Krewedl Mineral Exploration
I am one of the fortunate members of the GSN who was able to retire after a long career as a minerals exploration geologist, but still continue to remain active in my profession during my retirement. My profession allowed me to work in many beautiful areas, learn some fascinating geology and make some wonderful friends along the way. Allow me to give you a quick overview of my 40 plus year career.
I am of German descent, born in the region of Yugoslavia now called Croatia during World War II and immigrating to the United States as a war refugee in 1949. I grew up on the glaciated landscape of southwestern Ohio and decided in high school to major in geology at the University of Dayton because of my interest in science and the love of the outdoors. The highlight of my undergraduate years was taking a summer job as a “mucker” at the Gilman lead-zinc mine in the Colorado Rockies, which convinced me not only that I wanted to be a field geologist but also to live in the West. Upon graduation, I went on to get a Masters degree at Bowling Green State University under Joe Mancuso. He was a wonderful teacher and mentor, who really got me interested in economic geology.
However, it was difficult to get a minerals exploration job in the West after graduating from a university located in the Midwest in 1967. So I took a job in New Orleans with Texaco doing offshore oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately, I worked mostly on the 22nd floor of a downtown skyscraper reviewing electric logs and seismic surveys. The job did not fulfill my basic requirements of doing field work and being outdoors. I lasted just one year before deciding to go out West and get a Ph.D. degree at the University of Arizona.
It was an exciting time to be at Arizona in the late 60s and early 70s when lots of original work in economic geology was underway. I studied porphyry copper deposits under Spencer Titley and worked with Charles Park Jr. of Stanford University one summer in the Magdalena Mountains of west-central New Mexico on a mapping project that eventually became my dissertation. Most importantly, I met my wife, Beth, who was willing to move frequently and allow me to travel for extended periods of time while she took take care of our four children.
The job market in precious and base metals exploration was still not good in 1973 when I graduated from Arizona. So I took a job as a uranium geologist with Utah International and its uranium spin-out company, Pathfinder Mines Corporation. I was with the company for almost 23 years, which was long enough to become vested in the retirement plan, but required moving my family 5 times. I was initially based out of Riverton, Wyoming from '73 to '76, followed by Bavaria, Germany from '76 to '79, then Albuquerque, New Mexico from '79 to '84, St. George, Utah from '84 to '90 and finally Reno, Nevada from '90 to '95 when the company got involved in gold exploration in the western US. I assumed more responsibility with each move and ultimately becoming the VP of Exploration.
The Pathfinder exploration team was able to discover lots of uranium during those years, most of which remains unmined due to the low uranium price. The uranium price collapsed following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, which brought an end to most uranium exploration in the United States except in the breccia pipe province of northern Arizona. Pathfinder's exploration program survived during the 80s because the company was purchased by the French government controlled company Areva, which wanted to discover more uranium no matter what the price was. During this period in my life, I was lucky enough to explore for uranium throughout the western United States and Germany. Highlights include flying and hiking into the Grand Canyon to study the exposed uranium breccia pipes and exploring for uranium throughout Germany, primarily in the Black Forest and Bavaria.
My transition from a uranium geologist to a precious metals geologist began in the early 90s. As a result, an exciting new world of geology and geography opened up for me. What began as exploration for gold in Nevada expanded to the entire western United States and eventually to five continents. The GSN played an important role in this transition primarily through providing me the opportunity to meet and network with fellow gold geologists during the monthly meetings and on field trips. I knew that someday I would give back to this organization. I left Pathfinder in 1996 to join Echo Bay Mines as its VP of Exploration based out of Denver, Colorado. Echo Bay had gold projects throughout the world, but unfortunately the company was on hard times due in part to the low gold price and the job was over in 1998.
I then joined Coeur d'Alene Mines based out of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho as its Senior VP of Exploration exploring for precious metals primarily in the United States, South America and Australia. The highlight of my tenure with Coeur was the exploration team discovering high grade gold and silver veins in the Patagonia region of southern Chile and Argentina that saved the company from bankruptcy.
In 2004, I decided to retire and move to Truckee where I currently reside. I was then able to give back to the GSN by serving as its President for two consecutive years from 2004 to 2006. This offered me the opportunity to become reacquainted with my GSN colleagues as well as establish new friendships. I feel that my most significant contribution to the GSN was the establishment of the GSN Board of Directors in 2005 that has helped to co-ordinate the activities of the three chapters in Winnemucca, Elko and Las Vegas with the GSN. I served on the GSN Board of Directors from 2005 to 2010 and was its Chairman from 2008 to 2010. I have also served on the GSN Foundation's Board since 2005.
My involvement with minerals exploration continues as well by serving on the Board of Directors of various junior uranium and gold exploration companies such as AuEx Ventures. Presently, I am actively involved with a private company exploring for uranium in Argentina.
Exploring for minerals just does not get old or boring. I have the same passion today for discovery and adventure as I did when I graduated from college. I will never really retire from minerals exploration. It is just too much fun.
John Winton Erwin*
Erin L. Hart
Greg T. Hill
Joseph Kizis, Jr
Brooke J Miller
Justin and Ajeet Milliard
Mia (Cowgill) O'Neal
Shea Clark Smith
Roger C Steininger