Faces of GSN

Brian Morris (Published in February 2013 GSN Newsletter)

My interest in geology was first sparked by our family camping trips into the Eastern Sierra Mountains in California be-tween Lone Pine and Bridgeport. The rugged snowcapped peaks and spires and the numerous trout filled streams and lakes immediately attracted me like a moth to light. Growing up, every chance I had, I was exploring mountain trails as well as the deserts to the east.

Instead of starting college right out of high school, I began a landscaping business in Southern California. I ran my busi-ness for about 4 years, then decided to give law enforcement a try and joined the Orange County Sherriff Department. I soon found out that the requirement to work in the jail for 3 years before going out on the streets wasn’t going to work for this outdoor guy, and I started considering other options. During those years, I was always out jeeping at or around my grandfather’s property in the Mohave Desert, or exploring in my beloved Eastern Sierra’s.

It was during one of my jeep trips east of the ghost town of Bodie, California that I made the decision to pursue a career in geology. I was camping at the old town site of Aurora, Nevada (now called Esmeralda by Great Basin Gold). I was fascinated by the old timer’s decisions of where they dug their prospect pits and drove their adits and I had to find out why. I started going to a local junior college in Southern California and eventually transferred to Hum-boldt State in Northern California where I received my bachelor’s degree in geology.

During my education, the more I learned about geology the more my passion grew for the science. The ultimate for me was our field camp at Cerro Gordo in the Inyo Mountains just outside of the town of Lone Pine, California. My view each morning when I opened my tent was Mount Whitney. I couldn’t believe it! Training in my favorite place in the world! What joy that was for me!

Since I started college later in life than the traditional students, I was focused on making a living after graduation and was constantly pestering my professors, especially my advisor, about getting practical summer employment. It finally worked. I was given a name and a number and landed my first summer job as a geologist with American Gold Resources in Salmon, Idaho. I spent the summer with a company truck mapping and sampling prospect pits and adits. I thought I died and went to heaven! I was being paid to do what I used to do for fun in my spare time!

After college I continued to work in Salmon, Idaho then Montana and eventually Nevada.

In 1992 I married Jan whom I met in college. She wanted me to be at home more so she asked me to consider one of those envi-ronmental consulting jobs like my buddies went to do after they graduated. Well, I did that and found a job in Eureka, California. However two years of drilling out hydrocarbon plumes at gas stations and old logging mills was enough for me. After experiencing gold exploration, it was in my blood and nothing else would satisfy that passion. Jan knew I was unhappy with that career path, and we decided it was time for me to get back into gold. I was out in Nevada working for Santa Fe Pacific almost two weeks to the day of our decision! We eventually made the big move and relo-cated our family to Winnemucca in 1996.

I continued to work for Santa Fe Pacific on several projects in Nevada and Mon-tana until Newmont purchased the company in 1997. Then I moved on to a couple of junior companies working on various projects around the Winnemucca area.

One of the milestones in my career was accepting a position with Hecla Mining at their Rosebud Mine in February 1998. There my geologic skills were honed by the thousands of feet of underground mapping and interpretive work. I was also exposed to sampling theory which was critical to managing ore control. It’s interesting how my experience working in the county jail prepared me years later to work with the underground miners. The mine shut down early due to the low gold prices in July of 2000, and I moved on to work as a contract geologist on various short projects including Long Canyon in the Pequop Mountains.

In February 2001 I accepted a position as an ore control geologist with Barrick at their Meikle and Rodeo mines. That gave me excellent experience working up close and personal in a Carlin-style deposit. My underground experience con-tinued at Newmont’s Midas Mine. I spent 5 years with Newmont, 4 at Midas managing ore control, underground drilling and district surface exploration. My last year with Newmont I was working on a Nevada epithermal vein exploration pro-gram. That truly was a fun job!

The second major milestone in my career was when I moved on with Great Basin Gold (GBG) to help put the Hollister property into production. I was hired to be the Chief Geologist, but that lasted only a couple of months and I was pro-moted to North American Exploration Manager. That position greatly changed the course of my career. Instead of focusing on rocks, now my job was mostly honing my presentation skills, giving numerous presentations to analysts, finan-cial institutions and convention participants. This new direction introduced me to the financial side of the business.

Life has its way of coming full circle. During my stint with GBG I brought Esmeralda (Aurora) to the table and eventually GBG purchased the prop-erty. I was back where I started over 20 years earlier, with a little better idea of why the old timer’s dug where they did. After all these years of exploration and mining I have a whole new respect for the old prospec-tor’s mostly self-taught knowledge.

In 2010 Hecla Mining Company offered me a position as VP for their sub-sidiary company, Rio Grande Silver, to manage their JV project in Creede, Colorado. I was there for 18 months working with an out-standing team. Not only did we have great exploration success, we also managed to reopen the Equity Mine for underground exploration and permit a new decline at the former Homestake’s Bulldog Mine.

Wanting to get back closer to home, in 2011 I accepted a position with Premier Gold Mines Limited as their US VP of Exploration. Shortly after accepting the position I found myself managing the Canadian projects as well. It has been a whole new world up there driving on ice roads to the camp jobs, building drill pads on frozen lakes, and the dangers of the muskeg! I found out about how fast the Muskeg can swallow an excavator. It has been an exciting experience working with Premier Gold building a company and especially growing our US assets.

All of those years ago, there is no way I could have realized what a life changing trip to the Aurora District would be for me. I’m happy that I pursued a career in geology to answer my curiosity of why the old prospectors dug where they did.

For the past 18 years I have been a member of the GSN and have held an offi-cer’s position with the Winnemucca chapter. I want to thank GSN for the excellent educational opportunities, professional contacts and close friends I have made through my involvement with the organization.

Brian Morris