As early as I can remember, I wanted to have a job where I could work outdoors and try to figure things out. I must have picked up a lot of rocks, because my parents bought me a rock tumbler sometime during my elementary school years. Rocks would come out rounded, smooth, and shiny, and we wore the thing out. There are early memories of the Mojave desert, Yosemite, the eastern Sierra Nevada, all places my family camped, hiked, backpacked, or skied. As I grew up in southern California, I developed a love for the outdoors and a fascination for the planet at an early age. In middle school, I remember tracing contours on 7 ½ minute USGS quads as a way to start to understand places where, along with my mom and dad and my two older brothers, we would spend some more time in the wilds during another backpacking, camping, or ski trip. I guess my analytical nature was also apparent pretty early on.
A formal introduction to geology came after graduating high school, as a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Each Spring and Fall, the University's Geology department would organize geology field trips, and I found myself back in places like Owens Valley, Death Valley, and the Mojave, but now guided by seasoned and excellent geologists like professors Art Sylvester and Robert Norris. After that, there was no looking back. Despite the warnings from many that it could sometimes be difficult to make a living as a geologist, my path was set. Soon after, I would move to Colorado, be a ski bum for a couple seasons, and then enroll at Western State College to study rocks under the guidance of great professors Bruce Bartleson, Tom Prather, and Allen Stork. Upon graduation from WSC, and with a lot of turns and a couple of summer jobs under my belt, I had helped to explore for gold in Colorado and assess the precious metals potential of part of northern Minnesota.
When I arrived at New Mexico Tech for graduate school, the focus was squarely on ore deposits. Andy Campbell, Dave Norman, and Bill Chavez imparted to me their knowledge and passion for science and exploration. We took a lot of field trips and toured many mines in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Mexico. The trips were always fun and interesting, and there would usually be great stories to tell. During one trip, to an underground zinc mine in Mexico, we intersected a thick cloud of burnt explosives while riding up a spiral decline in the back of a pickup. Luckily, everyone arrived at surface unharmed.
On a trip to Nevada with Dave Norman and a bunch of graduate students, I met Jeff Volk at Barrick's Goldstrike mine. Jeff hired me as a summer intern and gave me the opportunity to help him fine tune the geologic model for the Meikle deposit as the Carlin trend's newest underground gold mine was being readied for production. Then, after finishing my Master's degree, Ron Parratt, Roy Owen, and Bob Felder decided to give me a chance and hired me as an exploration geologist for Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corp. At the time, Santa Fe was operating and exploring several mines in northern Nevada, including Twin Creeks, Lone Tree, and Mule Canyon. Trenton Canyon, Valmy, and Rosebud were all in development and pre-production.
Having the chance to work at or around these places and then go out to explore the region was my idea of fun. Well, that, and learning the art of defensive eating in rural Nevada. A lot of friends were made from the team of geologists Ron had assembled at Santa Fe. The next chapter began when Santa Fe was merged into Newmont. It was time to become a consultant. It's hard for me to believe, but that was 17 years ago.
That was about the time I met my wife, Laura and my stepson, Trevor. “Rocks and Roses” was the tag line I used in my online posting. We were early adopters in online dating. When I returned home after a ten-day field hitch, Laura's reply was in my inbox. Trevor was seven, with an immense imagination. He loved people and loved to take things apart so he could put them back together again.
Since meeting my family, my profession has taken me throughout the Great Basin and to many other far flung places, from the Yukon, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories, to Washington, Idaho, and Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Chile and others. The focus has usually been gold, but I've also been able to play a part in exploration for copper, zinc, PGE, diamonds, geothermal water, and even oil and gas. I have been fortunate to meet and work with so many interesting people over the years. My friend Bob Clark, of Activation Laboratories and then Skyline Laboratories, supplied a lot of the adventure, through which I learned a great deal about consulting and trade shows, not to mention selective extraction geochemistry.
Early on, my new friends encouraged me to join GSN, and to volunteer. I'm glad they did. In the end, my period of service to GSN brought feelings of respect for so many and netted me positions of Secretary, Vice President, President, Director, and a Symposium Publications Chair. I have benefited greatly from getting to know and working with so many of this organization's people. And, because once an officer of GSN you are never really done, I would encourage anyone with an inkling to join the hardworking people of today's Executive and Symposium Committees, Foundation, and Board and to give of your time to help support this great organization.
More recently, the world of prospecting and junior exploration companies has come into finer focus for me. In the early 2000s when, during a deep downturn that we'd all like to forget, Laura and I decided it would be a great idea to generate some projects and stake some claims. This “idea” led to the formation of several private companies, the staking of several properties, and acquisitions of equity interests in a couple others. As the industry improved, we were able to get two Nevada gold properties drill tested, and I was given an opportunity to lead exploration in Nevada for a TSX-V listed junior. In addition to doing geology, this was a chance to practice the art of story telling and money raising.
In 2011, Bob Felder asked me to join him in founding a new company, and Kinetic Gold Corp. was born. Kinetic is a private prospect-generator company, focused on Nevada. In spite of the current market challenges we face, it is a pleasure to explore Nevada together in search of elusive gold giants.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful family. For the past seven years, Laura, our daughter Alaina, and I have lived in Tahoe City, California. Laura is a glass artist and spends much of her time creating beautiful things. Alaina loves science and music, and is very athletic. Helping her forge her own path through the world is a source of great joy.
All those warnings about making a living in the mineral exploration business turn out to be true, but, with the sup-port of my family and friends, somehow we have been able to adjust and adapt, and I get to do what I love.
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