December 2019

Book review: Metals are where you find them: Geologist’s travels through six continents

  • By Neil Phillips FAusIMM

Professor Peter Laznicka is the creator of Data Metallogenica, an unrivalled mineral collection from ore deposits worldwide. I have appreciated using this collection in my research and teaching, and we should regard it as a national treasure.

This is a fascinating book covering Laznicka’s lifetime from humble beginnings in (what was then) Czechoslovakia to a career in mid-western Canada and then a new career in Australia. It is a serious economic geology book and yet written in a non-technical way, with many anecdotes and life stories from Nazi-occupied Europe to Communism to the world today with its opportunities and challenges.

Over the course of his career, Laznicka has been able to record and collect ore samples and information from deposits from all continents. Some of these deposits are familiar, many hardly known, and they are described in his book systematically to include history and cultural setting, mining and geology description.

The global coverage produced by Laznicka broadens our rather focused snapshot of economic geology in 2019. Today we might focus on Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Chile and basically much of the southern hemisphere. Laznicka reminds us of the enormous mineral wealth that has come out of USA and Europe; also, that much of Asia’s substantial production is used domestically and we tend to overlook this. All these areas have contributed to our geoscientific heritage today through our ways of mining, ways of looking at ore genesis and a veritable stream of terms. Each of his deposit examples holds information that we need to incorporate into our descriptive and genetic models for ore deposits.

This book is arranged by continents primarily, and then by geographic districts; this forces many different ore types of a single district to be seen together in some meaningful and interesting contexts. The book could also be useful as a first reference if travelling to a new country and reading up on the mineral deposits one might expect; this is aided by the wonderful collection of photos of scenery, mines and ores.

The author leaves two themes in my mind. The best geologist is the one who has seen the most rocks; and extended field work, as opposed to day field trips, is an integral component of undergraduate and career learning. Laznicka reminds us that ores are still rocks (albeit special ones) and are amenable to petrological methods. Finally, we should not forget the ‘economic’ in economic geology.

This is a personal memoir or a travelogue of the author’s impressions. As the introduction says ‘Peter Laznicka, born in Prague, lectured at the University of Manitoba and around the world, consulted for the resources industry, then co-founded, in Australia, the Data Metallogenica expert system about world’s mineral deposits, supported by miniaturised rock and ore samples.’ I admire someone who can write a book like this on a lifetime of study and travel; even more impressive is when the author can do so in more than one language. Naturally, there are some grammatic idiosyncrasies, but this did not take away from my enjoyment of reading.

The book is available to download via

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