GSN

Faces of GSN

Justin and Ajeet Milliard (Published in December 2014 GSN Newsletter)

It is an honor for us to be selected for an article in the “Faces of GSN” series, a tome of geo-lives well lived, shared by a humble family of geologists. We only recently had the privilege of joining GSN but have already gained valuable friend-ships and insights into the small global community formed by GSN geologists. Admittedly, our story will be shorter than most because of our ages, but it speaks to the opportunities and experiences afforded to our cadre of scientists residing in Nevada.

BORN GEOLOGISTS
The Milliard’s interests in geology were fashioned at a young age during their outdoor-oriented childhoods. Ajeet grew up at the base of Black Butte (a small stratovolcano made famous to beer enthusiasts by Deschutes Brewery). She spent her childhood hiking and skiing the Oregon Cascades well into her twenties. Her introduction to formal geology was at Central Oregon Community College where her Geology 201 professor, Bob Reynolds, fueled her interests in Oregon’s volcanic story. Ajeet earned her associate’s degree at Central Oregon and later transferred to Oregon State University. There she completed her bachelor’s degree in 2008 and master’s degree in 2011 under the guidance of professor Andrew Meigs. Her thesis investigated the transition zone between continental contraction and extension, from north to south respectively, east of the flanks of Mt. Hood. During her time at Oregon State, Ajeet was exposed to geology beyond the study of volcanoes that consume many Oregon geologists. Instead, an interest in tectonics and fold-and-thrust belts was spurred by a trip to the Pyrenees Mountains and a National Association of Geoscience Teachers internship with the USGS at Menlo Park under the direction of Walter Mooney.

Justin’s childhood was spent in the shadow of the Rockies in Parker, Colorado. He spent much of his youth exploring not only Colorado, but also all corners of the West with his parents and five siblings. His father was the General Manager/Vice President for the Rocky Mountain office of Viking Resources Corporation located in Denver but was admittedly jealous of the company’s field geologist. He therefore nurtured Justin’s interests in the outdoors and suggested he pursue a bachelor’s degree in professional geology, which Justin did at the University of Montana, which was close to where his family had recently retired. Here Jim Sears, Marc Hendrix and Don Winston fueled Justin’s innate interests in economic and structural geology. Justin spent a summer as an intern in Alaska at Kennecott-Hecla Greens Creek Mine under the direction of Mike Satre. Following graduation with his bachelor’s in 2006, Justin spent the summer as a field assistant mapping the Blackfoot River Basin (where he also spent much time fly fishing). Justin then spent a year in the oil patch as a mud logger for Pason Systems USA under the leadership of Joe Watson, best known by an infamous business up front – party in the back hairstyle.

PATHS COLLIDE
Mud logging has proven to be an integral part of both Ajeet and Justin’s professional history, providing ample time for reflection and an impetus for redirecting their career paths. Justin’s mud logging time was spent on the western slope in Colorado and Utah, where he enjoyed being reacquainted with the colors and grandeur of the Colorado Plateau. However, it was during this time of reflection when he chose to begin his master’s degree at Oregon State, also under the guidance of Andrew Meigs. It was during this time that both Justin and Ajeet’s geologic and romantic fates would intertwine, the latter of which was neither in their advisor’s plan nor NSF proposal.

Ajeet had recently arrived in Andrew’s tectonics lab to complete her senior thesis and was present the day Justin came to settle in. After claim-ing the best desk in the office (or so he thought), Ajeet kindly informed him that it was already taken…by her. It only looked empty because she kept it extraordinarily clean, and this is where the subtle sassy-ness began. Justin’s thesis project was to map Tertiary volcanics and sediments in Oregon’s southeast corner to understand the tectonomagmatic history of the greater Harney Basin in Oregon. Unknowingly, it was a project that would lend well to his employment in the Nevada mining industry a few years down the road. Supplementing his time in the desert, Justin was fortunate to be selected for two Oregon State/University of Washington oceanographic research cruises in the central Pacific Ocean as a research assistant. Not only did these cruises allow him to test his sea legs for 4 months (an ambition of the landlocked child), it gave him a fortuitous opportunity to explore two meccas of volcanology, Hawaii and the Galapagos.

“EXPLORING” ECONOMIC GEOLOGY
Albeit neither of their theses had an economic focus, both Ajeet and Justin, however, were encouraged by Dr. Meigs to take courses taught by Oregon State’s economic geology professor, John Dilles. He challenged them to explore beyond their comfort zones of folds, faults and volcanics into the complicated multi-disciplinary realm of economic geology. Dilles also wasn’t shy to put Justin’s crow-hop in check in distance throwing competitions at Oregon State’s field camp (Justin, being the zealous teaching assistant and ignorant of John’s past life as a short-stop for Cal-Tech’s baseball team). Though not a serious interest at the time, this exposure to mineral deposit geology proved to be one of the more critical experiences for both of them.

After Justin defended his thesis in January 2010, both he and Ajeet moved to Florida. During this time, Ajeet decided to explore the life of a mud logger in Pennsylvania and California while Justin stepped away from geology to try his hand at another childhood dream: flying. He was commissioned in the US Navy and spent approximately two years training as a Naval Flight Officer before both his trainers and loved ones piloted him back to a career in geology; to be shared with his future wife. The timing of his decision al-lowed Justin to figuratively “slip out” the backdoor of active duty to reserve status, where he currently resides.

