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Career Profiles

Ruth Carraher

Economic Geologist

Ruth Carraher collected rocks with her grandfather when she was growing up. She decided to major in geology when she was a student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. After graduation she worked as a geologist for a year exploring for lead and zinc in Kansas and for gold in Nevada. This confirmed the fact that she wanted to work in the minerals exploration industry and financed her graduate education. Since receiving her M.S. degree in 1979, she has worked for three different companies exploring for gold in the western United States. She lives in Reno, Nevada and is a senior geologist for Coeur Explorations, Inc.

Mineral exploration is a problem-solving profession. There are specific characteristics in the rocks exposed on the surface of the earth that suggest that gold, silver, lead, zinc, or other metals are concentrated in specific areas below the earth's surface. The problem is to find where the concentrations are and whether there is enough gold, silver, lead or zinc to make mining the concentration worthwhile. She says that looking for gold or silver is like trying to solve a puzzle. The goal of any mineral exploration geologist is to make a discovery, that is, to find a ore deposit. The excitement of finding such deposits keeps the explorationist going.

Her work is extremely variable. During a year about half of her time is spent out in the field (the mountains). She maps the geology and collects samples from the rocks exposed on the surface to provide data that will help her determine if the area has potential for ore mineralization. If more information is needed, then holes will be drilled into the ground and she will oversee the drilling. Before the drilling takes place, roads and the site for the drill rig need to be built, which she also oversees. Drill holes are placed in areas where they expect mineralization will be intercepted. When mineralization is intercepted more drilling is done to to outline the area of mineralization. The data gathered from the surface and the drilling are used to create a three-dimensional model of the mineralization, solving the puzzle. She spends the other half of the time in the office writing reports, taking care of regulatory requirements and working on ideas generated by her field work. She likes being able to make decisions about how she wants to do her work.

Being an economic geologist has allowed Ruth to see much of the western US. and many other countries. Visits to many mines in Namibia, South Africa and Australia have given her an appreciation for the mining industry worldwide. She has also worked in Bolivia and Chile for short periods of time. Being able to travel and study the geology of different countries is one of the most exciting aspects of her job.

Ruth is married to a geologist and the two of them work very hard to arrange their work schedules so that they have time off together. They like to travel, play golf and do other outside activities.