Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Year




Well, I have been working in this neck of the woods for about a year, now. It's the first time I've worked at a mine in my decades-long career, and now it's already been a year. My how the time flies. Prior to this, I've mostly been in exploration.

In the past 5 years, I have worked some around the peripheries of mines, I have worked in onsite facilities where active mining was about to begin, and I have worked in offsite facilities where active mining was in progress. Prior to these last 5 years (and maybe about 50% of the last 5 years), I spent most of my time in the field, conducting raw (grass-roots) to district-based reconnaissance, choosing which areas to go look at, which areas to stake or acquire, and which properties once acquired and mapped to take to the first stage of drilling. I've been fortunate enough to see some properties go beyond round-one of drilling, and have seen two go into production. In doing so, I've worked in every state in the west except for Montana and Wyoming.

There is a difference between working in the exploration end of things - reconnaissance, property evaluation and acquisition, and early-stage property mapping and drilling - and working in the production end of things - pre-development drilling and evaluation, development drilling and evaluation, and what is sometimes called "production logging." For one thing, at least so far, there is a lot less actual field work involved. I'm "in the field" in the sense of being away from home, but much of my work is done in an office, coreshed, or warehouse-typesetting. The mine geologist at a mine - and his crew if he has one - usually does most or all of the mapping inside a mine, whether it be underground mapping or pit mapping. I am not a mine geologist, and I've never been a mine geologist.

One thing that I'm not sure that everyone fully appreciates is the extent to which companies in industry expect confidentiality. At most companies, whether working as a full-time company employee or as a consultant, one is required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Most agreements require that knowledge and information gained while working is to remain confidential for one year after leaving a company.

I was once half-heartedly accused of breaching a confidentiality agreement. Just before I left Northern Exploration Company (NEC) for Former Mining Company (FORMINCO), I had completed a list of volcanic-hosted recon targets for the Mojave Desert of California, and I hadn't had time to look at all of them. Another NEC employee also left for FMC at the same time.

Within a year, while I was off doing recon in the Coast Ranges of California, the other geologist had come up with his own recon list for the Mojave - and lo-and-behold: by pure coincidence, one of the targets was the same as one I had chosen the year before. After all, how many volcanic-hosted gold recon targets can a person come up with in the Mojave? The list is potentially huge, but some districts will be more obvious and will rate higher, no matter who is doing the prioritizing.

The clincher was, the other geologist at Former Mining Company staked a large claim block, one that completely surrounded a small claim block that NEC had staked in one corner of that particular mining district. My former boss from NEC gave me a little hell the next time he saw me, but he finally understood that I had nothing to do with staking those particular claims or generating the area as a recon target, although I did end up helping to map the area.

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