Iceland Drilling building up drilling operations in New Zealand and answering union concerns

Iceland Drilling rig crew at work (source: Iceland Drilling)
Alexander Richter 30 Sep 2011

Iceland Drilling faces local union calls for utilizing local workforce in New Zealand. With the specialized knowledge and expertise needed for the job this is often not possible. At the same time it shows that outreach and stakeholder involvement are key elements companies need to plan in for their projects.

News from New Zealand suggest that there are some voices questioning if Icelandic geothermal drilling company, Iceland Drilling should not have hired local drilling crews for its work in New Zealand.

Iceland Drilling (Jardboranir) signed a two year drilling contract with Mighty River Power after winning a tender to drill wells for the planned Ngatamariki geothermal power plant, expected to be completed by mid-2013.

Earlier this summer, the company moved its  largest drilling rig for the $32 million project from Iceland to New Zealand, essentially to the other side of the world.

Now local Mining Exploration Union (EPMU) critizises the company saying “it has made no attempt to employ skilled and capable workers from New Zealand.”

Both Mighty River Power and Iceland Drilling counter these arguments, saying that the company’s drilling crew of 30 will “leave after training local drillers” and “gradually promoting the good ones”. The company’s HR and Quality Manager Ása Ólafsdóttir said that once the company “settled down and succeeded in building an operation which our customer is happy with … we will start hiring a local drilling crew.”

Mighty River Power supports the company here, as the specialised rig of Iceland Drilling would require expertise that is not available in New Zealand. After all the company won an international tender for the project.

Similar discussions are actually taking place in Kenya with Chinese drilling company Great Wall Drilling and its dealings with the government there. Seems like they prefer employing its own imported crews on the drilling rigs.

Given the global nature of geothermal and the lack in qualified experts, it will be one of the topics developers and service firms need to be aware of and deal with. Again this is also the ever ongoing issue of the need for a great public relation and outreach campaign to keep stakeholders informed and updated throughout every stage of the development. This should be planned in as part of any project development no matter where.