Colorado Mining Association / Denver Gold Group – St. Barbara’s Day Awards Ceremony, 2011

Last night, my sister (Sue Ellen) and I attended the Colorado Mining Association and Denver Gold Group St. Barbara’s Day awards ceremony at the Grand Hyatt in Denver. I have been working in Nevada for the last couple of years and have been unplugged from the Colorado mining scene. As usual, Stuart A. Sanderson, President of the CMA, provided another stellar presentation of the state of this industry in not only Colorado, but also where this state seems to be headed in comparison to the rest of the country. I always admire Stuart for his dogged representation of an otherwise soft-spoken community of mining people. I told Stuart that the rest of us are grateful for his personality and diligence in representing mining and the reality of this industry to the rest of the general public. His work with legislative bodies and analysis of important decisions that impact mining in Colorado is monumental.

The evening was a pleasant association of miners, engineers, legendary entrepreneurs (“Dutch” Hildebrandt, for example), geologists, and investors. I met people I previously knew from other places, such as Ray Dubois, General Manager at the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine and current Vice Chairman of Hard Rock mining at CMA, old friends such as Dan Witkowski, (Diligent Master of organizing the summer adult education series “All About Mining“– I was disappointed that Dave Cole was not there — he intends to be retiring as Secretary/Treasurer of the CMA Educational Foundation at the end of this year and is seeking a replacement. Hmmm….).

We also visited with Maureen Upton (Founder and Principal at Resource Initiatives – met her at a Denver Mining Club event where she was the speaker), Anne Hite (Director of Investor Relations for Rare Earth Elements), and met for the first time Chief Geochemist for AngloGold Ashanti’s greenfields program, Phillip J. Allen. The distinguished Betty Gibbs refreshed my knowledge of what she does for a living – I thought she owned a GIS company and had no idea she is the Executive Director of Mining and Metallurgical Society of America and consults as a Mine Engineer providing modeling of resources. (Boy, was I outdated! Betty has always been a role model for women in mining. Her accomplishments are encouraging.)

My sister and I were treated like old friends by new faces, including a lot of women I hadn’t met before. In particular, Jill Nelson, Recruitment Manager for Downing Teal, Inc. Her colleague, Senior Search Consultant Jose Antonio Pinedo, was charming and provided interesting perspectives on finding investors. On this topic, (finding creative places to meet potential investors), we listened to a delightful idea provided by Christopher J. Wyatt, V.P. of Behre Dolbear Minerals Industry Advisors. I had mentioned that some on my clients were looking for simple contributions of 25K rather than a few million and speculated that the type of people who have that bundle of cash to invest are probably not very well connected to the mining industry – that those people are looking to find the right company and there is no easy a way to find them.

Christopher suggested that we research where the local medical doctors are having their national conventions and go hang out in that hotel, perhaps at the pool or the bar or maybe even attend the conference, that those are the people who have a chunk of “disposable income” and they don’t have time to look for a mining company. Betty Gibbs liked that idea and noted that medical conventions are often on cruise ships or in Hawaii. We had good laughs over other attractive conventions and their settings.

What a great idea! Conversation digressed from there as to what occupations are probably the most lucrative in this economy with the baby boomers generation entering retirement and that buying gold at a premium high seems absurd unless you are a fatalist and believe the world is coming to an end…

Sue and I spoke with Jane V. Thomas, President of Wyoming Analytical Laboratories, Inc. about the transition in CMA from Judy Colgan (now Executive Director at Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute) to Jody Courtney as Marketing Director and how marvelous these two women are at organization and providing materials and information to our industry. Eventually, after chatting with Andrew Kremer and Jim Beers about Jacobs Mining and Minerals and various places in Colorado or Nevada to visit for beauty, dinner, recreation near mines, we finished the evening with a glass of wine standing in front of an enormous window to admire the magnificent view of downtown Denver from the 38th floor of the Grand Hyatt, listened to Stuart Sanderson acknowledge the lifetime contributions to the mining industry by award recipient, Joel Christman, (retired sales manager for Wagner Equipment and the longest-serving board member of the Colorado Mining Association), and then we headed home. All in all, this was another fine event to celebrate our local mining community and the holiday season.

Geologists Drillers and Driving Fatalities: My Personal Speculation

A friend of mine recently experienced a fatality at their mine – a geologist involved in a car accident died. My friend referred to an odd and well known statistic about the high vehicle-related deaths of exploration geologists and drillers. Most people assume the geologist is looking at rocks out the window and drives off the road and that the driller was being, well, a driller. I learned along the way that most exploration geologists killed in car accidents are usually being driven by a professional driver. Anyone who has ever been driven around Africa, Indonesia, Peru, Russia knows that the professional driver hired by the company has only been driving as long as the company has employed him and that his entire experience has been since he worked at the mine – that he never had a drivers license before. OK – I only experienced that in Africa but the point is that no one drives more than an American born in the USA. It’s in our culture.

Here is what I would suggest is the sole reason for high driving related fatalities amongst exploration geologists and drillers: complacency. True lackadaisical driving because at that moment they are not on a dirt road, not in 4WD, not on the edge of a cliff, not in a pit with right-hand traffic and hundred-ton haulage trucks, not in the jungle, not having an AK-47 in the front seat, not in a melee of anarchy, not bumper-to-bumper-door-to-fender traffic, not driving in a stupor of fatigue, not driving a company vehicle with a slipping clutch, etc. They are simply driving on a nice road, with lovely weather, in a quiet vehicle, under ideal conditions – they are complacent and lackadaisical because they are not in danger. That’s when they get in trouble. That’s when they drive into an oncoming vehicle or leave the road.

