Faces of GSN

Erin L. Hart, Geologist (Published in December, 2016)

I grew up along the western shore of Lake Michigan, halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. For all intents and purposes the term “Rust Belt” aptly describes my home town. During the summer months the oppressive heat and humidity of the Midwest would become unbearable, and my family would escape with a vacation. These trips tended to include the family of four driving across the US in a 1991 Honda Civic packed full of camping gear and good spirits. We explored our nation’s amazing park system, visited almost every roadside “wonder” and studied the history of our country. These trips inspired me to travel and explore the world. At the age of 16 I had visited 45 out of 50 states, and my eyes were set on more exotic places. By the time my high school graduation rolled around, I had grand visions of being a globetrotting journalist.

I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the intent of receiving a degree that would allow me to travel while paying the bills. Fortunately, the University is a liberal arts college and expects students to take a wide breadth of classes. This nudged me into an introductory geology class my first year; which led me to a summer paleontology dig. All of this was followed by mapping pegmatites during sleeting rain, camping over spring break in the Appalachian Mountains, and exploring the Black Hills. Before I knew it, geology had snuck up behind me, hit me squarely on the head and claimed me for itself. In 2007 I graduated with a degree in geology; all that stood between me and the real world was field camp in Park City, UT.

Field camp was everything I hoped it would be. I found such joy traversing the Wasatch and Uinta ranges. The class and scenery were strangely calming. My anxiety about finding a job dissipated. I was on a sort of cruise control until I met three professional geologists.

These economic geologists went in the field with us, observed us. I enjoyed spending time with them and found their work interesting. One thing led to another, and I had lined up an entry level job with Newmont Mining Corp. in wonderful Winnemucca, NV.

August 2007, I dutifully packed my belongings and drove across the country to northern Nevada. This is the moment my life changed. I arrived. Suddenly I was submerged in the mining industry. I use submerged because I felt I was barely able to keep my head above water. My first job was fast paced, physically intense and mentally draining; I worked as an underground ore control geologists in a narrow vein gold and silver mine. The first six months of the job were a difficult adjustment. During my first year I referred to myself as a “baby geologist”, because there was so much to learn. Looking back now I mostly remember fun and excitement. I had amazing support from the team of great geologists I worked with. They pushed me to keep going. Those first peers and supervisors are now close friends and mentors. I do not think I would have made it without their support, and there is no way to adequately thank them.

That was almost ten years ago. Since then I have had many amazing opportunities within Newmont. After my stint working underground ore control I evaluated and started new potential underground projects, assessed potential acquisitions, managed surface exploration programs, and kept learning. Even though my career has not taken me around the world (yet), it has provided me with the opportunity to travel in my free time.

I recently came back from a trip to Scotland. One day I forced my travel companion (and husband) to participate in a geologic pilgrimage. We spent the morning strolling up Arthur’s Seat and soaked in the exquisite views of Edinburgh. After a delicious lunch we ventured to Greyfriars Kirk to visit James Hutton’s grave. I shed a few unexpected tears and remembered why I love being a geologist.

I explore the world around me with cutting edge technology. I see pieces of the world that have never been seen before. Then I interpret what it means; I predict where the next deposit is or where the fault projects. I cannot think of any other job where I would be able to take what I dream up and see if it is reality. To me, being an economic geologist is the perfect mix of science and art. I look forward to many more years in the industry, because I know I will always have the opportunity to learn and grow.

Sometimes I dream of the trees and lakes of my childhood; then I channel Wallace Stegner, “You have to get over the color green; you have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale; you have to understand geological time.”