Boart Longyear: Discovering the undiscovered since 1890

November 8, 2018

by Andrew Cuthbert, Senior Manager for Global Marketing & Communications at Boart Longyear

Freedom™ Loader providing hands-free rod handling to an LF™350e drill rig


In 1890, a young mining engineer named Edmund J. Longyear set a new standard for innovation in mining. Longyear, a member of the first graduating class at the Michigan Mining School, sank the first diamond drill hole on North America’s Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota. Longyear realized there was a need for exploration companies as the US iron ore mining and steel industry continued expanding, and he soon formed a contract diamond drilling company to serve this market.

A continual legacy of innovation

A demonstration of the revolutionary Q™ Wireline coring system in 1953

Boart Longyear’s market-leading position in the mineral drilling industry is driven by a variety of factors, including technological innovation, engineering excellence and advanced manufacturing capabilities. In its tradition of pioneering technology, in 1953 the company applied for a patent on the first wireline core retrieval system–the Q™ Wireline System an innovation that revolutionized the diamond drilling industry. The advantages of the genuine Q wireline system quickly generated industry-wide adoption because it increased productivity on the worksite and made tripping core from the bottom of the hole safer for the drilling assistant. Next came the introduction of the reliable strength of the RQ™ rod; and recently launched in June 2018, Boart Longyear’s patented and innovative XQ™ rods have been shown to be stronger, last longer and enable the same drilling rig to drill 30% deeper.

Continually testing products in the field with its Drilling Services team, Boart Longyear’s engineers have been able to develop and manufacture a variety of drilling products, with immediate application and feedback. Drilling Services brings technical issues or suggestions for improvements to engineers, who then research, design, and develop solutions. These solutions are tested, tweaked to perfection, produced by the manufacturing team and implemented by the global Drilling Services team.

With decades of powder metallurgy experience, continual improvement has led to some exciting innovations with the revolutionary Longyear™ bits being the latest in the company’s line of successful diamond coring bit technologies. After the promising initial results, trials were started using the new Longyear bits on all Boart Longyear Drilling Services sites in Australia and select sites globally. The new design has already been proven to drill further and faster than surface-set bits and cut through much harder material, which has been shown to place as much as 23% more core in the box.

Early Boart Longyear drilling equipment

Digitalization and instrumentation

For Boart Longyear’s Drilling Services team, it’s not just about drilling a hole, but more about what information can be gathered to make more informed decisions. In the last few years, the company has successfully introduced a number of its own geological data-gathering technologies. These technologies allow its drillers to determine critical information about the orientation of structural elements, determine the azimuth and dip measurement of boreholes, and even provide geologists access to real-time geological data as the core is drilled.

These innovations are giving even more of a competitive edge to its drilling capabilities. Using the company’s TruScan™ technology, its Drilling Services teams provide accurate data from the retrieved core samples which can be quickly viewed by geologists. The time to collect data is significantly reduced and the data aids in the logging and interpretation of the geology. This means more accurate conceptual geological models can be built while the drill is still on the borehole. Mining companies can make accurate and timely decisions on where to drill next or to what depth.

Global drilling services

Whether the request comes in for a mineral exploration drilling contractor, water services, or production drilling, Boart Longyear has the equipment and teams ready to take on
any challenge. The company operates drilling programs in all parts of the globe which vary from early stage exploration projects to mineral resource management projects on operating mine sites–for both major mining and junior exploration companies.

Boart Longyear consistently delivers innovative solutions to the most technical drilling challenges, in some of the most complex operating environments. This is accomplished through its continuous investment in safety, people, and equipment which has led to a rock solid reputation and a long track record for safety and innovative solutions.

Exploration drilling in isolated and remote regions has its challenges for any drilling service company. Utilizing the experience of locally based companies has its advantages, but there are obviously areas where these resources are not readily available. In such situations, requesting the help of a drilling service company with a proven track record becomes essential. In order to mitigate the risks involved, Boart Longyear conducts management planning techniques to first undertake detailed research to determine all the major cost drivers.

Cost-driver analysis for location drilling typically includes an evaluation of the manpower needed, the ability and costs to locate to the site, the means of bringing in and having drilling rigs available, and accessibility of parts for equipment maintenance to keep the project operating efficiently. A huge advantage for Boart Longyear is that not only does it have the skilled workforce at a number of regional locations that can be deployed, it also manufactures drill rigs, parts, and tooling, so maintenance is planned and parts and consumables are readily available for the project no matter where it is located. Greater part accessibility minimizes drilling downtime and keeps the project on schedule and within budget.

A drill crew conducts a field-level risk assessment to ensure safe operation

Make it safe, make it personal, make it home

It takes more than just a great safety program to protect employees. Boart Longyear takes pride in making safety a part of its sustainable culture and safety is a critical part of how its drilling programs are conducted, as well as how its equipment and tooling is developed. World-class safety and training programs promote employee empowerment and engagement at all levels. Customers expect operational results, but they also require that contractors live up to the safety standards required for their sites. The company wants all its employees to enjoy the work environment and put in a good day’s work, but more importantly, always ensure that every employee returns safely home.

