The people, science and technology behind discovery

Explorer Q&A.

Geologist Ryan Weston on Exploring in Peru



Ryan Weston, geologist. Ryan graduated with a B.Sc from the University of Toronto in 1999 and an M.Sc. from Laurentian University 2002. He has worked as a geologist for Canadian juniors and majors in Canada, Australia and Mexico. He is currently exploration manager for Strait Gold Corporation in Peru.

Q. How did you end up in Peru?
A. The opportunity arose for me to lead the exploration program for a Canadian junior working down in Peru and I took it.

Q. How do you rate the exploration potential of Peru and why?
A. Peru is an excellent place to explore due to both its natural resource potential and it’s mining history. Several world-class discoveries have been made there, yet potential for future discoveries still exists.

Q. What are the main benefits of working in Peru?
A. The main benefit is Peru’s prospective geology. Located in the Andean Cordillera, the country has great potential for the discovery of large economic deposits (eg. Cu porphyry, Au-Ag epithermal and base + precious metal skarn deposits). Peru also has an excellent government geologic survey (INGEMET) which produces quality regional geology maps and reports. The availability of digital topography maps as well as mining/exploration services and products makes exploration much easier than in some countries where very few services exist for the mining/exploration community.

Q. What are some of the challenges?
A. Community relations is an important part of any exploration program, but in Peru, companies must be especially aware of and in tune with the local perception of foreign mining companies. Recent confrontations between local communities and big mining companies illustrate the importance of establishing honest and open relations with local communities early on in any exploration program. No matter how large or rich a deposit may be, if the community is not onside, development of the deposit becomes a matter outside of economics.

Q. What’s the worst thing that has happened to you since you arrived? The best thing?
A. Worst things: getting sick while working at 4000m elevation and sleeping in an unheated tent 2 hours from the nearest small town. Best thing: getting to know the locals to the point where they become your friends.

Q. Describe a typical day.
A. Rise at 7am, eat and get ready for the day’s work. Leave camp by 8am on horse-back and travel to the beginning of my traverse for the day. Map up and down the mountain side, between 3800-4600m elevation on 20-45 degree slopes. Return to camp by 5:30pm, clean-up, organize samples, data entry, rest, eat dinner. Bed time is 8pm.

Q. Have you been become ill as a result of local conditions and what do you do to prevent illness?
A. I have been sick both from the local food and over-exertion. The key to staying healthy at high altitude is acclimatization and sufficient rest each night. The key to staying healthy with your diet is to avoid eating the local (unpasturized) cheese! It’s also important to drink plenty of fluids and eat sufficient carbohydrates to keep you warm at night.

Q. Are there any special safety precautions that you take?
A. I always map with a helper who is familiar with the local terrain. I never try to negotiate steep rock/cliff faces when there are safer alternative routes, even if they take more time. I always wear eye protection when hammering rocks, and most importantly, carry sufficient sun protection (i.e. hat, sunglasses, sunscreen).

Q. What particular technical, sociological, and/or logistical knowledge have you gained that may be applicable to exploration in other parts of the world?
A. Elevation is a very important piece of information while mapping in these terrains (not nearly as important in non-mountainous regions of the world). It is extremely important to maintain good relations with the local communities where you’re working, as you can spend much more time trying to remediate a situation which could have been easily avoided with a bit of care in the first place. And, in the absence of roads, carrying equipment to a camp with donkeys, horses and men is far slower and limits what you can bring in!!

Q. What is the local language and how do you communicate? Is language training part of your job?
A. Spanish and Quechuan (native Andean language) are the languages spoken on site. I learned enough Spanish while working in Mexico last year to get by, however I find Peruvian Spanish very different and harder to understand. Language training has not been a part of this job, but was with my past employer.

Q.What kind of living and office arrangements do you have?
A. We live in 2 insulated Weatherhaven tents. The second tent is equipped with electric capacity (including a space heater and fluorescent lights), and has an office section for working at night.

Q. How much vacation time do you get and how do you spend it?
A. Almost all my time in the field is work related. In general, my vacation time occurs while at home. Though there have been opportunities in the past for my wife and I to rendezvous in areas where I’ve been working (eg. Mexico, Newfoundland) and take advantage of the location.

Q. Describe your favourite local dish and/or beverage.
A. Fresh grilled fish (on the coast) and potatoes (Peru has the best potatoes!), washed down with a nice glass of South American white wine.

Q. Are there parts of the world you would not consider working in? If so, where and why?
A. There are several parts of Africa (e.g. DRC, Ethiopia) that have terrible stories attached to them (geologists being kidnapped and/or killed).

Q. What advice would you give geoscientists new to the country?
A. Make the effort to network with locals and ex-pats working in the industry. They are generally very friendly and eager to pass on any wisdom they’ve gained. Working in Peru can be frustrating at times but a little helpful advice can go along way!