Concurrently, there was a slowdown in oil and gas drilling and Ajeet was hired by Ronald Lujan at Newmont to be a contract core logger on the Buffalo Valley project. After several months on contract work, Ajeet was hired on full-time by Dick Reid to the Great Basin Exploration Group. This new position offered an upgrade in living status from the remote Valmy RV Park to big city life in Elko. At the same time, Justin was wrapping up active-duty responsibilities in Florida and preparing to join her. After a two-year hiatus, Justin’s return to geology was a success as he secured a contract exploration job through a fellow University of Montana alum Robert Kell, who was vice president of exploration for a Canadian junior, SAMEX. Justin was promptly on a plane to Chile. Ajeet spent the next year (2011-2012) working halo exploration on the Long Canyon gold deposit, assisting on a summer exploration-sampling campaign in Alaska for Newmont and fulfilling the treasurer position of the Elko GSN Chap-ter. All the while, Justin spent 90 percent of that year mapping in Chile’s Atacama Desert and managing a drilling campaign of epithermal, IOCG and porphyry systems. Naturally, his down time was spent taste testing a variety of Chilean Caménère and Cristal (THE beverages of choice for any Chilean geologist).

CALLING NEVADA HOME
Fall of 2012 was transformative for these two as a couple and as geologists. Ajeet and Justin were married in Lamoille Canyon. The couple was quickly adopting Nevada as their home and wanted to share the hidden beauty and allure in their backyard with their family and friends. The newlyweds tentatively anticipated working together as geologists in Chile but unforeseen managerial circumstances at SAMEX led to its decline after 19 years. In-stead, Justin was hired by Jerry Zeig at Tintina Resources Inc. and started working in Montana as a contract exploration geologist on the Black Butte Copper Project. After three years spent on opposite sides of the country and planet, Justin and Ajeet reveled in being separated by only two states, making it easy for romantic rendezvous and snowboarding weekends in re-mote Montana. Though an interesting project, Tintina was still awaiting funding and state approval to move forward on the Black Butte project. This limited long-term employment possibilities for Justin and signaled that it was finally time to work in the same area code as Ajeet.

In January 2013, Justin began employment with a rapidly evolving Canadian junior, Klondex Gold and Silver Mining Company, at their Fire Creek Exploration Project in Lander County.

Chief geologist Steve McMillin recognized the need to better understand the complicated nature of mineralization in the narrow, high-grade vein setting. Fortunately for Justin, a background specializing in extensional tectonovolcanics fit the bill. Working tirelessly, the Klondex team was able to bring the geologic picture together, operate a very successful bulk-sampling campaign and raise the capital to position the company for successful growth. Shortly after starting at Klondex, Ajeet shared the news that although he may not ever fire live-ammunition from a jet, Justin’s personal armament was on target and they were expecting their first child in October. Upon learning of this life change, Ajeet chose to continue her work on the Long Canyon deposit in a new capacity; as a research project for a doctorate program at the University of Nevada Reno.

BACK TO SCHOOL
On October 7, 2013, the couple’s junior geologist was ready to vacate his first studio apartment and enter the outside world. To assist in this next chapter, Ajeet’s parents volunteered to make what most western Oregonians would consider a great sacrifice: moving to the desert of northeastern Nevada from the beautiful and VERY green Oregon coast. They have quickly grown to appreciate the Silver State’s raw beauty and seasons. Soon thereafter the Milliard clan moved to Reno in preparation for Ajeet’s first semester back as a student in January 2014. Ajeet reinvigorated her academic spirit and skills, completing her first field season with husband and son operating her field camp out of Wells and her parents managing the base camp in Lamoille. Having family nearby allowed Ajeet to do field work, Justin to continue at Fire Creek and for Caylen to thoroughly entertain his grandparents. Justin sunk his roots further into Nevada, taking on duties as membership chair for the Elko GSN Chapter for the 2014-15 session. Continued success for Klondex Mines Ltd. at both its Fire Creek Exploration Project and recently acquired Midas Mine allowed Justin and his supervisor, John Marma, to successfully submit a proposal to Klondex senior management to fund a doctoral research project. The project’s focus will be the Northern Nevada Rift and using it to understand intra-continental rift formation, which we believe, is the result of a continental scale self-organizing system. A system with multiple mechanisms, such as Basin and Range tectonism and Yellowstone hot spot magmatism influencing its development and subsequent hydrothermal activity directly related to epithermal deposit location and formation. Working with John Muntean, the director of the Ralph J. Roberts Center for Research in Economic Geology (CREG) at the University of Nevada, Reno, Justin has submitted an academic proposal to the CREG committee to assist in funding. They are anxiously awaiting the projects approval to begin the academic program in January 2015.

JUST THE BEGINNING
Our careers are still in their adolescence but have afforded us a wealth of amazing experiences, sunsets, vistas, outcrops, friends and lives. A reflection repeated by every “Face of GSN” is worthy of repeating yet again: It is hard to believe we get paid to do what we innately delight in, “geologizing” or “arm-waving” … depending on who is speaking. We constantly remind ourselves to enjoy every day in a life where recreation and career unite. We anticipate long and successful careers in economic geology that we hope will culminate in a second contribution to the “Faces of GSN” some 50 years from now; in our careers’ retirement phase (which we all know never really happens for a field geologist). We thank our families (near and far), friends, supervisors (Klondex and Newmont), advisors (Central Oregon Community College, University of Montana, Oregon State University and University of Nevada – Reno) and colleagues (GSN and beyond) for their support and flexibility in allowing us both the opportunity to pursue our professional and personal goals in this challenging field.

Justin and Ajeet Milliard