Absent Drillers & Crooked Holes

by kfrego

The most accurate way to determine subsurface geotechnical information and mineralization is to obtain core samples. The cores are obtained by drills using hollow diamond bits. The core drilling in the United States was controlled by the people who controlled the industrial diamonds. At one time all of the diamonds were owned by one company. When regulators forced a break-up of the diamond monopoly the core drilling industry was divided by Anglo American and DuBeers. The two drilling companies were Longyear and Boyles Brothers. Both companies were based out of Salt Lake City, UT. The majority of their work was servicing the mining companies of the western states. In the late summer of 1974 I went to work for Boyles Brothers out of their Spokane, WA regional office. Dick Durfee was the regional manager. Boyles Brothers had almost 250 surface drills.

My first assignment was in Hughesville, MT. Tom Marx had two drills operating and I was the helper on one of the drills. The truck mount drills with 40 foot masts, drill mud tanks, and fluid circulating systems were new to me. The drill strings with core tubes and wireline systems to retrieve the cores without pulling the rods were very impressive. I observed the driller very close while performing my work. The driller was late for work every morning. On the third day he never showed up at all. While waiting for him to show up I cranked up the drill and started the pumps. I filled the rods and hole with mud, dropped the core tube into the bottom of the rods, hooked up the rods, and circulated mud through the hole. By the time Tom made his first round in the morning I had drilled a five foot run and emptied the core into the core box. I was hooked up and starting to drill on the second run when Tom drove up. Tom climbed up on the deck of the mud tank and asked where my driller went. I told him he never showed up. Tom couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the core in the core box. I got my first raise after three days working for Tom.

Our next job was in Jardine, MT on the north border of Yellowstone Park. Tom put myself and two other new drillers on an old trailer mount Joy 22 drill with a short mast. It was a learning experience. The drill was always moving around and the blocky rock was hard to core. We drilled a 700 foot vertical hole and the daily production rates were pretty sad. We surveyed the hole and the bottom was 110′ away from the drill. The geologist wasn’t very impressed, but he accepted the hole. All three of us learned how not to do things.

Tom wasn’t impressed by our crooked hole…….but we showed up every day.