Ralph Roberts*

Ralph J. Roberts (1911-2007)

Dr. Ralph J. Roberts was a world renowned geologist with U.S. Geological Survey and for his contributions to the understanding of the geology of Nevada. It was his work in Nevada that leads to the discovery of the Carlin-type gold deposits. In 1960, he published his paper “Alignment of Mining Districts in North-Central Nevada” (USGS Professional Paper 400-B). In the paper, he documented the presence of large thrust faults and mineral trends or belts in Nevada. Roberts theorized that the upper plates of these faults in places overlie reactive, carbonate rocks with the potential for large, low-grade, disseminated gold deposits. Ralph Roberts presented his ideas at a geological meeting in Ely, Nevada, in 1961. A Newmont geologist John Livermore was present at the meeting and applied Robert’s concepts in Lynn district resulting in discovery of the multi-million ounce Carlin gold deposit.

His career began as a student at the University of Washington in Seattle (BS and MS) degrees and he went on to receive a Ph.D. in geology from Yale University. His doctoral research defined the Antler Orogeny through his mapping of the Battle Mountain 15′ Quadrangle.

Roberts lived and worked in Central America during World War II exploring for and conducting research on strategic minerals. After the war, upon returning the United States he worked for the USGS as a research scientist and geologist. He also spent six years in Saudi Arabia contributing to the mineral industry in the Middle East. In 1981, after 40 years with the USGS he retired at the age of 70. After his retirement, he continued to work for industry primarily in gold exploration in Nevada. He worked for several companies and was a key factor in several gold discoveries, including the Marigold deposit in the Battle Mountain area.

He published his autobiography in 2002, “A Passion for Gold.” The book is a fascinating read and all geologists will benefit from reading about his life and career.

In addition to his numerous publications, he received numerous awards and honors.
Distinguished Service Award from the US Department of the Interior
Medal of Merit from the American Mining Hall of Fame
Distinguished Service to the Minerals Industry Award from the Northwest Mining Association
The Ralph J. Roberts Center for Research in Economic Geology at the (CREG Program) University is named in his honor
Honorary Member of GSN

Dr. Roberts was respected and admired by all that knew him. It was an honor for GSN to have him as a member.