Gems of Geoscience
David Thomas, P.Geo, a “semi-retired consultant” who previously worked for Cameco.
Anyone who spends a minute talking to a geoscientist learns that almost all of them have a beloved rock collection. In this new regular section of The Professional Edge, we learn about geoscientists and their profession through their favourite rocks.
hy It’s Special: Even though I have had many geological adventures around the world and have seen many really cool rocks, the geology of the Kumtor mine has a special place in my geological memories.
There were many things about the geology of the Kumtor gold mine that were fascinating. It was located at over 4,000 metres elevation in the Central Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. The scenery was spectacular since the mine and mill are surrounded by alpine glaciers. In fact, the open pit excavation included removing part of a glacier lobe.
The study I was charged with was a fascinating exercise in unravelling the important structural and hydrothermal controls responsible for the gold mineralization. Much like birders who keep life-time lists, I think any ore deposit geologist who works with hydrothermal gold systems would love to add the Kumtor gold deposit and its rocks to their lifetime geology list. However, these fascinating rocks also got me into a bit of trouble with the Kyrgyzstan authorities. When I was leaving the country after my study, I had accidentally forgot about several samples (not this particular one) that were buried in the bottom of my geology backpack.
The backpack had been checked in with my personal luggage at the airport and I had made my way through security to my boarding gate area. After a short time, a couple of security officers approached me and asked me to accompany them to another room where they interrogated me for what seemed like a significant time.
In order to take any samples out of the country I was required by law to obtain permits regardless of what type of rocks they were. Knowing I had just come from the Kumtor gold mine, they suspected me of trying to smuggle some gold samples out of the country. It was clear they took this very seriously and my answers didn’t seem to be alleviating my situation. I could see my plane starting to board. I figured that for sure I was being bumped from the flight home. Eventually a very stern looking official came into the room, handed me my boarding pass and said I had better hurry out to the plane which was still waiting for me.
Drill core samples from the Kumtor gold mine in eastern Kyrgyzstan.