Faces of GSN

Steve Wiess

It’s Thanksgiving of 2017 as I write this and I am in my third year serving as GSN’s Secretary. I have much to be thankful for, not the least of which has been a satisfying, 35+ year career in geology with various roles in industry and academia. I am not sure when I joined the GSN, probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but since then I have appreciated the comradery, exchange of ideas and the professional connections membership has brought my way.

I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where my father owned and operated a zinc and aluminum die-casting foundry. My mother wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer, or failing that, an insurance salesman, but during the winter when I was eleven years old she started me in a weekly ski school. There was a rope tow and a tiny chairlift on an icy slope by the Cuyahoga River. I was hooked on skiing immediately, and this eventually resulted in me becoming a geologist.

It happened by way of the Colorado College where I enrolled hoping to ski, but graduated with a Geology degree in spite of myself. It was 1978; if you could spell R O C K in those days you could get a job, and I landed one with Noranda where they paid me to camp out, map, collect samples and log drill core, looking for uranium and molybdenum in western Utah. John Cleary was hired in 1979 to supervise our group of young field geos. After two field seasons I went to work for AMOCO Minerals exploring for porphyry molybdenum, silver and gold deposits in central Nevada.

In 1982, I enrolled at the Mackay School of Mines to study calderas, magmatic activity and related mineral deposits for a MSc degree. Don Noble was my thesis advisor for a mapping and paleomagnetic study of the Stonewall Mountain volcanic center near Goldfield, Nevada. Some of my classmates and friends at Mackay were Rich Perry, Tench Page, Hank Ohlin, Nancy Wolverson, Don Hudson, Karl Frost and Richard Knox.

I married my wife Ann and we moved back to Cleveland in 1984 to work in my father’s foundry business. We found it pretty miserable and returned to Reno in 1987. Don Noble and Larry Larson hired me as a Research Associate in the Department of Geological Sciences at Mackay, a grant-supported position that I held for nine years. My work was mainly in southern Nevada, in the Bullfrog Hills, Yucca Mountain and the Nevada Test Site, and the Nellis Bombing and Gunnery Range, but there were also projects in the Sonoma volcanic field of northern California and in the Long Valley caldera of eastern California. On the side, I earned a PhD on the hydrothermal activity associated with magmatism of the Timber Mountain caldera in southwestern Nevada. During this time it was my good fortune to work with and learn from Larry Garside, Steve Castor, Chris Henry, Joe Tingley, Hal Bonham, Jon Price, Andy Wallace, Jim Greybeck, John Livermore, Roger Steininger and Bob Thomas.

I left Mackay in 1997 to pursue freelance exploration work. Roger Steininger connected me with Royal Gold and I joined their team exploring for epithermal gold-silver deposits in Milos, Greece for a year. There I met and worked with Frank Howell. That was followed by four years working for AngloGold Ashanti in northern Nevada and at Cripple Creek, Colorado, with John Watson, Glenn Asch, Mark Reischman, Pete Shabestari, Russel Myers and Jake Margolis. Our assignment was to find an entirely new Carlin Trend somewhere in Nevada, preferably open for staking, and needing very little drilling. We were not successful. AngloGold laid us off in 2003 and bailed out of Nevada.

That layoff led to a long-lasting adventure when, later in 2003, I was hired by Charlie Ronkos at Glamis Gold to explore the El Sauzal high-sulfidation gold deposit and vicinity in Chihuahua, Mexico. Glamis was in the early stages of constructing a new, 6,000 tpd gold mine at El Sauzal, located in a deep canyon below the Barranca del Cobre. It was rough, but spectacular country. I spent five years there. It was a great experience helping to bring a new deposit into production and extend the mine life. I learned a lot about building and managing an exploration team, evaluating prospects, finding and drilling out new resources, and converting them to reserves, all the while a guest in someone else’s country. Besides Charlie Ronkos, I received support during those years from Brian Brodsky, at the time Glamis’ Manager of Exploration in Guatemala, and James Carver, the Chief Geologist at the Marigold mine.

Glamis merged with Goldcorp in 2006 after Glamis acquired the Peñasquito gold-silver- zinc-lead deposit in northern Zacatecas. In 2009, Goldcorp transferred me to northern Zacatecas to manage exploration projects peripheral to Peñasquito. Gassaway Brown was running the multi-drill definition of Peñasquito, which is a complex of two, adjacent mineralized diatremes almost entirely covered by post- mineral surficial units. Jeff Edwards worked extensively for Glamis and Goldcorp at the nearby Noche Buena gold skarn deposit, and previously at Marlin in Guatemala. About that time, John Wood came on board as Goldcorp’s Director of U.S. and Latin America Exploration, and Charlie was promoted to Senior Vice-President of Exploration.

In 2010, Gassaway was transferred to Argentina and I began working on the Camino Rojo gold deposit, a 3.4 million ounce gold resource about 60km from Peñasquito, which Goldcorp had just acquired from Canplats Resources. I began to assemble a team of Mexican exploration geos, built a camp, and with guidance from Charlie and John, validated the shallow oxide portion of the resource and began to expand the deposit. The Zetas increased their presence in the region and security deteriorated, but we carried on and at times I had as many as 12 core drills operating simultaneously. By the end of 2012 we were well into metallurgy, geotechnical studies and infill drilling of the deeper, unoxidized deposit that Canplats had only tagged the uppermost part of. We achieved reserve status for 1.6 million ounces of gold and 32 million ounces of silver. Around then I was promoted to Exploration Manager of Mexico.

After 10 years working in Mexico, I left Goldcorp late in 2013 to spend more time with family and work closer to home in Reno. By then we had discovered and defined another 8 million ounces of gold and 60 million ounces of silver in sulfide resources at Camino Rojo, in addition to the oxide reserves.

Since 2014 I have had the pleasure of working for Steve Ristorcelli, Michael Gustin, Paul Tietz, and Cami and Neil Prenn at Mine Development Associates, for Russel Myers and Mark Reischman at Corvus Gold, and for Nancy Wolverson at Paramount Gold Nevada. Part of what I like about being a geologist is the excitement of the hunt to bring new wealth from the ground. But, of equal importance, I enjoy the people I have come to know along the way, and a great many of them are connected to me through the GSN.

Steve Wiess