Lyle F. Campbell*
Lyle was born May 1918, in Ely, MN and grew up on the Minnesota Iron Range. As a boy, Lyle was a good student and an Eagle Scout. One of his favorite stories was when he was in high school during spring break, he led his troop on a hobo trip around the Midwest, jumping freight trains. They came back sunburned from riding on flat cars; the parents were outraged when their missing boys returned.
In 1936, Lyle entered Minnesota School of Mines & Technology as a working student, but was unable to stay in school. He went to California, and worked as an underground miner in the New Empire Mine to try to earn enough money to get his degree. He left New Empire in 1940 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was at sea on an aircraft carrier out of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Soon after, the Navy offered to place Lyle in Officer’s Candidate School, which allowed him to achieve his dream of becoming a Navy pilot during WWII. By the war’s end, Lyle had achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander and was Squadron Commander of the Black Cat PBY squadron.
Around 1949, Lyle went back to the University of Minnesota on the GI bill, earned his degree in Mining Engineering in 1952, and went to work as a drilling and blasting superintendent for M.A. Hanna Mining Company in Mesabi Range iron mines. In the early 1950s, Lyle became aware of the “uranium millionaires” being created in the West by the uranium rush. At the age of 35, he liquidated his possessions, built a homemade camper on a 1952 GMC truck, and headed west. He partnered with Julian Simpson of Grand Junction, CO, and they formed Century Uranium and prospected the Uravan and Elk Ridge areas in Utah. They discovered uranium deposits in Beaver Mesa, and on Elk Ridge near Blanding. Century drilled three very high-grade holes from surface at Beaver Mesa and were drifting toward the high-grade when they ran out of money. Their creditors allowed them to continue on credit and they broke into the high-grade pocket and paid off all their debts in three weeks.
In about 1962, an acquaintance, impressed with Lyle’s prospecting ability, told him about the new Carlin gold discovery in Nevada, so Lyle went to Nevada to learn how to find “invisible gold.” He did a literature search for examples of sediment-hosted “invisible gold” and identified examples. He drove around Nevada with a canoe on his pickup pretending to be a fisherman and artifact hunter, while visiting and sampling known “invisible gold” showings. Lyle staked gold-bearing jasperoids near Tonkin Ranch in 1966, staked Tempo near Austin in 1968, and Maggie Creek on the edge of what became Gold Quarry Mine.
Between 1960 and 1975, Lyle maintained his properties at his own expense. His net income was so low that he ended up living in his camper to extend his funds. He realized he needed outside funds to continue, which meant he would have to prospect for a carried interest. He entered his first grubstake agreement with Amselco and Chevron in 1975. Amselco was senior partner throughout, and Oxymin was junior partner during the 1978 discoveries. Prospecting under this agreement led to discovery of the Vantage (Alligator Ridge) deposits and Alligator Ridge “trend” of deposits in 1978, together with Pan, Monte, and other prospects. Deposits mined from Lyle’s Alligator Ridge Trend discoveries include Vantage, 1, 2, 3, 5, a satellite at Luxe, White Pine Mine (Royale) deposits 1, 3, and 4, deposits at Casino, three deposits at Winrock, Galaxy deposits, Saga, and some 18 deposits at Yankee.
As of 2015, more than 1.5 million ounces of gold have been mined from discoveries under the grubstake. After the grubstake, Lyle continued to prospect and discovered mineralization at Kraut, Danbo, and elsewhere, and personally maintained his properties until the end of 1984, when Lyle’s field career was ended by medical problems. After 1984, he was unable to return to the field, but continued to maintain and lease his properties, utilizing his office manager/Trustee, Bertha Johnson for adminstration and consultants for fieldwork.
A majority of the properties Lyle discovered and maintained still contain significant gold resources. More ounces of gold are identified and still in place in Lyle’s former properties than have been mined. Lyle never lost interest and remained completely involved in his properties until the time of his death in 1998.