GSN

Faces of GSN

Richard Perry

I’m flattered that GSN asked me to do “Faces of GSN”, as my path was not the normal one for a geologist. I’ll skip the early years and start in 1979 when I met my wife Lisa in the geology department at Cal State Chico. We both graduated with geology degrees in 1981 and went to work in the exploration industry in Reno. My first geology job was working for Bruce Imswiler at NICOR Minerals. After a year of field work, I concluded exploration geology would be a tough road if I ever hoped to have a family. Lisa and I were married in the little white church in Sierraville, CA, in 1982. Later that year, I started a graduate degree at the Mackay School of Mines. I explained my desire to be a mine geologist to my advisors, Larry Larson and Dan Taylor, who guided me into a curriculum including classes in economic geology and mining engineering. My capstone project in reserve estimation was kriging the Happy Camp deposit, and my thesis was an exploration study of the Mt. Tobin mercury district in Pershing County.

After graduating, my first mine geology assignment was in Goldfield with Blackhawk Mines. Blackhawk controlled the main district in 1984 and was mining some small pits and dumps and processing the agglomerated ore on leach pads. My job was grade control, surveying, and supervising the crushing, haulage and agglomeration crew. At age 25, this gave me my start in production mining. The operation soon played out and the market for geologists was dismal, so I took a job with Ashland Chemical marketing water treatment chemicals and equipment. After training, they sent me to Elko, which was just starting to boom in 1985. I worked for Ashland for five years on mill start-up teams at Barrick, Newmont, Placer and Freeport.

In 1990, I joined Freeport as the Assistant Superintendent at the Big Springs mill north of Elko. Big Springs was the first successful whole-ore roaster in Nevada, but had experienced start-up issues with solution chemistry, my specialty at the time. I later transferring to Jerritt Canyon as the mill superintendent and worked for Paul Lahti and Scott Barr, two important mentors in my career.

Newmont was building their first whole-ore roaster in 1994 and needed an experienced operator, so I joined the Newmont team at Gold Quarry. These were challenging times at Newmont, with the transition from oxide ore to mining refractory ores below the water table. By then, Lisa and I had three young daughters, all born in Elko, keeping us busy on weekends camping, fishing and hunting.

Newmont had new projects coming on-line everywhere at the time, and often dispatched staff from Nevada to assist. After two stints in Uzbekistan and some time in Peru, I was sent to Indonesia as the start-up general manager at the Batu Hijau mine in 1998. Batu was a large mid-grade porphyry copper deposit discovered by Newmont geologists on the island of Sumbawa. At $2 BUSD in capex, the project included an open-pit mine, concentrator, power plant, port facility, town site, and schools. Newmont was in a downturn in Nevada at that time, allowing us to recruit around 20 experienced operators, engineers, geologists and technical specialists out of Nevada operations. These Nevadans, along with many Australian expats and Indonesian nationals, successfully hired and trained a work force of 3000+ and transplanted an operating culture. By the time my three year stint was over, Batu Hijau was fully permitted and successfully mining and processing 120,000 tons per day of copper ore, producing two percent of world copper production.

On the family front, living in the jungle in a different culture with little news from the outside world was great, but it was nice to get to civilization in Australia, New Zealand or Singapore. Our daughters attended an international school on the mine site. It profoundly changed us, and was the defining assignment in my career. We found Indonesians to be very gracious and welcoming people and made many friends.

Newmont returned us to Elko in 2001, where I took on the role of VP of Newmont North American operations. NA Operations included the Nevada mines, two mines in Ontario, and a joint venture in Mexico. My assignment was to develop a plan to bring new projects on-line sequentially as gold prices improved, while maintaining a 2.5 million ounce per year production profile. In my first year, gold prices dipped below $300/oz., and the focus was on cost control. By 2003 prices were improving, Newmont completed the Franco-Normandy merger which added the Midas Mine, and shortly thereafter the Turquoise Ridge JV was added by committing processing capacity at Twin Creeks. As gold prices climbed, we took plans for the Chuckar mine, pit laybacks at Twin Creeks and Gold Quarry, a flotation plant at Quarry, Leeville, and Phoenix to the Newmont Board. Except for Phoenix, all were in production by late 2005, when I left Newmont.

Lisa and I decided we wanted our kids to finish school in Elko, so we made the decision not to chase another mining job or move to Denver. After de-stressing for a few months, I spoke with Alan Biaggi at the State DCNR about opportunities and in 2006 joined the State Engineer’s office in Elko doing water rights investigations and executing a maintenance program at South Fork Dam. After serving on the planning commission for a term, I was elected and served as an Elko City Councilman. When Alan Coyner announced his retirement as the Administrator for the Division of Minerals, I applied for the job. With all our kids now graduated and both sets of parents near Reno, it made sense. The Commission on Mineral Resources appointed me Administrator in November 2013. So after twenty-something years in Elko, we moved west to Carson City. The move brought me back to GSN, where I had first been a member in 1981. The Division of Minerals has public safety, regulatory, policy and economic development functions within State government. I am honored to work for the State of Nevada, and to be back amongst friends at GSN.