I know there are many sad and true cases of fatalities on the job with the geologist driving. I’ve been in a tippy situation in a company vehicle a couple of times. I’ve also seen the squished aftermath in fatal-grams of what happens when pickups meet with haul trucks. That was not the case this week and in these circumstances people are left wondering just what happened and why. In the face of unforeseeable events, there is also that element of fate – timing – God’s Will Be Done man. That’s why the guy standing next to you can be slabbed underground and you didn’t even get dirty. In mining, geologists and drillers get killed while driving (or being driven). That seems to be an enigma that could be addressed in safety shares amongst us geos.

Safety Tantra EXPANDED

(posted on a drill rig’s wall)






I happened to be in a situation I could expound on these safety thoughts:

1) What am I doing?

Well, that is a good question. Right now, I am sitting totally alone, abandoned like a po’ child on a drilling rig in the middle of the night trying to bask in the heat of a propane burner with half a hole of cement setting up around my rods.

2) What could go wrong?
The place could blow up. The rig could burn down. The drillers could destroy our instruments. The cement could leak away in fractures and we’d have to start all over again. The drillers could do it all wrong. We could be here for days trying to freaking fill this hole with cement. I said — we could be here for days trying to fill this freaking hole with cement. The drillers could be in such a hurry to get off their shift that they just squirt a bunch of cement down the hole and it bridges without reaching the bottom. The drillers could be in such a hurry to finish their shift that they throw our stuff around and damage it. I could be left standing holding the bag with lot of chores yet to do.

3) How could this affect me and / or others?

Oh, I’d be pissed. Everyone would suffer if I get pissed.

4) How likely is this to happen?

Highly likely that any 1 – 4 of the above mentioned issues will occur.

5) What should I do?

Bitch. Whine. Complain. Sue. Write a blog. Threaten to quit. Go for a drive. Find the drillers, join up with them, drive around some more. Charge over-time…. look for another job.

A Fish in Water

I was on a site today and began to talk to a driller whom I was told didn’t speak English very well – spoke Spanish. I tried him out. Yup, he comprehended fine, just didn’t have the vocabulary to converse without a hitch. Shortly, he mentioned he was from Peru. That changed everything. A moment before I was talking as if to a new arrival from Mexico, some guy probably living with relatives who helped him get a work VISA or citizenship. Sometimes a Mexican guy will be a bit reluctant to engage in conversation for a variety of reasons: the language struggle and perhaps a bias or even fear of racism or prejudice. They seem a bit nervous or even suspicious about talking to me at first.

The man before me evolved into an international voyager. He came from pretty far
away and landed a nice job. How so I wondered?

We talked about places we knew in common. I worked in Tintaya, Peru in the south. He grew up in central Peru in a gold mining district. That’s where he learned to be a driller for Barrick. Did I know Barrick? Yes I know them. Do I know Newmont? Yes I know them too. He drilled for Newmont in Nevada. Did I know those gold mines in Peru or those companies? Yes, I knew of them though I hadn’t worked there. I worked on a porphyry copper system far to the south in Peru and on a gold mine in northern Nevada. He asked if I knew his town? No, I hadn’t been there. I asked if he knew Tintaya? No, he didn’t. What about Ariquipa? YES – we had both been to Ariquipa and enjoyed eating the seafood very much. So, it was a small world after all. Had I been to Machu Piccu? No, I hadn’t. Neither had he.
We  both would like to go one day.

As I stood there talking to him in his language, words flowing, we talked of porphyry versus gold. The price of silver and lead. Volcanoes, earthquakes, kayaking eco-tourism, etc. Eventually, the other hydrologists and drillers arrived. I realized there was not one person on the site, in the entire district who I could talk to about mineralization, hard rock geology, porphyries… I was at the bottom of the pecking order and the oldest on this project.

I am working on an environmental analysis for a company that specializes in hydrologic site characterization. I am a fish in water here, a fish who doesn’t want to be in water. I want to be on the Earth looking into the rocks through a hand lens.

Road Fork

A necessary implement

We’re supposed to be drilling but things happen you know. Instead, I bought a hunting/fishing license for Idaho and turned my Toyota PU west. I was in a bit of an emotional state to start. This job has not been going well and bosses are receiving bad news on a minute by minute basis. On top of that, my cabin doesn’t have a kitchen and I was relying on making my meals in large batches.

“STAY OUT OF TROUBLE.” That’s my motto when working remotely. Stay out of jail when I am in town. I learned a short while ago that GOD seems to be in charge of my vehicle — where it goes, how I get there, who-what I meet along the way. He’s got a sense of humor, this benevolent Father. I decided I would not take a road that required locking my hubs and I would top my gas tank.

At the gas station, I was able to cross some needed items off my list in lieu of not having a kitchen:
Paper plates
paper towels

Unfortunately, a large item in my cooler was a huge chicken. I would have to make a fire on a grill probably at a public campground to cook the thing. An important item to prepare for that plan was some sort of cooking fork or spatula to control the thing as it cooked. There were no grilling implement ensembles in the gas station.

I took a road that seemed like I might get into some grouse or doves if I hiked. The afternoon rambled on before my tires and I found birds, a stream with trout and even had an adventure (long story involved saving some trapped motorcyclists who were not prepared for the wet mud after a high country rain storm.)

On my way, of significance in relying on the direction of a higher power let’s call it, I came across this as kind of a token — a promise – to have faith. To believe and let my life unfold under my own direction of positive thoughts and actions. It’s a road fork (spatula really but road fork sounds better) laying in the middle of the road right before I came upon the stranded motorcycle riders. (Yes, I washed it of course.) Later I grilled a beer-can chicken and this all came out just lovely.