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Mining Minds: Tim Arnold
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Mining Minds: Tim Arnold

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Story by Tim Burmeister

Mining Correspondent

A few months ago, the Mining Minds podcast hosts sat down with Tim Arnold, a mining engineer whose long career has taken him to mines all over Nevada and around the world.

Arnold: When I was a senior in high school I took my ACTs or SATs … I had real good scores overall, but I had a horribly poor score in English, so I knew I should be doing something with numbers. Engineering appealed to me.

My brother was five years older than me. He was just finishing up a degree at the University of Idaho, and he said, if you apply to a bunch of different schools in mining engineering, you’ll probably get scholarships. He was right. I applied to a bunch of different schools; Idaho was one of them. They accepted me, so I entered the mining engineering degree program.

I went underground in 1976 in Casa Grande, Arizona. I was a laborer on a shotcrete crew. If there was anything that would have pushed me out of mining, it would have been spending a summer on a damn shotcrete crew in Casa Grande, Arizona. But I loved it. I went berserk and I never looked back. …

It was real exciting. The pay was excellent. I wasn’t a brilliant student, but I really liked work. …

I graduated in ’82. … Right at the peak of when we were graduating mining engineers, like a thousand a year, that was the trough of the mining industry where nobody could get a job. …

There were seven of us that graduated, and two of us got job offers. … I got an offer to go down to New Mexico … Mount Taylor. It was somebody that I had worked with through college and got to know.

He offered me a job at Mount Taylor as a grunt electrician, on one condition. He said if you tell anybody here you’re a graduate engineer, I’ll fire you.

Mining Minds: How do you think that experience helped you throughout your career?

Arnold: I think it’s the only reason I’ve been successful. I’m well into my 60s now, and I’m not about to get on a jackleg. But the bottom line is, being able to know what a miner goes through every day. … I’ve had a pretty successful career, and a pretty successful career in management, and I really do owe it all to what I learned from those miners. …

After nearly five years working as an hourly miner, Arnold and his wife moved to South Africa.

Arnold: It was completely different mining. … We would advance the face one meter a day. It was actually a long wall, dipping at about 45 degrees. Had a bunch of guys in there, they would drill out one meter, set the explosives, and that would be a shift. This went on for miles along that long wall. I managed a stoping area of about 1500 people at one point. …

Arnold and his family moved back to Nevada in 1988. Mining was booming, but a lot of the jobs were in open pit, and Arnold’s experience was in underground, so for a while he had a tough time finding a job. He worked in the engineering arm of Redpath Mining Contractors and Engineers for four years.

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Arnold: Working with those guys I learned a lot. …

Working for an engineering company is a lot different than operations, and I kind of missed being at a mine, and missed miners. One day one of the guys I worked with looked at me and he says, you know, you really aren’t cut out for this business. You’re doing great; you’ll do great in this business, this engineering side, but you really ought to be back at the mines, I can tell that’s where you’d rather be. …

So I put out a resume again and I got hired at Jerritt Canyon because they were going underground and they needed somebody to do feasibility type work. …

They had no underground before we got there, and by the time I left, which was two years later, they never had another open pit. So we stole all the ore bodies from the open pit guys, so the underground department wasn’t in great favor for a little while. …

Next, Arnold went to Beatty to work at the Bullfrog Mine. At the end of 1998 the Bullfrog shut down because they ran out of ore. Later he moved on to Lovelock, Nevada, to be the general manager of Coeur Mining’s Rochester mine.

Arnold: We loved Lovelock. Of many of the places I’ve lived in Nevada, Lovelock stands pretty high. Again, small town, made lifelong friends. My kids consider Lovelock home. …

I ran the Rochester for several years … and then Coeur d’Alene Mines asked me to go up to Kensington, out of Juneau, Alaska. …

That was another highlight of my career. This job was a lot of get out into the community, an enormous amount of that. I spoke to every Lions Club, every knitting club in the world. We were in a huge battle for public opinion in Alaska.

We had a very, very well-funded, well-organized anti-mining group. And as miners … we just go out there with facts and figures and tell people the truth, and we’re fighting people that are probably spreading information that’s probably not quite accurate. …

And I like to say, that what we promised those people, Coeur Mining has continued to deliver on.

After about five years in Alaska, Arnold went to Eureka, Nevada, to work with General Moly on developing the Mount Hope project.

Arnold: It’s funny … I needed to be the face of the operation in Eureka, a little tiny town compared to Juneau, and I’m going to be working with farmers. And I was [thinking], “This is easy, I’m going from this well-organized anti NGO to a bunch of Nevada farmers. And miners and farmers and ranchers, we all get along.”

I was wrong. They say in Nevada, “Whiskey’s for drinking and water’s for fighting,” and that was the problem there: They were very concerned that we were going to be taking their water. So it was a true battle, and there were lots of lawsuits and things. I kind of felt like I was back in Kensington.

Arnold then went to Denver for a couple years to work on trying to get a mine going in Cameroon in Africa. Arnold next went to Nevada Copper, out of Yerington, Nevada, as vice president of project development. In addition to working for Nevada Copper, he did Nevada business development for Barr Engineering, a company based in Minneapolis; he was the president of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME), and he began teaching a class at the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Arnold worked for Pershing Gold for a couple years in Lovelock opening up the old Relief Canyon Mine.

Today, Arnold is the chief operating officer of Integra Resources, working on their DeLamar Gold-Silver Project in southwest Idaho. 

To hear the full conversation, and to hear more of the Mining Minds conversations with miners, you can go to a podcast app and subscribe to Mining Minds.

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