THE HISTORY OF DREGS
The Denver Region Exploration Geologists’ Society (DREGS) is one of the most active, albeit unpretentious professional societies in North America. DREGS is a social group of explorers, principally Economic Geologists and engineers interested in the application of the scientific principles of geology, geophysics, and geochemistry to the art and business of exploration focused on the discovery of “economically viable hard mineral deposits” (ore bodies). As a society, DREGS’ principal objective is the exchange of current scientific thought and technology as it applies to the understanding of, and the exploration for, ore deposits, recognizing that our conceptual models may be years ahead of scientific verification. Our members operate in various geopolitical and economic milieus worldwide, with the ultimate objective being to find the metals and industrial minerals necessary to keep civilization moving forward. Membership is open to all persons interested in the mining business or in mineral exploration or supporting technologies.
Colorado was built on mining, and from its start, the Denver area attracted governmental, business, and technical infrastructure appropriate to administer, serve and support the mining industry. By the early 1970s, 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 52 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 or veterans of international exploration or mining endeavors.
Initially, major mining and energy companies employed most DREGS members. Now we have a very complementary 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 American Institute of Professional Geologists, all of whose national headquarters are 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, a few of whom are still in the area and are still DREGS members. By 1973, there were over one hundred members listed. Membership reached a peak of around five hundred in the early 1980s, prior to the mid-1980’s resources recession, which saw major downsizing and restructuring in the global mineral industry. Since then, our annual membership has varied between two hundred and three hundred persons.
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 sociable person who noted that there was no local forum for exploration geologists to meet, get to know one another better, and discuss geology and minerals exploration in general. Jim proposed that we form a group patterned after the Toronto exploration geologists “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 40s, and the name, particularly the irreverent acronym (DREGS) was deliberately chosen to reflect the informal nature of the organization.
For the first two years, Jim 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 had a career move, and John Squyres was elected President and served ably until 1976 when he was transferred out of state. Tom Melrose then became the 3rd President of DREGS and served until he moved to Wyoming in 1977. Tom was succeeded by Bob Brooks, who remained President until 1979.
The DREGS organization took on its present form and functions and became a de facto professional society in the early 1980s 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 administrations, as shown in the accompanying Excel chart, which 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 eight-to-ten-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. Terms are normally for two years and run from September through May, with transitions taking place over the summer break (June - August).
Beginning in the early 1980s, DREGS had several successful stand-alone symposia and has collaborated in meetings with the Society of Economic Geologists (1993); the Colorado Mining Association (1993-94); the Colorado School of Mines, and the Colorado Gem and Mineral Society (2015-2018). These venues were successful professionally and financially, and the following individuals are 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 Rocky Mountain 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 Geologists Symposium in 1993: Integrated Methods in Exploration and Discovery,
Dave Jonson for the Colorado Mining Association Joint Annual Meetings, 1993 and 1994,
Bill Boberg, Don Baker, Jim Paschis, and John Dreier for the 2009 Conference on Western USA Uranium Deposits,
Steve Zahony, Bruce Geller, and Lew Kleinhans for joint meetings and field trips with the Colorado Gem and Mineral Society, 2015-2018.
Numerous DREGS organizers and field trip leaders for the 2017 Colorado Gold and Silver Symposium and Field Trip with proceeding and guidebooks, and conducted with the CSM Geology Museum and the Friends of the CSM Geology Museum,
Numerous DREGS contributors for the 2018 Hydrothermal Workshop, Rock Display and Panel Discussion with CSM,
Lew Kleinhans, Jim Piper, and others for the 2019 “Hazen Carnegie / RPI Big Data and Minerals Exploration” event, including Big Data Panel Discussion with CSM and the Friends of the CSM Geology Museum.
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, Jim Paschis, and Steve Zahony.
In the early years, DREGS did not keep records of the speakers or their topics. However, starting in 1983, each hardcopy meeting announcement included an abstract and, in most cases, maps of the pending talk, and we now have electronic 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 together with Craig Horlacher, brought the society into the 21st century with the e-mail Newsletter in 2001. Abstracts of all talks beginning in 1997 can be found at dregs.org., and older abstracts are available on discs that can be purchased from the secretary, Jim Piper. Jim has 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 heroes 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. Ed Post was responsible for organizing the electronic preservation of the abstracts of historic talks. Doug Piper also was of enormous help in setting up and printing the monthly newsletters and the annual directories. DREGS has recently awarded medals or plaques to the following persons for exceptional contributions to our society:
Richard Nielsen, 2017,
James Piper, 2021, and
Lew Kleinhans, 2021.
Not to be forgotten is the fun side. Chuck Thorman organized the famous Brazil Night and other theme meetings, and he and Craig Horlacher began the well-received tradition of an annual DREGS Christmas party in 2002, for which Craig has served as organizer and master chef for the past twenty years. At the instigation of Lew Kleinhans, in recognition of the original “Giants of Geology” and the spirit of the original Oyster Club of late 1700’s Edinburgh, Scotland, fresh oysters, and beer have facilitated the spirited collaboration of our meetings since about 2015, up until COVID entered the picture. Last summer saw the initiation of “BYOR” (“Bring Your Own Rock”) events at the Golden City Brewery. Also, to continue to encourage interaction with the CSM SEG Student Chapter, bi-annual meetings were conducted at the Ace-Hi Tavern, where new student officers were introduced and brainstorming of upcoming year activities conducted.
Since 1970, DREGS 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 the Consolidated Mutual Water Company building in Lakewood. For the past 15 years, the monthly DREGS meetings have been held at an auditorium in the Geology building (Berthoud Hall) on the Campus of the Colorado School of Mines. This has been a very synergistic situation for DREGS and the University. On the one hand, students (Economic Geology students in particular) are exposed to older mentors, and the students who graduated are now coming back as full DREGS members and are increasingly becoming involved in DREGS leadership. Also, funds DREGS once spent on meetings space are now essentially returned to the student body to support national and international field trips.
The meeting format consisting of a social period, speaker presentation, and a discussion period, has changed little since the first meetings. Then, as of now, talks are generally given by local members augmented by visitors from outside the area and by speakers from various government agencies and academia. Also, since 1991, there has usually been one distinguished lecture per year by a recognized authority regarding cutting-edge concepts and/or technology. The talks are generally practically oriented and stress empirical descriptions and genetic concepts encompassing new or exotic mineral districts and/or deposits, and their economic potential, recognizing that “our paramount objective is to discover ore deposits by employing the best available science and technology in a timely and cost-effective manner.” From inception to the present day, the quality of presentations has been excellent, with earnest and, at times, lively discussion periods. Meeting attendees are always encouraged to bring with them rock samples related to the topic of discussion and/or any specimens of interest or of problematic interpretation.
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 $30.00/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, field trips, and publications have helped considerably to keep a positive balance in the treasury. At times surplus funds have also been dedicated to a 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. Honorariums have also, from time to time, been provided to help defray the costs of some outside distinguished lecturers. However, most speakers or their companies have absorbed all their own travel costs.
Over the years, DREGS has grown and matured. Meetings have become 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 highly 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.
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.
Allan P. Juhas
Honorary DREGS Member
President, Summer 2002 – Summer 2004