2024 Presenter Nathalie Brandes

Prof. Nathalie Brandes working in the field, holding a mining rock pick.     Prof. Nathalie Brandes working in the field, wearing a hard hat and holding mining equipment.

“Mining 101” – Mining through the Ages
Prof. Nathalie Brandes

The study and extraction of minerals has a long, colourful history. As early as 3.39 Ma, Australopithecus afarensis were using stone tools. While not a scientific study, these early hominins were making observations about different rocks and minerals to determine which would make the best tools. These observations were continued by early humans during the Stone Age as they refined their stone tool making and used mineral pigments for artwork. During the Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age different methods of extracting ores, including firesetting, were discovered. The high point of the mining industry in the ancient world was with the Romans, who operated both open-cast and underground mines throughout the empire and the various techniques they used remained standard mining practice into the Middle Ages. The use of explosives in the mining industry and the development of steam power in the Industrial Revolution changed the way minerals were extracted, eventually leading to the high-tech mining of today that utilizes robots, remote operated vehicles, and even self-driving mining equipment. The changing (and sometimes unchanging) methods used to extract minerals will be shown using examples from historic and modern mining locations.

Headshot photograph of Prof. Nathalie Brandes

Nathalie Brandes grew up studying geology from a very early age traveling around the world with her geologist father. She earned her BS and MS in geology at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (New Mexico Tech). After working at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, she pursued her doctoral studies at Michigan Technological University. She has taught at Michigan Tech, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, before accepting a position as Professor of Geosciences at Lonestar College- Montgomery, a community college in Texas, where she has been teaching for the past nineteen years. Nathalie’s current research focuses on ancient mining techniques as well as the history and geology of classic mineral localities.

Nathalie is a member of the Management Team for Mindat.org, as well as on the Board of Directors for the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy. She is an active member of the Geological Society of America, the Geological Association of Canada, the British Micromount Society, the Mining History Association, The Russell Society, and the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration.

Her hobbies include travel, reading, and writing; her latest book, New Mexico Rocks, A Guide to Geologic Sites in The Land of Enchantment, was published in October 2021 and her upcoming book Texas Rocks, A Guide to Geologic Sites in The Lone Star State will be published in 2025.