GSN

Faces of GSN

Nancy Richter, Elko, Nevada

(Published in March, 2018 GSN Newsletter)
I arrived in this world in Brooklyn, NY - not the most likely place to spawn a mineral exploration geologist. At the age of 9, my family moved to Cape Vincent, NY, a village of 300 souls located on the idyllic banks of the St. Lawrence River. Winters were spent ice skating and sledding, summers were spent swimming, riding bikes and fishing.

In the fall of 1976, my folks drove me to SUNY Binghamton, gave me a kiss and waved goodbye. Having no idea what I wanted to study, I declared English as a major and envisioned that I would end up as a copy editor for a publishing company. After a year of partying, I decided college was not where I wanted to be. I spent the summer working several jobs and, in the fall, headed west in a Toyota Corolla with two friends and our backpacks. When the money ran out, I returned to NY and went to work as a secretary in lower Manhattan and temped around the city at night operating a word processor (precursor to Microsoft Word - dating myself here). The cultural scene in NYC was fabulous but I missed the outdoors. I frequently revisited the photos I had taken during my western journey and noticed that every photo had rocks in it. That's when I got the great idea to go back to college and study geology.

After completing a year at the State University in Oswego, NY, I moved to Flagstaff, AZ to continue my education. I landed a part time job in the paleomagnetics lab at the USGS as part of the minority program (back in those days, women geoscientists really were a minority). During the field season, we collected paleomagnetic samples in places like the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park; winters were spent sitting in a Helmholtz coil, analyzing those samples. Other great opportunities with the USGS included mapping proposed Wilderness Study Areas in Arizona and mapping in the US Virgin Islands as part of a program to assess the islands' mineral potential. My passion in undergraduate school was paleontology and I envisioned that I would eventually work in a natural history museum. That all changed one day when we took a field trip to an underground copper mine. It was like discovering surround sound - the rocks were everywhere and I found my calling.

Nancy Richter

My position at the USGS was a student appointment which ended when I completed my Bachelors' degree. My supervisor offered to continue support if I attended graduate school, so I headed off to the University of Arizona. Porphyry copper deposits were big in that day but I had my mind set on working on a Precambrian volcanogenic massive sulfide system and, under the guidance of Spence Titley and John Guilbert, completed my Master's on the geochemistry of exhalites at the Copper Chief mine in the Jerome district of Arizona.

The year was 1986. Copper prices were down and they were busting the unions in Arizona so I headed north to Reno. What followed was 10 years of 10 on/4 off, in colorful places including Baker, Randsburg and Lorraine, California; Bouse, Quartzite and Parker, Arizona; Vale, Oregon and, of course, the garden spots of Nevada: Ely, Eureka, Austin, Silver Peak, Pioche, Hawthorne, Winnemucca, Battle Mountain and Elko. Employers included FMC, Silver King Mines, Alta Gold, Westmont Mining, Billiton Minerals and Newmont. The jobs varied from working on a drill rig (including catching samples) in temperature ranging from -25° to +120°, stream sediment and BLEG sampling, soil sampling, mapping, helicopter reconnaissance, target generation, project management and mine geology.

Nancy Richter

All this came to a halt in 1996 when I left the minerals industry to be a stay at home mom and moved to Yellow Pine, Idaho where my husband took a job at the Stibnite Mine. In 1997, the price of metals was dropping (again) and so we bought the general store in town. I had learned a lot in school and on the job, but nothing prepared me for what I learned living in a town of 50 year-round residents in remote Idaho. I learned to value humility and diversity and what it meant to be part of a community where you help each other survive. I came to appreciate that people of all socio-economic backgrounds share common desires such as being able to provide for our families, to enjoy good health and quality of life and to experience pride in our accomplishments.

Nancy Richter

In 2001, my daughter became the only child in town and the 1 room schoolhouse closed. We home schooled for 2 years but she was missing the socialization that comes along with attending public school. We sold the store and headed for southwestern Idaho where I took a job with some friends who had an engineering firm. My first assignment was to draft up plan for a pole barn building, my last was to design a subdivision.

In 2005, the bust cycle was over, the price of gold was on the rise and experienced geologists were at a premium. I attended the GSN Symposium, saw what was going on in the Cortez district and hounded any Placer Dome geo who would stand still long enough for me to strike up a conversation. I accepted a job as a contract core logger at Cortez and subsequently was hired full time when Barrick took over. Since then, I've been provided challenging assignments of increasing responsibility at Cortez, Bald Mountain and Turquoise Ridge and continue to learn from some of the brightest people in the industry.

Nancy Richter

Reflecting back on my career, I realize that many things had changed over the years, but some things haven't changed at all. The rocks haven't changed but our understanding of them has; the fundamentals of geology haven't changed, but the technology that we use to evaluate the geology has; the passion that exploration geologists bring to their work hasn't changed but the diversity of the work force has. The one thing that hasn't changed at all is the excitement we experience when we get our assays back and we've collected the hot sample or drilled the hot hole. I can't imagine doing anything more fun for a living.

Nancy Richter