In 2018, DA Smith (formerly Agapito Associates, Inc.) drilled five 80-ft-deep core holes on the Searles Lake playa in support of Searles Valley Minerals’ exploration program. Searles Valley Minerals produces potash, borates, and other valuable minerals from brine pumped from the lacustrine sediments of the Searles playa. Salt-saturated lake brine was used for drilling. Tracked equipment (Marooka) was required because of the potential for flooding and collapse of the playa crust. Temperatures on the playa during drilling exceeded 110F.
DA Smith used a specialized Acker Pitcher Sampler wireline system to recover core through the variable sediments, which alternated between soft muds and beds of hard evaporite rock. Excellent core recovery was achieved, establishing the novel system as a preferred method for future exploration core drilling.