DEPARTMENT OF

Geological Sciences and

Geological Engineering

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Alumni Spotlight : Morland E Smith

Ph.D. '66, B.Sc., M.Sc.

Queen's Geology alumnus Morland Smith travelled far and wide during his exciting career as an Exploration Geologist and continues to excel in life post retirement as an avid photographer, writer and four time gold medallist in competitive middle distance running.

What jobs have you held since graduating?
After graduating from Queens, I accepted a position at the University of Ottawa as an Assistant Professor teaching petrology and geophysics. I became disillusioned with academic life and after 2 years, commenced a much more exciting career in Mineral Exploration. This took me initially to the New Brunswick Highlands with The Hanna Mining Company, exploring for base metal deposits.

With nickel exploration booming in Western Australia following the rich Kambalda discoveries by Western Mining, I was invited to return to Australia in 1968, and work from a base in Kalgoorlie on nickel exploration projects for Hanna in a joint venture with Homestake and Union Oil. This was successful, with the discovery of the Windarra South Nickel Deposit.

After a short stint with a new junior explorer, I joined Texasgulf Inc, eventually becoming Exploration Manager for the company in Australia. Over a 12-year period up to 1982, we explored throughout Australia (but mainly Western Australia) for nickel, copper, lead, zinc, gold, PGMs, chromium and uranium. Following the death of Dr. Fogarty, Texasgulf’s CEO, in a plane crash in 1981, Texasgulf was taken over by Elf Aquitaine and I stayed on for a while looking after that company’s interests in Western Australia.

Next followed a period of 8 years (1983-1991) as a Consulting Geologist to the mining industry in Australia. Between 1991 and retirement in 1998, I worked as an Exploration Manager for a couple of junior to mid-size mining companies in Western Australia.

Where in the world has your career in geology taken you?
Most of my work has been in the Archaean of Western Australia. However, work has taken me elsewhere throughout Australia, extensively in Canada and the U.S., Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia (Kalimantan and Java), Malaysia, Japan, Georgia, South Africa, Ghana, Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea.

What would you say was the highlight of your career?
The career highlight of an exploration geologist has to be the discovery and eventual commercial development of a new mineral deposit. This came my way in 1970 with the discovery of the Windarra South Nickel Deposit.

What have you been doing since retiring?
Since retirement, most of my time has been taken up with photography, writing and running. I participate in photographic competitions and won the Queen’s Alumni ‘Snap Judgements’ competition in 2006 with the...cormorant bird image (see left). One of my retirement goals was to write biographies of my four great grandparent families, three of which have now been completed. Finally, for sport and recreation, I’ve returned to competitive middle distance running and in 2013 won four ‘Gold’ medals in the Western Australian Masters Athletics competition in my M75 age division (men 75-79), I won the 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m events.

What was your most memorable experience at Queen’s University?
Memorable experiences at Queen’s: These were too numerous, and it’s impossible to single out just one. I could choose from the following:  Seeing snow for the first time, collecting rocks at Bancroft with hunters shooting at moose all around me (nobody warned me about those risks), ice sculptures, ice skating on Lake Ontario, playing ice hockey in the Jock Harty Arena next to Miller Hall.

How do you feel your time in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering impacted your career?
The course work at the Geology Department at Queen’s expanded my knowledge, especially in Structural Geology (with Prof. Ambrose) and Geochemistry (with Pete Roeder). A Ph.D. degree from Queen’s was very highly regarded in the 1960s, and I had several excellent job offers to choose from on completion of my studies.  My three years at Queen’s certainly enhanced my career opportunities back in Australia.

What advice would you give to younger alumni or current students who aspire to follow a similar career path?
I am not familiar with the current post-graduate Ph.D. curriculum in the Geology Department but in my time, it could be neatly divided into 3 parts: 1, Course Work; 2, the Comprehensive Oral Examination: and 3,the Research project and thesis presentation and defence. I found the course work and oral examination quite straight forward albeit requiring much hard work and study. My biggest challenge and also that of my fellow students, was the research work and thesis. My first employer, post my academic career, wasn’t the slightest bit interested in the topic of my research. He commented ‘most students are good at starting projects, but only a few are able to finish them off’. He was only interested in hiring geologists who have demonstrated the ability of take on a project, solve any problems associated with it and finish it off with a comprehensive report. No procrastination. My advice to prospective exploration geologists is to carefully select the research topic, don’t delay the research, hassle and pester other professionals for assistance and advice, and get the work written up as soon as possible.   

Queen's Journal Club 1963-64 - Morland Smith first row, far left