Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Friday Field Update

...on a Saturday evening.

As many of you may have guessed, and as some of you may know, I've recently started working a fairly intense schedule and have been unable to do much of anything online without detracting from my sleep time. The schedule includes the 10-hour days that are usually expected of field geologists (in mineral exploration, at least), and it currently includes an unspecified length of time. One likely scenario would be to work about 20 days and then to take about 10 days off. I described a few typical schedules a couple years ago, though I didn't describe several currently popular options, including the 4 and 3 or the 8 and 6. From the 8 and 6, one might extrapolate a schedule of 16 days on and 12 days off, but I haven't seen that in place anywhere. Anyway, the upshot is that I'm "in the field" — that is, I'm not working at home, and I'm not working in an office. One definition: the field is the everywhere that you do geology — whatever kind of geology you happen to do — and that geology is usually, although not always, done out there away from town and away from home.

This particular job is a little unusual in that I really don't know how long it will last: there is plenty of work to be done, but is there enough money to do it? In my experience, this has been a bit of a problem during the last couple years, at least for some exploration companies. I personally have been fortunate during my long career to work through some fairly flush times, and also to work through leaner times with companies that maintained a healthy exploration budget. No exploration = no mining down the line, so it's a good thing (IMO) for companies to maintain a healthy exploration budget.

Recently, many of the larger companies — the few existing majors in particular — have devoted a fair portion of their time and money toward buying already proven or nearly proven reserves, and they've dedicated the rest of their time and money toward exploring on site, an M.O. sometimes called "brownfields exploration." In the last several years, brownfields exploration has largely been conducted at the expense of stepping outside the mine area, outside the property, and — heaven forbid! — at the expense of actually doing some well conceived "greenfields" or even "grassroots" exploration. (That is not true, by any means, in all cases, and the trend may be changing.) So if you, as an exploration geologist, don't know exactly where you want to drill because you are thinking of stepping outside the box, you might not find anyone willing to fund the mapping and sampling necessary to go find or prove up the next big one. The next big one might well be what will keep the current operation going.

Disclaimer: I haven't yet devoted any of my own time or money to this type of exploration, either, though many of my career-long colleagues have.


Gaelyn said...

If I was a geologist I'd want to be working in the field, But maybe not so many hours. Try not to burn out and get time for yourself in there somewhere.

Silver Fox said...

Sometimes field hours are variable, especially when one is not associated with projects of more greater than three people.

The weekend is usually quiet. And long days off are nice! :)