Before working on any site, new drilling services hires are immediately inducted into global safety programs and trained on the importance of how to conduct field-level risk assessments. Everyone is given stop work authority so they can quickly react and stop any unsafe activity. Although many drilling crews are measured on key performance indicators (KPIs) that place time and performance pressures on the amount of work, meters drilled, and core obtained, Boart Longyear supervisors and drillers and even offsiders are encouraged to slow down and proactively approach tasks safely, communicate properly, and report potential risks and near misses.

Drilling capabilities

Exploration and mining companies rely on Boart Longyear’s drilling services to provide industry-leading core recovery rates and highly accurate geological data. The company’s technical expertise, experience, and measurable performance data is delivered through consistent and reliable service.

Surface coring

With access to a diverse fleet of surface coring rigs and equipment, Boart Longyear’s global drilling team can meet even the toughest project requirements. In order to deliver the best core samples and geological data, a team of experienced technical experts first works tirelessly to understand the project objectives as well as the ground and site conditions then uses the information to recommend the best solution for the project. Then the right trained crews and advanced equipment is brought in to complete the surface coring project.

Boart Longyear offers a range of directional drilling services with innovative steering/survey tools to provide greater mineral production from one hole and save significant time and money. Directional motoring can be attained to depths beyond 10 000 feet to achieve any target. Using these methods, safety and environmental benefits can also be realized because drill rigs don’t require as much relocation and fewer surface holes are needed.

Additional capabilities include providing highly qualified personnel and equipment for geothermal projects to effectively drill in high-temperature/high-pressure formations. The company also offers fly drill capabilities with the largest global fleet of heli-portable rigs and equipment for greenfield or projects not accessible by roads.

Underground coring

Boart Longyear offers diverse underground coring drilling solutions utilizing modular coring rigs and mobile platforms to safely and efficiently move drill crews from site-to-site. Its LM™ series of modular diamond drill rigs feature easily interchangeable components, allowing for space constraints without sacrificing depth requirements. The latest in rod handling technology and integrated drill control interfaces means crews can work hands-free, safely and all while increasing productivity.

An LS-244 Drill set up for core drilling on a prepared drill pad in western Nevada, US

Underground production drilling

A diverse range of underground production drilling services includes long-hole drill and blast, cable bolt drilling, slot and inverse raises, V-30 drilling, and more. The experienced drilling service teams are dedicated to delivering safe, fast, and effective production drilling by using pneumatic, electric, and hydraulic down-the-hole (DTH), or top hammer methods. Boart Longyear uses portable drills for versatility in drilling all angles which decreases move time and is ideal for narrow vein mining.

Surrounded by picturesque mountains, the Boart Longyear team drills for core in the Clayton Valley, Nevada, US

Sonic drilling

Boart Longyear’s drillers are the industry’s most experienced in sonic drilling, which dates back to the 1990s. Whether drilling for environmental water supply development, geo-construction, geotechnical or mineral exploration, sonic drilling technology offers several distinct advantages by utilizing high frequency resonance to eliminate or minimize the friction between the subsurface material being encountered and the tooling/core barrel being advanced. This allows both efficient penetration and maximum in-situ core recovery in a variety of subsurface conditions.

Rotary drilling

The company’s large fleet of rotary rigs and locally certified drilling crews tackle rotary drilling projects throughout the world for applications including dewatering, freeze holes, paste holes, mineral exploration, geothermal, oil and gas pre-collars, cavern wells, injection/extraction holes, water test holes, and monitor wells. The teams have over 40 years of expertise using mud, air, reverse circulation, and proprietary dual-tube flooded-reverse methods.

Readying a T130 rig with hands-free rod handling equipment at a site in Australia

Ever-increasing safety and productivity

Underground operations with an MDR rig
at a gold mine in WA Australia

In order to solve a challenge for a mining client in Canada, Boart Longyear’s Drilling Services engineering team created a multiphase plan to add both functionality and mobility to their existing production drilling equipment. The original rig was slow to move and would hold up traffic on the ramp which cost the mine time and money. After careful planning, engineering and execution, a new StopeMaster™ MDR rig was created that could move quickly under its own power, maneuver in tight spaces, included handsfree rod handling, and allowed for semiautonomous drilling with a new LMi control interface.

At BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in Australia, Drillings Services was able to leverage the advantages of the innovative drill controls and versatility found in its LM™ series of underground diamond core drill rigs to improve site-move times by 11% and increase monthly productivity by 13.5%. The team also introduced rod-handling equipment as part of its diamond core drilling services which increased safety by reducing occurrences of hand injuries.

In the US, a large government water supplier asked Boart Longyear Drilling Services to expand its well production located within a residential zone. The challenge was drilling the well without exceeding the noise threshold of the zone’s ordinances–a maximum of 65 dBA. After proactively studying the ambient noise levels, sound attenuation curtains were constructed and instead of using typical diesel/hydraulic rotary drills, the crew utilized a Boart Longyear™ LR™175 electric/hydraulic rotary drill with a quiet genset operating the electric motor and a self-contained electric mud system to successfully stay below the noise threshold. The result of all these efforts exceeded customer expectations providing a newly drilled well that produces 1500 gallons per minute (gpm); whereas other wells in the area produce an average of 200 gpm.

No matter who the client or where the project, Boart Longyear’s Drilling Services team is constantly looking at ways to improve on safety and productivity like these examples above. It’s not just about drilling holes, but getting the right information, improving the process, working safely, reducing environmental impact, and providing the best value to the customer.