HISTORY OF THE DENVER REGION EXPLORATION GEOLOGIST'S SOCIETY
The Denver Region Exploration Geologists Society (DREGS) is one of the most active, albeit low-keyed, professional societies in North America. Its principal objective is the exchange of current scientific thought and technology as it applies to exploration and ore deposits. Although once restricted to practicing "hard-rock" mineral exploration geologists, membership is now open to all persons with a geological background interested in mining or mineral exploration or supporting technologies.
Colorado was built on mining and from its start, the Denver area has attracted governmental, business and technical infrastructure appropriate to administer, serve and support the mining industry. By the early 1970's, Denver had become a national mining center and since then has evolved into one of the world's major mining and exploration headquarters cities. The history of DREGS and its membership over the past 30 years parallels the growth of Denver and the fortunes of the mining industry in general. Although most members reside within a 50 mile radius of downtown Denver, most are now principally involved in international exploration or mining endeavors.
Initially, most DREGS members were employed by major mining and energy companies. Now we have a very complimentary mix of geologists, geochemists, and geophysicists from major and entrepreneurial junior mining companies, a full spectrum of consultants, and mineral deposit specialists from the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado Geological Survey, and the several universities in the area. Most members are also active and some hold or have held key posts in such national and international societies as The Society of Economic Geologists, The Society of Mining Engineers, The Geological Society of America and the America Institute of Professional Geologists, all of which are also headquartered in the Denver metropolitan area.
The founding meeting of the DREGS organization was held on Monday, September 14, 1970 in the Alpine Room of the Denver Athletic Club. There were about 15 or 20 local geologists in attendance, several of whom are still in the area and are still DREGS members. By 1973, there were over 100 members listed. Membership reached a peak of around 500 in the early 1980's prior to the mid 1980's resources recession which saw major downsizing and restructuring in the global mineral industry. We now have about 200 persons on our membership roles.
The first meeting was called and organized by Jim White who had been transferred to Denver from Toronto a few months earlier, as Regional Manager of Exploration for Texas Gulf Sulphur Co. Jim was a very sociable person who noted there was no local forum for exploration geologists to meet and to get to know one another better and to discuss geology and minerals exploration in general. Jim proposed that we form a group patterned after the Toronto exploration geologist's Discussion Group to meet informally once a month to hear and discuss invited talks. The concept was quickly approved and Jim White was elected the first President. The founders were mainly geologists in their late 20's to early 40's and the name, particularly the irreverent acronym (DREGS) was deliberately chosen to reflect the informal nature of the organization.
For the first 2 years, Jim pretty much shouldered the burden of organizing and running the society. In time, as membership grew, John Squyres became program chairperson and helped Jim with the affairs of the society. In 1973, Jim was promoted to a senior production position in Texasgulf, and was unable to continue in his role as president of DREGS. Accordingly, John Squyres was elected President and served ably until 1976, when he was transferred to Texas. Tom Melrose then became the 3rd President of DREGS and served until he moved to Wyoming in 1977, and was succeeded by Bob Brooks who was President until 1979.
The DREGS organization took on its present form and functions and became a defacto professional society in the early 1980's under the leadership of Earl Abbott, John King, Jim Babcock, and Dick Glanzman, ably assisted by Joe Kapler, Dick Nielsen, and John Lindemann. Membership and activities increased dramatically and DREGS became an official tax-exempt society. Officers with specific functions were chosen and committees were established to organize and manage the affairs of the society. The scope of activities was expanded to include top-notch technical symposia, field trips, and related publications. These traditions have continued to the present under successive presidencies of John Hill, Tommy Thompson, Graham Closs, Dave Jonson, Chuck Thorman, Dick Horsenail, Jim Cappa, Don Bryant, Ed Post, and Craig Horlacher.
The accompanying chart lists the key players in the history of DREGS since its inception. Since the structure was formalized in 1980-81, the affairs of the society have been administered by an 8 to 10 member executive committee comprised of the following positions: President, past president, first vice president (who is normally the president elect), secretary and treasurer, second vice president (who is normally the program chairperson), members of the program committee, and a field trip-guidebook chairperson. The secretary also serves as editor of the monthly newsletter and of the annual directory. Others who are not listed in the chart but who have helped to administer the society over the years include Ruth Foster, Sue Sawatzky, Sue Bradley and Jane Ohl. Terms are normally for 2 years and run from September through May, with transitions taking place over the summer break.
