National Mining Hall of Fame honoree Lew Eklund died July 19 at the age of 85. He devoted more than 45 years to the mining industry and contributed his talents to northeastern Nevada.
Eklund, along with wife JoAnn Huss and supportive friends, founded Eklund Drilling in 1960, landed a contract with Newmont’s Carlin Trend Property, then went on to make innovations that increased mine productivity and decreased environmental impact.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but also a lot of luck,” Eklund told the Elko Daily Free Press in 2008 upon the announcement of his induction to the National Mining Hall of Fame. “This county, this country, has been good to me and my family.”
Eklund and son Lance, who purchased his father’s company, also won the Northwest Mining Association’s award in 2008 for distinguished service to the minerals industry. At a presentation in 2009, Barrick Gold Corp.’s then- vice president of exploration Ed Cope credited with Eklund for shaping Nevada mining.
“In addition to the contributions they have made to advance exploration drilling, their role in helping to develop the Carlin Trend turned Nevada into one of the largest gold producers in the world, and their mark is indelibly inked on the mining industry of Nevada and everywhere else they worked,” he said, as reported in the Elko Daily in 2009.
“All of us at Newmont are saddened by the loss of Lew Eklund, a cherished friend and community member, who for many decades was also one of our trusted and valued business partners,” according to a Newmont statement. “Lew was vital to Newmont’s early successes on the Carlin Trend, and he will forever remain an important part of our golden history in northern Nevada.”
An icon of the Nevada mining industry, Eklund contributed to the design of 10 drill rigs, including the Cyclo Blower rig, which increased output by more than 20 percent. Other models such as a truck-mounted drill on tires instead of tracks help diminish environmental impact.
Despite his success, Eklund would not patent his designs so that others could build on his ideas. Gratitude guided his decision: “We grew up poor on a farm in North Dakota,” he told the Elko Daily. “At the time we had a little money in the bank. I was grateful because the mining industry had been so good to us, and we wanted to put something back.”
Beyond mining, Eklund dedicated his time to filming Carlin High School events and expanded his talents to include oral histories at the Northeastern Nevada Museum, playing for the Silver Stage Players, and documenting the Grass March Cowboy Express.
County Commissioner Cliff Eklund remembered his brother’s interest in history and horses that led him to film wild horse roundups “free of charge” for the Bureau of Land Management.
“He did it for his own personal use and he gave it to the BLM and individuals,” said Cliff Eklund. “He was working with them trying to help with the wild horse issues.”
Northeastern Nevada Museum Archivist Toni Mendive said Eklund became “a great friend to the museum” after he donated a statue of Will James in 2010 and volunteered his time filming oral histories.
Great Basin College Technician Donald Jones said he worked on many projects with Eklund for more than 20 years.
“I met him in 1995 when I was working at Computech and he was a customer,” Jones recalled. “He had the equipment, and he was willing to make videos for someone.”
Additionally, Eklund videotaped Carlin football games and graduation ceremonies, giving copies to students.
“He filmed every Carlin High School football games for many years until his health would not allow it,” Cliff Eklund said. “He contributed to the getting the concession stand and announcer’s stand at Carlin High school and donated to many of the great causes within the community.”
Family and friends also remembered Eklund for a large heart toward others in need.
“His generosity” is one thing Jones said he would remember about Eklund. “He touched an enormous amount of lives, and always in a good way,” Jones said.
Mendive said she admired Elkund’s generosity. “His heart was as big as he was,” she said. “He was happiest when he was helping someone else.”
Cliff Eklund recalled the quiet way his brother went about helping his family and others in the community so as not to draw attention to himself.
“He didn’t publicize or make an issue of it,” he said. “That’s the way he was.”