Faces of GSN

James M. Wise, Geologist (Published in September 2009 GSN Newsletter)

Reno, Nevada
Newmont Mining Corporation

I commenced my geological journey at San Diego State University, alternating between field trips to the Cretaceous turbidite fans exposed in the beach cliffs, Pacific margin strike-slip faults that shuffle the deck, and detachment faults of the Colorado River extensional corridor, which laid history on their side. Field camp took me into the chaotic melange exposed in the Channel Islands. After graduation, I spent a summer on the Big Island of Hawaii working as a NAGT field intern with the U.S. Geological Survey at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. This was followed by a year with the Survey's Water Resource Division working on hydrologic basin studies in California.

In 1992, I moved to Reno, Nevada to pursue a M.S. degree in geology, selecting UNR for its proximity to the Sierra Nevada. In 1996, I completed a structural geology oriented thesis with Rich Schweickert on the Mount Morrison roof pendant in the High Sierra near Convict Lake, California. To stretch out the process, and to earn some bucks, I started working in the min-eral industry in 1995 with Independence Mining Company at the Jerritt Canyon District, seeing for the first time Carlin-type deposits. In 1998, after three years of living and working out of Elko, and watching the gold price plummet, I realized a shift was required to advance my career and to continue doing geology.

I spent the 1998 field season mapping in Perú for Buenaventura, which was testing the waters for funding a doctoral study in regional geology, once again at UNR, only this time under Don Noble. Extended field seasons were spent in Perú during 1999 and 2000 doing many geologi-cal mapping projects and culminating in mapping 1,200 km2 in the Ayacucho intermontane basin of the Andes. This research provided for regional transects of the Andes, from the steamy upland jungle of the Amazon basin to the hyperarid Pacific coast, mapping the world-renowned Huancavelica mercury district, and quadrangle mapping at the silver/polymetallic mining districts of Castrovirreyna, Huachocolpa, and Julcani. Graduating in 2004, and still facing a little-changed mineral industry that was reluctant to hire directly, I worked two years on contract with Newmont at Northumberland, while sending out feelers for teaching positions at various universities. Finding the academic realm incredibly competitive, apparently unwilling to hire anyone without a big, fat taxpayer-funded NSF grant already in hand, I decided to abandon the academic pursuits and focus on gold exploration.

I've been on staff with Newmont's exploration team for the past three years and have been ghosting around the state for the last six years, keeping a residence in Reno, and enjoying all the culinary delights of rural Nevada. During this time, I completed a decade project, having written a book titled “Mount Whitney to Yosemite: the Geology of the John Muir Trail.” Yes, there is geology out there that is not centered on gold! Nevertheless, I am acutely aware that there are precious few field geologists in the state exploring. Where are the competitors? On the other hand, Newmont supports a high-level technology and resources for exploration in the state, with an excellent team that enriches the experience. I feel that a new era of exploration in Nevada is required, one where geologic mapping is a keystone. I am always looking for adventure, and my wife Yani, young son, Owen, and dog, Barley, go on frequent camping trips, both in and out of the state, and commonly with a geological theme.

James Wise