What synergies were created by Granite’s acquisition of Layne in the fall of 2018?
When Granite purchased Layne and its subsidiaries to increase its presence in the mining sector, the union made for a great fit thanks to shared values. Granite’s structured equipment management helped Layne manage our equipment as an asset and focus on the return-on-investment. We have also done some drilling work for some of Granite’s aggregate sites in Nevada, Arizona and California.
Can you tell us about Layne’s Mineral Services and the demand trends over the past year?
Layne’s Mineral Services headquarters is located in Chandler, Arizona, however, in 2019, we opened an office in Elko, Nevada, committing to our local presence and hiring people from the Elko community. We wanted to officially become part of this region instead of just coming in and drilling when the prices of minerals are high and leaving when times are tough.
Traditionally, we have drilled a lot in the copper market. When the copper market is low, Layne historically turns towards gold in Nevada. Both metals are doing well now, providing us with a better balance, which is why we are trying to be a key player in Nevada. Layne still has equipment for iron, which is ramping up after the impacts of the pandemic.
The recent increase in metals prices have led to a substantial increase in the demand for our services. The challenges are finding a labor force to meet the demand and handling the supply chain disruptions.
What occurs at Layne’s Drilling Technology Center (DTC)?
Layne’s Drilling Technology Center is located near Houston, Texas, in an area rich in drilling history and expertise. If our drillers find an issue with no solution already present on the market, we will bring this to our engineers at the DTC. Once they determine a solution, we work with a manufacturing company to fabricate the tool or part that will ultimately save time, injuries, or create efficiencies.
For example, Layne created an automated rod manipulator (ARM) system, which is a way to feed rods to the machine in a hands-free way on the coring side. The ARM was designed through collaboration between our engineering team and our drillers. While working on a better way to break drill collars with our existing rigs, we ended up building wrenches that work on three different styles of rigs, and everything is hands-free so that no pipe wrenches are involved. Two of these wrenches are in engineering labs, and one is already built and on rigs.
Have you noticed an increase in the adoption of automated technology for drilling services?
We have not seen a large trend towards automated technology. We operate in remote and often harsh environments, though every hole and every site are a bit different. With so many variables, it is almost counterproductive to turn to automation. The industry could get there one day, but right now, the only real automated technology I have seen take off is rod-handling systems.
Since coming to Nevada, what clients has Layne served?
NGM is now one of our main customers, and we have worked at their Phoenix Mine and Long Canyon Mine, to name a few locations. We have also worked extensively with Kinross at Round Mountain. During the pandemic, we carried out some directional drilling for Coeur Mining’s Rochester mine.
How does Layne factor safety considerations into its operations?
Safety is Layne’s main focus. We have a strong health and safety team, including a committed member in Nevada. Our managers, supervisors, and health and safety representatives frequently visit crews onsite. Everybody has an app for conducting and logging site inspections, and we take the time to correct any negatives that arise. A safe company is a profitable company, so it pays dividends to focus on safety.
As Layne continues to grow, where will it focus its attention?
Layne’s vision is to build responsibly. Right now, there is significant demand for our services, but we will not rush this growth as we take the time to hire qualified people and train them in-house. We have enough equipment, so it really is about responsibly building up our workforce. Layne continues to strive to be professional and safe at all times.