and deliver them in a professional, safe and cost-effective manner. Cabo Drilling (Panama) Corp. is up to the task, even when clients need more than its own capabilities, General Manager Herb Butler says. “We’re more than a drilling company,” he says, adding the firm builds drill pads, helicopter pads and trails, and clears land for its current project. “We try to reach out where we can to take as much burden from the client as possible.”
Based in Panama City, the drilling services firm is a satellite branch of Cabo Drilling Corp., based in Vancouver. Initially, when Cabo Drilling (Panama) started operations in 2007, it arrived in Panama with two man-portable drills.
The company served Cuprum Resources Corp. on its Cerro Chorcha and Cerro Quema projects, and since then, it has grown to employ a staff of 200 and has more than 125 drills in its fleet worldwide. Currently, Cabo Drilling (Panama) is at work on Minera Panama S.A.’s Minera Cobre copper mine project.
Located in the District of Dinoso, the site is estimated to have 3.27 billion tonnes grading 0.36 percent copper, 0.06 grams per tonne gold and 0.007 percent molybdenum. These mineral resources include proven and probable mineral reserves of 2.14 billion tonnes grading 0.41 percent copper 0.07 grams per tonne of gold and 0.008 percent molybdenum.
“We expect to have eight drills on the project in 2012 and given the size of this ore body, we intend on being here for several years,” Butler says.
A 35-year veteran of the drilling industry, Butler worked as an independent contractor for several years before coming to Cabo Drilling (Panama). At the time, the majority of Butler’s experience was in Canada, but he was eager to face new opportunities in other counties.
“I see a lot of growth potential,” he says. “I think that Cabo itself is an undervalued company. The company has a long history and many qualified professionals from the takeover of Heath & Sherwood (an 80-year-old drilling business) in Ontario. I am surrounded by a dedicated team with good work ethic and commitments to social and economic growth.”
Although Butler has experienced challenges with the language barrier, he has made a smooth transition to Panama. “Much of the work is very much the same,” he says. “I felt like I fit right in. I like the attitude that Cabo took in building a future in Central America and when the industry faced hardships in 2009 and 2010, Cabo Panama and Cabo Colombia continued to grow at a moderate rate.”
The company is educating Panamanians about mining practices while also overcoming the negative reputation of past mining activities. “Those are big hurdles,” he admits. “We have to have concerns for the environment, for the people and the communities that we’re operating in. We have to be patient and listen to people’s concerns. ”
Most of the Cabo Drilling (Panama) work force is local, Butler says, noting that the firm has found many who are honest, hard working and ready to build a future. “They are willing to adapt to new ideas and industry that has never been offered before,” he notes.
For instance, Butler praises drillers like Rigoberto Guerra Ortiz, who has come up through the ranks. “He is a very capable Panamanian driller,” Butler says. “He is quite comfortable drilling almost anywhere in the world. Other employees see doors opening for Ortiz, and they are eager to learn and want the opportunities offered within our company. We are developing training programs to bring on new well-trained drillers in anticipation of future growth.”
Butler says he believes Panama is a strong region for mining projects. “There are projects as big as MPSA. One (Ciera Colorado) may even be bigger,” he says.
“I think [much] of the world is watching the development of this project to see if it goes [well],” he states. “There’s a lot of potential for Panama to open up.”