I grew up in Omaha, NE, many miles from any mountain and any sort of geology. And even though Omaha is squarely in the mid-west it is fairly hilly and has abundant trees. My mother worked as a teacher and my father was an accountant. My mom’s family was from the Omaha area whereas my father grew up in Sterling, CO. I lived in Omaha until college when I moved to Laramie, WY, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
You might be wondering how a corn-fed son of a teacher and accountant ended up as a mineral geologist in the West. Good question. Due to my mother’s work she had every summer off and during the summer break we would vacation in the mountains of Colorado. She had worked as a teacher in Crested Butte and Alamosa, prior to meeting my father in Gunnison. I got to know the mountains of Colorado very well but those summers left many questions in my young mind. The greatest of these questions was quite simply, “where did these mountains come from?” This question proved to much more complex than I could have known back then.
After graduating high school, which was a boarding school ran by Benedictine monks, I continued my education at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, WY. Adjusting to living at 7,200’ elevation with a constant 20 mph “breeze” took some getting used to. But I was so ready to get elbow deep in the local geology and so thrilled to be living out in the West that I don’t think I noticed much. Laramie was a revelation for me. Each geology class and each field trip I took opened my eyes up to a world that was forever changed since.
No longer could I drive through the canyons and mountains of the Colorado of my youth just happy to take in the scenery. Now this scenery has history and meaning. In one way my geology classes had ruined the mountains for me, in a very superficial way. In another way, a much more enjoyable way, my new geologic knowledge opened up a whole other level of understanding and appreciation. Even if that fascination causes my family these days to cringe while I’m driving through a particularly interesting canyon (“Watch the road, Dad!”).
I was privileged enough to have many great professors at UW but one sticks out in my mind. My structural geology professor was none other than Art Snoke. Anyone who has studied Nevada geology and especially metamorphic core complexes has most likely come across his work. In addition I worked on an undergrad EPSCoR project dealing with sequence stratigraphy in the Haystack Mtns north of Sinclair, WY. This background in sequence stratigraphy and structural geology has helped me greatly out here in north-central Nevada.
When I graduated UW with my BS in Geology in 2006 I found work in Elko County with Gateway Gold as a contract geologist. Gateway Gold was a junior gold company working on the old Big Springs mine and the vicinity. After a summer and fall with them I continued contract work in Elko County until Wyoming called me back. In 2007 the uranium market was really taking off and I found a job with Strathmore Minerals in Riverton, WY. Strathmore’s project areas were the Gas Hills district of central Wyoming and the Grants District of New Mexico. I fulfilled numerous roles with Strathmore besides geology. I was involved in permitting and reclamation as well as fulfilling the role of Radiation Safety Officer (R.S.O.). Being a uranium company, we had a down-hole geophysical tool that could produce in-situ assays of uranium using an electronically activated neutron source and some geophysical wizardry.
After I rode out the uranium boom for nearly 6 years I found my way back to gold country and a job with Barrick Cortez underground mine. During my 3 ½ years with Cortez I worked as a delineation drilling geologist, a hydro-geologist, and a resource modeler. Cortez was the first underground mine I worked for and also the first big mining company I had worked for as well.
Currently I am starting the next chapter in my geologic career with Jerritt Canyon Gold. I am very excited to meet this challenging new role with all of the experience and know-how that 10 years in the mineral industry has afforded me. Thanks to everyone who has mentored me through the years and to the many co-workers I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from. And thanks to the GSN membership who have, in their wisdom, seen fit to elect me the Elko Chapter President for a second term.
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