A Day in the life of Alex Graham

I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, in a downtown condo close enough to the water that I wake to the sound of seagulls. I don’t spend much time there though, at least not since I graduated as a mining geologist eight years ago and joined my dad’s consulting company.

Gold, silver, precious metals – our clients hire the Graham and Company geologists to seek out new mineral deposits or start-up mines all over the world. It means, that more often than not, I’m living out of a tent, although sometimes I have the luxury of a hotel or even a house if I’m working in one location long enough.

Let me give you a taste of what life in the field is like. Not too long ago, I was working just outside of Dawson City, “north of sixty” as we like to say when we’re working in Canada north of the sixtieth parallel. Even in summer, it can be cold and June especially can be a little early to be in a tent, but that’s what I was doing with Warren, another of the geologists from our company.

We had several locations to scout out, so we had a helicopter on hand to ferry us into the remote mountain sites with our fully-loaded backpacks. Fortunately, the storm from the previous night had passed and the morning sky was clear, but still I carried rain gear, extra socks and emergency supplies in case we were stranded in the mountains overnight. Added to the usual things I carry, things like a handheld GPS, rock hammer, first aid kit, water purifier and food, these extras made for a heavy pack, one that would only get heavier as I piled in rock samples throughout the day.  As always though, I squeezed in a handful of cookies and a few chocolate bars – my weakness!

This day in particular, we were dropped off in a quiet mountain valley early in the morning with eight or nine hours of hiking planned before the helicopter would return. We weren’t two hours into our day when my hammer cracked a rock to reveal gold, and lots of it! Our plan for the day took an abrupt turn, and we spent the next few hours tracking the deposit, more excited by the minute when maps showed that no one had yet claimed the rights to mine this particular area.

The sun never really sets in the summer when you’re this far north, so we worked long into the evening to set out wooden posts and claim tags that declared our mining rights to a small patch of land. At least here in Canada, we knew what was needed to stake our claim. In many of the other countries we work in half our time is spent finding the right government official to talk us through the process.

When we finally did make the return flight to our campsite, we dropped into canvas chairs in front of a hastily-made fire, too exhausted to move. Normally, we’d cook up a good dinner for ourselves and discuss plans for the next day before heading to our separate tents, where I usually catch-up on emails (thanks to satellite communication) and read a good book. But this day, we simply sat in front of the fire with drinks in hand, celebrating our success.  The day hadn’t gone as planned – most of them don’t – but that’s when things get interesting!

Published: Dru’s Book Musings, October 29, 2016