BOART LONGYEAR’S LONG HISTORY
Little did Edmund J. (E.J.) Longyear know in 1890 when he sank his first diamond drill hole on the Minnesota Mesabi Range that he was starting something that over a century later would end up being the world’s leading provider of drilling services, drilling equipment, and performance tooling for mining and drilling companies globally. Boart Longyear has a rich history that has withstood the ups and downs of what we now know as the “cycles” in the industry.
1890 – 1910
Edmund J. Longyear, a mining engineer from the first graduating class at the Michigan Mining School, drills the first diamond core hole in the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota. Shortly thereafter, he forms a contract diamond drilling company to serve the rapidly growing U.S. iron ore mining and steel industry.
In 1903, Longyear and John E. Hodge form a manufacturing partnership called Longyear & Hodge, expanding their business to include contract drilling, shaft-sinking, mineral ventures and related consulting work.
1910 – 1930
The Longyear and Hodge partnership merged with Longyear’s separate contract drilling company to form E.J. Longyear Company. The company’s first price list in 1912 featured 19 drill models with drilling capabilities between 750 and 5,000 feet. Those drills were powered mainly by steam engines, which later would be replaced by internal combustion engines developed in the 1920’s. The company expands rapidly in the U.S. and begins drilling for copper in Cuba — its first international project. Other notable projects:
- Six diamond core rigs for Phelps Dodge Corporation to explore copper in Arizona
- Contract in Sudbury, Canada that outlined the original ore body that became the giant Falconbridge Nickel Mines
- 15-month drilling project in Yunnan Province, China
- Test drilled the route of a proposed subway under the East River connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn in New York, USA
- Testing to determine the nature of rock formations that would bear the weight of the Golden Gate Bridge
Robert Longyear (E.J.’s son) became president of the firm in 1924, preserving the chain of family ownership and management that would continue for another 40 years.
1930 – 1950
The company continues expanding internationally, forming its first foreign subsidiary in Canada and signing its first contract for work in Africa. In spite of the stock market crash of October 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression, the 1930s saw improvements in diamond drilling technology, including the use of industrial-quality diamonds mined in Africa that were called “bortz”.
In 1936, South Africa’s Anglo American Corporation formed Boart Products South Africa (Pty) Limited, which was later named Boart International. The new company developed the first mechanically set diamond core bits, which proved less expensive than the hand-set core bits that used more expensive Brazilian diamonds (carbonados). Longyear’s business gradually improved in the 1940’s in response to expanding worldwide mineral exploration.
1950 – 1970
In the late 1950’s, Boart Longyear partnered with Christensen Diamond Products (CDP) to expand international distribution. Christensen’s diamond knowledge and buying power combined with Longyear’s history of drilling innovation created a platform that the two companies leveraged to introduce dependable and highly productive surface-set diamond bits to the industry. Together, they developed business ventures in Japan, France, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Longyear also developed drills for the Apollo project in 1955.
Growth in the ‘50s fueled new technology, and in 1953, Longyear applied for a patent on the first wireline core retrieval system, the Q™ Wireline System, an innovation that revolutionized the diamond drilling industry by increasing productivity on the worksite and making tripping core from the bottom of the hole safer for the drilling assistant. The advantages of the genuine Q™ system quickly generated industry-wide adoption of Boart Longyear’s wireline technology, securing the company’s place in the history of drilling technology. The Q™ Wireline System became the mark by which all future innovation at the company would be measured.
In 1964 Longyear sold 25 percent of its family-owned stock to FACTS, a Luxembourg-based holding company owned jointly by Boart International and Christensen Diamond Products Company. Three years later, FACTS exercised its option to purchase another 25 percent of Longyear's family stock. The Longyear family retained 30 percent of the company's stock, with the remaining 20 percent owned by employees.
In 1965, when Longyear's annual sales had reached USD$15 million, the company bought more land in Minneapolis, and persuaded the city government to vacate Erie Street to accommodate its expansion. In 1969, Longyear opened its new Minneapolis office building and an enlarged manufacturing plant. For the first time in its history, the company's headquarters and its U.S. production were located at one site.
1970 – 1990
After the death of Robert Longyear in 1970, the board of directors appointed John Hoffmeister as president and chairman of the board of the company. FACTS was dissolved when Boart International (a wholly owned subsidiary of Anglo American) bought out CDP's interest in Longyear.
