Edgar A. Scholz was one of the pioneers in applying large-scale open pit mining methods to low-grade copper, molybdenum and gold deposits. His knowledge of mineral deposit geology, mining technology and mineral economics combined with his business acumen and entrepreneurial instincts gave him a rare ability to recognize the potential of low-grade deposits, to negotiate their acquisition and to oversee their evaluation. As a result, his expertise and enthusiasm contributed greatly to the success of Placer Development Limited (now Placer Dome) in low-cost bulk mining worldwide.
Scholz was a man of strong and independent convictions, one of the strongest of which was his unwavering belief, even in the 1950s, that the price of gold would eventually rise dramatically. His indoctrination of exploration staff and company management in this belief, combined with the company’s low-cost mining skills, prepared Placer, when the gold price did rise, to be a pioneer in the open pit mining of large, very low-grade gold deposits, and ultimately to become primarily a gold company.
Born in Sand Coulee, Montana, Scholz began his working life as a miner in Butte. He earned a B.Sc. in geological engineering from the Montana School of Mines in 1941. From 1942-1945, he worked with the United States Geological Survey in its Western Mineral Deposits Branch. Over the next 10 years he managing several successful small mines producing gold, copper, zinc and tungsten in Montana and Arizona. In 1956 he joined Placer Development’s subsidiary in San Francisco, American Exploration and Mining Co., as Senior Exploration Geologist, later becoming Vice President and Director. In 1961 Scholz transferred to Placer’s head office in Vancouver as Manager of Exploration, becoming Vice President Exploration in 1965.
In 1956, Scholz examined the Marcopper porphyry copper prospect in the Philippines, and recommended further exploration. Later he proposed that Placer participate in the Craigmont property near Merrit, B.C.
In 1962 he inspected the Endako, B.C., molybdenum property and negotiated an option to acquire it. It was brought into production in 1965 as a 10,000 tons per day open pit. The ore grade was so low that many were skeptical of its viability, but the mine was an outstanding technical and economic success.
The Gibraltar Mines copper deposit near Williams Lake, B.C., was an early acquisition. Then Placer built Marcopper in the Philippines, the McDermott mercury and Cortez gold mines in Nevada, the Golden Sunlight gold mine in Montana, the Kidston gold mine in Australia and Porgera and Misima gold mines in Papua New Guinea. All were large, open pit operations and all were put into production over a period of less than 20 years.
Scholz was a leader and teacher. He insisted that younger exploration staff be involved in all exploration activities, and that they have a remarkably free hand, but be responsible for their decisions and actions. This approach allowed rapid decision-making at critical stages in a project’s development, and was fundamental to Placer’s success.
Scholz retired from Placer in 1976 and established Scholz International Mining, a consulting firm. He was instrumental in the formation of Pegasus Gold Mines whose early success was built on his knowledge of the extremely low-grade gold deposits at Zortman and Landusky in Montana, near his birthplace.
Scholz believed that one should be active in professional and industry associations. He served as President of the British Columbia and Yukon Chamber of Mines in 1973-74, and in 1978 was General Chairman of the CIM’s annual meeting in Vancouver.
His untimely death in 1980 cut short a distinguished career. Ed Scholz was an outstanding creative explorer, a great communicator, and a giant in leadership in the mining industry.