Beginning in the early 1980's, DREGS has had several successful stand-alone symposia and has collaborated in other meetings with the Society of Economic Geologists (1993) and the Colorado Mining Association (1993-94). These venues were very successful and the following individuals need to be recognized for the programs they organized and the standards they set:
- James Babcock, Dave Giles, John King, John Lindemann, Fred Park and Geoff Snow for the symposium of RockyMountain Ore Deposits, 1982, and related field trips,
- Walter Dean, Dave Giles, John Lindemann, Rolly Ridler, John Hill, Roger McQueen and Peter Price for the Symposium on Organics and Ore Deposits, 1985,
- Dick Nielsen for the Society of Economic Symposium in 1993: Integrated Methods in Exploration and Discovery, and
- Dave Jonson for the Colorado Mining Association Joint Annual Meetings, 1993 and 1994.
In addition, the following members were heavily involved over the years in providing field trips and producing guidebooks: Jim Babcock, Pat Crowley, Walter Dean, Bill Gee, Bruce Geller, Bob Handfield, Robert Kamilli, John King, John Lindemann, Art Panzee, Don Ranta, Linda Slater, and especially Tommy Thompson and Jim Paschis.
In the early years, DREGS did not keep records of the speakers or their topics. However, starting in 1983, the meeting announcements included abstracts of the talks and we have records of all talks given. A formal newsletter was established by Bruce Geller in 1993, and mailed out in advance of the meetings. Doug Piper and Jim Piper established the DREGS Web site in 1997, and with Craig Horlacher brought the society into the 21st century with the e-mail Newsletter in 2001. All of the abstracts of talks beginning in 1997 can be found at dregs.org.
Jim Piper has since done yeoman duty as secretary and as editor of the much expanded newsletter, which is sent out either electronically or by regular mail, according to recipients' preference.
Other unsung heros who have worked behind the scenes over the years to secure funding, arrange meeting places, and make sure everything was in place for the meetings to go smoothly include Raymond Chico, Ed Post and Bob Kinkel. Doug Piper also has been of enormous help in setting up and printing the monthly newsletters and the annual directories.
Since 1970, DREGS has held meetings from September through May on the first Monday of the month. In the early years, the meetings were held at the Denver Athletic Club at 4:00 p.m. In time, to better accommodate persons working away from the downtown area, meetings were shifted to the early evening at various locales in the metro area, including alternating meetings between Ramada Inn West and the Sheraton Hotel at the Tech Center, then at Wyatt's Cafeteria in Villa Italia, then at the Sheraton West, and now at the Consolidated Mutual Water Company building in Lakewood. Meeting format consisting of a social period, speaker presentation, and a discussion period, has changed little since the first meetings. Then, as now, talks are generally given by local members augmented by visitors from outside the area, and by speakers from various government agencies and academia. The talks are generally practically oriented and stress descriptions of new or exotic mineral districts and/or deposits and their potential and/or economics. Also, since 1991, there has usually been one distinguished lecture per year by a recognized authority regarding cutting edge concepts and/or technology. From inception to the present day, the quality of presentations has been excellent, with earnest, and at times, lively discussion periods.
The price of DREGS membership has always been one of the best values in the country. Annual dues started at $5.00/year in 1970, and have increased to only $20.00/year today. The reasons for this are that the speakers and executive committee are all unpaid volunteers who have been able to maintain administrative, overhead and meeting costs at a minimum. Also, revenues from conventions, symposia and publications have helped considerably to keep a positive balance in the treasury. Recently surplus funds have been dedicated to a $500/year scholarship for thesis projects in Colorado or as donations to the non-profit Minerals Information Institute which educates teachers and students about the value of minerals in their lives. Also, honorariums have from time to time been provided to help defray the costs of some outside distinguished lecturers. However, the vast majority of speakers or their companies have themselves absorbed all their costs.
Over the years, DREGS has grown and matured. Meetings have become somewhat more formal and field trips, symposia, and related publications have added to the information stream and have permitted more and varied interactions amongst the membership. Obviously, DREGS has been and continues to be a very successful organization that has fulfilled a real need in the Denver mineral exploration community. The success is largely due to the small group of officers and committee persons comprising the executive committee who each year since 1970, have served the society with dedication and hard work. (See the attached table.)
Finally, I should also like to acknowledge all the speakers who over the years have humored, educated and stimulated the membership. On behalf of the membership, I salute and thank you all.