In 1974, Boart International (Johannesburg, South Africa) purchased all outstanding shares of Longyear, becoming the company's sole owner. With the newfound technical talent and capital investment from Boart International, Longyear became the leading manufacturer of diamond bits.
In the 1980s, Boart Longyear engineers secured a reliable source of high-performance synthetic diamonds, which triggered the development of a revolutionary bit design – the impregnated diamond bit. With decades of powder metallurgy experience behind them, Longyear engineers set out to develop a new crown that consisted of synthetic diamonds evenly distributed throughout a composite matrix. This new design could drill further and faster than surface-set bits and cut through much harder material.
A number of acquisitions were made during this time. Including:
- Lang Exploratory Drilling based in Utah
- Morissette underground and surface diamond drilling firm
- WTD Environmental Drilling
- North Star Drilling Company specializing in sonic drilling
1990 – 2013
On January 2, 1995, the Longyear Company changed its name to the Boart Longyear Company. However, after over 30 years of Anglo American’s ownership, Boart Longyear was considered a non-core asset for the Johannesburg based mining company. In 2005, Boart Longyear was divested by Anglo American and acquired by the private equity firms Advent International, Bain Capital and several management investors. The headquarters was then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Since the sale by Anglo American, management has undertaken a number of ownership changes, restructuring initiatives, and acquisitions, all establishing Boart Longyear as a global leader in mining exploration services and products.
In October 2006, Advent sold the Company to the Australian investment firm, Macquarie Bank, and, in April 2007, Macquarie took the Company public in an AUD$2.3 billion IPO on the ASX stock exchange. Boart Longyear’s IPO was the second largest IPO in the history of the ASX.
Acquisitions continued to expand geographic and technological offerings. Including:
- North Star Drilling Company specializing in sonic drilling
- SDS specializing in production drilling
- NW Drilling
- Drillcorp drilling company
- KWL, a rig manufacturer
- Prosonic drilling company
- Grimwood Davies drilling company
- Connors Argentina & Chile drilling company
- Patagonia drilling company
In addition, the rich history of bringing drilling innovation to customers globally continues with the introduction of:
- Heli-portable LF™130F surface drill rig with integrated rod handling: a rig for the most remote jobs that provides the latest in safety technology
- Patented bit technologies that increase productivity and life
- Roller Latch™ underground head assembly for increased safety in underground coring applications
- Drill Control Interface (DCi) provides drillers with a fully electronic interface to safely and efficiently operate underground drilling equipment, away from moving parts and hydraulic hoses.
2014 – Today
2014 began with Edumnd J. Longyear being inducted into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame for his role in exploration almost 125 years after he sank his first diamond drill hole on the Minnesota Mesabi Range.
In 2015, Boart Longyear is proudly celebrating its 125th Anniversary. Little did Edmund J. Longyear know in 1890 when he sank his first diamond drill hole on the Minnesota Mesabi Range that he was starting a company that 125 years later would end up being a world-leading provider of drilling services, drilling equipment and performance tooling for the mining industry. Boart Longyear’s 125th Anniversary is dedicated to the people who built - and continue to build - this fine Company. As employees around the world celebrate the many accomplishments of our past, the Company is moving confidently toward the future.
Today, Boart Longyear’s Global Drilling Services division operates in 30 countries for a diverse mining customer base spanning a wide range of commodities, including copper, gold, nickel, zinc, uranium, and other metals and minerals. The Global Products division designs, manufactures and sells drilling equipment, performance tooling, and aftermarket parts and services to customers in over 100 countries.
Technology and Innovation
With six global manufacturing locations, Boart Longyear has developed and introduced some of the most advanced drilling technology on the market and in history, including the genuine Q™ wireline system. The original Q™ system, released more than 50 years ago, was the industry’s first wireline core retrieval system. Boart Longyear consumables have been equally innovative. Q™ and RQ™ rod threads were introduced, resulting in improved reliability. The company’s High Productivity Coring System features a V-Wall™ coring rod, a Quick Descent™ head assembly and the industry-leading Stage® diamond coring bit. Each system component increases shift capacity and productivity, delivering efficiencies to the driller.
Boart Longyear remains the experts in sonic drilling technology used by the drilling services division. The company was the first U.S. firm to utilize sonic equipment for environmental drilling. Sonic technology utilizes 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 core recovery in a variety of subsurface conditions.