Drilling firm understands the value of forward thinking.

It’s already been quite a ride for Major Drilling International Inc., and more exciting times lay ahead. Based in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, Major is one of the world’s largest drilling service companies serving the mining industry. The North American operation is headquartered in Salt Lake City. The company provides all types of drilling services, including surface and underground coring, directional, reverse circulation, rotary air blast, geotechnical and environmental drilling.

Rob Newburn, vice president for Major Drilling’s North American business, tells us, “The company currently has operations in 26 countries, and the biggest of those are in the United States, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Mongolia, Chile and Indonesia.” Asked about the company’s employee situation, he reports, “In the U.S. – more than 200; worldwide – 3,400.”

Brief History

It all began with Tonto Drilling, which originally was a Canadian firm that relocated to Salt Lake City in the mid-1980s. Tonto subsequently was purchased by Dynatec Mining, which, in turn, sold its drilling division to Major Drilling in 2005.

As for Newburn, he explains his background thusly: “I started off in the drilling industry some 30 years ago as a driller’s helper in Australia. I wandered around the world working for one of the biggest coring contractors up until 2002, when I joined Major Drilling in Australia. Then, in 2003, I moved to Winnipeg to head up the Canadian operation. Too cold for a soft Aussie up there, so when the company purchased Dynatec, that was my passport to a warmer climate.”

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“Coal bed methane is the main market that we serve, and we’ve got eight rigs doing that,” says Newburn. “We also do the preset work for the larger oil field drills that come in. We’ll preset and case the holes anywhere between 2,500 feet and 4,000 feet, and then the big rigs come in to drill the deep holes.”

Looking Ahead

Queried about future trends for Major, Newburn explains, “The minerals sector really has ballooned, but looking ahead, energy and water probably are the potential growth areas for the company. Right now, we’re so busy with the minerals market, but with the growing population throughout the world, energy and water probably are going to be the more pressing requirements in the years to come.”

“Currently, we do very little water drilling; I doubt it’s 2 percent of our revenues. We probably won’t be in the water industry in the short term – say two to five years. We’ll still be leaning toward the energy sector for now, but looking forward, water is going to be one of the biggest issues facing the world. There’s an awful lot of water we’re going to have to find, treat and deliver, so there will be a greater focus on that in the future, and that probably will become a bigger part of our operation – maybe not during my working career, but certainly for the next generation.”

In the meantime, Newburn says, “We’re not going to change our focus from coring – where 90 percent of our revenues come from – overnight.

Next month, we’ll visit one of Major Drilling International Inc.’s job sites.