In 1888, Edmund J. Longyear, a mining engineer from the first graduating class at the Michigan Mining School, drilled the first diamond core hole in the Mesabi Iron Range in northern Minnesota. Shortly afterward, he formed 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 formed a partnership called Longyear and Hodge to expand their business, which included contract drilling, shaft-sinking, mineral ventures, and related consulting work. In 1911, the Longyear and Hodge partnership merged with Longyear’s separate contract drilling company to E.J. Longyear ("Longyear") Company. The Company’s first price list in 1912 featured 19 drill models with drilling capabilities between 750 – 5,000 feet. Those drills were powered mainly by steam engines, which later were replaced by internal combustion engines developed in the 1920s. The Company expanded rapidly in the U.S. and overseas. From 1912 to 1916, the company drilled for copper in Cuba, the Company's first international project. In 1914, Longyear began setting up the first of six diamond core rigs for Phelps Dodge Corporation to explore for copper in Arizona. In 1919, the Company began a 15-month drilling project in Yunnan Province, China.
By the 1920s, about half of the Company's drilling was outside the continental United States. 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. In 1929, Longyear sold almost US$1.5 million worth of drilling equipment to other drillers. The following year the company formed its first foreign subsidiary in Canada. The company also signed its first contract for work in Africa, sending equipment and a crew to provide drilling for copper ores. However, the stock market crash of October 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression reduced earnings to $79,000 in 1933. During the 1930s, Longyear took on a project drilling for core samples for the proposed Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In spite of the financial crisis, the 1930s saw improvements in diamond drilling technology, including the use of industrial-quality diamonds mined in Africa that were called “boarts.” 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 were less expensive than the hand-set core bits that used more expensive Brazilian diamonds (carbonados).
Longyear’s business gradually improved in the 1940s in response to expanding worldwide mineral exploration. In 1949, the company began a close, long-term general business and marketing relationship with Christensen Diamond Products (CDP). 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. During the 1950s, the two firms jointly developed business ventures in Japan, France, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Meanwhile, Longyear expanded its Canadian business, which grew to $10 million by the end of 1967. This growth fueled new technology, and in 1958 Longyear patented the first wireline core retrieval 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. Later named the Q Wireline System, the new core retrieval method introduced a level of productivity never before seen in the exploration drilling industry.
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 US$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. Longyear sales reached US$40 million in 1970.
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 invested capital which helped Longyear to become the world's leading manufacturer of diamond bits.
Boart Longyear engineers in North Bay, Ontario, secured a reliable source of high-performance synthetic diamonds, which triggered the development of a new 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. By 1980, 75 percent of Longyear’s Canadian-produced bits were of the new impregnated type, and Longyear was manufacturing diamond bits in more than eight countries.
In 1975, the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company decided to end its production of diamond drills. Longyear purchased the rights to make and sell Chicago Pneumatic's small CP-65 compressed air drill designed for underground use. Longyear also made spare parts for the hundreds of CP-65s already in use.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Longyear began to diversify into areas beyond its traditional mineral exploration drilling. The company began using diamond bits for drilling and sawing concrete in the construction industry. In 1977, Longyear purchased rights to make concrete saws from the Drillistics Company. The firm's Salt Lake City plant began making diamond saw blades in the early 1980s.
In 1983, Longyear acquired Lang Exploratory Drilling based in Utah and in 1984 purchased Cushion Cut, a firm with 25 years’ experience making and using diamond tools to saw concrete in runways and highways. In 1986, Longyear acquired three more companies: Morissette, an underground and surface diamond drilling firm; Brainard-Kilman, a maker of civil engineering devices, such as well monitoring and test equipment; and ChemGrout a mfg of cement grouting equipment. Longyear acquired Slope Indicator Company, the nation's largest producer of geotechnical instruments, and Northern Air Supply in 1988, followed by the Campbell Pacific Division in 1989 and WTD Environmental Drilling in 1990. Then in 1994, North Star Drilling Company, specializing in sonic drilling was acquired.
On January 2, 1995, Boart International and the Longyear Company officially merged into a single company and changed its name to Boart Longyear Limited. At this point the two companies adopted the new logo and corporate colors. Most of Boart Longyear's employees and revenues in the mid-1990s came from international operations. Operations in the United States employed about 1,000 people and accounted for about $130 million in sales, a relatively small part of the firm's 8,000 employees and over $600 million in annual revenues worldwide. With diverse products and services and decades of international experience, the Boart Longyear Company seemed well prepared to enter the new century.
Despite ownership by Anglo American for more than 30 years, Boart Longyear was considered a non-core asset for the Johannesburg based mining company. In 2005, Boart Longyear was acquired by the private equity firms Advent International, Bain Capital, and several management investors. The headquarters were then moved to Salt Lake City. Since the sale by Anglo American, management has undertaken a number of ownership changes, restructuring initiatives, and acquisitions, establishing Boart Longyear as a global leader in mining exploration services and products. By October 2006, Advent sold Boart Longyear to the Australian investment firm, Macquarie Bank, and, in April 2007, Macquarie took Boart Longyear public in an A$2.3 billion IPO on the ASX stock exchange. Boart Longyear’s IPO was the second largest IPO in the history of the ASX. The patented Stage™ waterway bit design was introduced and provided the first extended 25mm crown in the market.
In 2008 Boart Longyear acquired Eklund Drilling, Britton Brothers, Aqua Drilling and Westrod Engineering. The new patented Quick Descent™ Core Barrel Assembly was launched.
Early 2009, Paul Brunner retired as Chief Executive Officer of the Company and was succeeded by Craig Kipp, who had served for three years as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining the Company, Mr. Kipp was employed by General Electric from 1983 to 2005.
In early 2010 Boart Longyear continued to introduce new technology to the industry, drilling products include a heli-portable surface drill with integrated rod handling, patented surface set bit technology and patented spearpoint design for the corebarrel head assembly.
In 2011, Boart Longyear reached record revenue of $2 billion.
In late 2012, CEO Craig Kipp resigned amidst slowdowns in mineral business and capital expenditure revisions, leading market to believe further deterioration of Boart's revenue is expected. Boart Longyear chairman David McLemore stepped in as acting CEO. Longtime Chief Financial Officer, Joseph Ragan, has recently resigned as well. adding to the deep changes at Boart's leadership level in recent months.
Richard O'Brien, former CEO of Newmont Mining Corporation, joined Boart Longyear as CEO on April 1, 2013.
To better focus on its core business and align with its long-term strategy, Boart Longyear announced the sale of its Environmental and Infrastructure drilling services operations to Cascade Drilling, L.P. of Woodinville, Washington on July 15, 2013.
In August 2013, Boart Longyear founder, Edmund J. Longyear, was nominated for inclusion in the International Mining Hall of Fame. Longyear was nominated for his contributions to the U.S. iron ore mining and steel industries in the early part of the 20th century. He founded E.J. Longyear, which eventually became Boart Longyear. He drilled his first diamond drill core hole in 1890 in northern Minnesota. Longyear's company developed the wire-line retrieved Q core barrel. Longyear was inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colo in 1990.
Boart Longyear conducts contract drilling services in more than 40 countries, and provides mining products to customers in over 100 countries.