Jackie Stephens says everyone thinks he’s crazy. Stephens, an American geologist who lives in Hermosillo, in Northern Mexico, started a conference in the area five years ago he now dubs the Mexican Roundup.
Few thought the idea would take off. At first it was little more than a family reunion of ex-US Borax guys, a somewhat ancient subsidiary of Rio Tinto. That team did a fair bit of discovery, by the way, finding deposits such as Quartz Hill molybdenum in Alaska and Rock Lake copper-silver in Montana – both projects, as Stephens’ luck would have it, that subsequently ended up bound by wilderness protection in the 1970s – Stephens does not speak kindly of US President Jimmy Carter.
That first year Stephens, talking with me in his Hermosillo home-office, said there was 12 in attendance. Perhaps not quite a conference yet.
But the energetic septuagenarian was undeterred. He has grown his event year after year, tallying 25 attendees the second year, 45 the next and 85 last year. This time round he expects over a hundred, and the numbers at the opening night BBQ bear that figure out.
It’s small, to be sure. But here come a tight-knit community of exploration geologists and mine engineers, along with a few Mexico money types, that are veterans of Mexico exploration and mining, especially its northern stretches near Hermosillo.
The first night has us at the Fresnillo regional office in Hermosillo for a BBQ. A solid turn out with some recognizeable names. Among others: Hons von Michaelis, well known in Mexican mining circles. He was involved with Goldgroup Mining recently and founded Randol International. And Jerry Aiken, a former with US Borax and other mineral explorers.
But there’s younger blood too. Helping Stephens organize the event is Marc Kieler, president of Globexplore, an up-start drilling services company.
There’s also a squad of local university students from the geoscience program at Sonora State University. They wear shiny blue fedoras – appropriate for New Years – and green shirts and volunteer at the barbeque Thursday night.
Stephens tasked the university with sending their 10 brightest students to the event. He’s raising money for the geoscience program. For equipment, field school and scholarships.
It’s personal. Stephens recalls not having many resources at university after his Air Force service in the late 1950s.
“So it’s for my compadres, peers and my replacements,” Stephens says, describing why he holds the conference each year.
He has high hopes for its growth. “I’d like to have have 1,000 people in two years,” Stephens says.
He shakes his head. Shrugs. Grins. Repeats. “Everyone thinks I’m crazy.”
More stories and tweets (@jrmining) about the the Mexican Roundup to come.
Day 2: El Chanate mine tour
Day 3-4: Presentations
About Kip Keen
Based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Kip is Mineweb’s North American junior mining specialist. Before joining Mineweb he worked for Canada’s top mining publication, the Northern Miner covering the junior sector out of Vancouver.
Email: [email protected]