After about 37 years as an engineer in the mining industry, Bryan Ulrich has some knowledge to share and some stories to tell. That’s why, as he continues his work as a geotechnical engineer on projects around the world, for the past few years he also has been writing a blog and producing a podcast, called Behind the Scenes with Bryan.
Throughout his career, Ulrich has seen the importance of lifelong learning, and of finding mentors and being a mentor.
“If you don’t have a mentor, you should find one, usually where you work,” Ulrich wrote in a blog post last April. “And the mentor/mentee relationship certainly doesn’t have to be a one-way road. You can and should learn from one-another.”
Writing a blog has become one additional avenue for Ulrich to be a mentor and share his stories. The podcast is a way for Ulrich to continue to learn as he talks with people from many different backgrounds, and to share this knowledge with anyone who listens in.
Ulrich said the blog and the podcast sprang from conversations with a friend “who told me, ‘Bryan, you’ve got a lot of information to share, you should be sharing it.’ I said, ‘Well, I publish papers, and I give talks, and I do that kind of thing. What else do you want me to do?’ And I was told, ‘Well, you need to write a blog.’ And I said, ‘OK, what’s in the blog?’
“And a whole bunch of topics just came pouring out of the conversation, like 10 or 12 different topics. Some of those were pretty easy to write, and some of them took a lot of thought process to come up with.”
He published his first blog post, “Mining 101,” on Nov. 28, 2018. Since then, he has continued to add a new blog post about once a week to his website, bryanulrich.net.
A few months after Ulrich started writing his blog, his friend told him he should take the next step and start doing a podcast. Ulrich looked into it and decided there was too much work involved. But technology keeps making podcasting easier, and soon Ulrich heard about a one-step, intuitive platform for podcasting.
“And I thought, OK, I don’t have any excuses anymore,” he said. “So I signed up on that platform.”
He put out his first podcast on July 7, 2019.
“It’s been a learning experience for me in many ways,” Ulrich said. “Almost all of my guests teach me something.”
Ulrich said one of the most interesting podcasts so far was with Lucy Crane, a young geologist from England.
“Lucy had a Ted Talk, and it was based on, I’m going to say a lively conversation she had in a pub,” Ulrich said. “Where somebody told her that she couldn’t be an environmentalist and work in the mining industry. And so she got very agitated and explained exactly to them why we need to have mining, and why we need to mine our way to a greener future. And she was really, really good.”
You can go online to watch Crane’s Ted Talk, “Mining Our Way to a Low Carbon Future.”
“I think everyone should listen to her,” Ulrich said.
Ulrich told a story about working with an equipment supplier on a product launch.
“They wanted to have a celebrity to talk about it. And the celebrity that we were talking to said, ‘Bryan, I don’t remember if we’re supposed to be against mining or just against coal mining.’ And I said, ‘Well, watch this Ted Talk, and then tell me.’ And she said, ‘Bryan, you’ve changed my mind, we absolutely need mining.’”
Most of his podcasts are about mining, and specifically mining engineering and mine waste management, but he also likes to mix it up once in a while and take a look at other topics. Last year after reading an opinion column on racism by Reggie Rivers, a former NFL running back who played six seasons with the Denver Broncos, Ulrich invited Rivers onto the podcast.
“I thought that was pretty enlightening,” Ulrich said.
As Ulrich writes his blog and shares his podcasts, one of his basic goals is to encourage a strong culture of good mining practices by having miners pass their knowledge on to the next generation of miners, and by having young engineers get out into the field at mine sites.
“They can learn a lot from somebody that’s been in the industry,” Ulrich said. “And there’s a value to getting outside, and seeing the mine sites, and seeing the things that they’re designing, spending some time in the field and just watching the heavy equipment move around. They can learn what maybe they could have done better in the design process, and hopefully learn for the next time what they might be able to do better … And eventually they’ll be better engineers, and they can pass that on to the next generation as well.”
Ulrich received degrees in mining engineering and geological engineering from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in 1983 and 1985. In 1996, he received a master’s degree in geotechnical engineering from the University of Alberta.
He worked for Knight Piesold for more than 30 years. Much of his work has been in the design of tailings and heap leach facilities.
Ulrich lived in South Africa from 1999 to 2003. From 2003 to 2013, Ulrich lived in Elko and Spring Creek, Nevada. When he moved back to the Denver area in 2013, he kept a small house in Elko and continued to work in the Elko area.
In 2005, Ulrich initiated the Elko Roundtable Discussion seminar series. The annual day-long seminars, which drew people from throughout region as well as from Canada and South America, continued to 2019, focusing on a different topic each year.
“People really looked forward to it,” Ulrich said. “That was a lot of fun. And almost always I would submit something to get written up in Mining Engineering Magazine.”
Over the years, as a part of his work, Ulrich has traveled to Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, Chile, South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Poland and Uzbekistan.
In April 2020, Ulrich started his own engineering business, Bryan Ulrich LLC, and he has been working with mines in North America, South America, the Caribbean, Australia and Asia.
He also sometimes makes the trip from Denver to Elko. In his August 2, 2021 blog titled “Travels to Elko,” Ulrich wrote, “I’m traveling to Elko to work with a client and their heap leach facilities. This’ll be the first of two trips to Elko this month. It’s going to be a good month.” ￼