PAUL M. TAUFEN (1952-2006)


Paul M. Taufen enjoyed a 30-year career in geochemistry and mineral exploration with both major and junior mining companies. His work took him to most locations in the Americas, Australasia and Africa. He was recognized by his peers as one of the best in the practice of exploration geochemistry and was involved in numerous innovations in exploration methods involving gas, water and soil media. His technical capabilities were only exceeded by his passion for team work, mentoring and establishing a positive spirit in all things involving work and play.

Paul’s accomplishments are impressive. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Georgetown University, and both a Masters degree in Geochemistry and a Doctorate degree in Aqueous Geochemistry from the Colorado School of Mines. He was Manager of Geochemistry for Texasgulf Sulphur, served as Chief Geochemist for BP Minerals based in Brazil, and Chief Geochemist – Global Exploration for WMC based in Australia and later in Denver. In 2003 he started a successful consulting business, providing comprehensive and innovative geochemical services to several mining and exploration companies. In 2005 he was appointed Director of Exploration for Magnus Resources International and most recently became a Director of Australian Mineral Fields. Paul was also involved with several professional societies and served as President of the Association of Exploration Geochemists in 2000, and was a Fellow of the Society of Economic Geologists and the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

While finishing his degree in Chemistry, he took a geology class to fill out his course work and this opened his eyes to a whole new world. Paul quickly saw that geology offered an avenue for him to apply what he had learned in chemistry, and soon he ventured west to pursue his new dream, enrolling in the geochemistry department at the Colorado School of Mines. Clark Smith remembers sharing an office with Paul at CSM and referred to him as the “young whipper-snapper” because he was 4 years younger and full of enthusiasm. It was during this time that Paul’s greatest achievement was realized, meeting and then marrying his wife Glenda. Glenda was his life-long companion and best friend, and together they raised their three beautiful children, Art, Amber and Justin.

Much of Paul’s work ethic, technical approach and attitude was developed at an early stage in his work at Texasgulf Sulphur. He joined Texasgulf at its Golden, Colorado headquarters in 1977 and worked within a small team of geologists, geochemists and geophysicists exploring for porphyry copper, volcanogenic massive sulphide, tin, uranium, biogenic sulfur deposits and epithermal silver and gold deposits under the leadership of Leo Miller and John Ruckmick. During this time, he developed a unique use of carbon isotopes in the exploration for biogenic sulphur deposits in West Texas. Exploration programs took him to Alaska, eastern Canada and Australia. There are many stories from his coworkers in this period involving bushcamp experiences in Alaska, helicopter reconnaissance in the Hells Canyon region of Idaho and Oregon, and surreptitious night-time trespasses over known biogenic sulphur deposits in West Texas to test new methods. The staff of Miners exploration supply in Riggins, Idaho for sometime spoke of the guy that landed in their parking lot in a helicopter to pick up a fresh supply of sample bags.

In 1983, Paul left Texasgulf and joined BP Minerals in Rio de Janeiro. Over the following four years Paul established the first major exploration analytical laboratory in Brazil and developed many innovations in laboratory quality assurance and quality controls. He coordinated geochemical surveys for over 70 projects in a search for base metals, gold and diamonds in the country and participated in three discoveries. While in Brazil he chaired the first international conference on exploration geochemistry in Brazil.

Paul joined WMC in 1987 and became the Chief Geochemist for the Exploration Division in 1997 with global responsibility. His strong leadership during this time led to one of the largest geochemistry groups ever seen in the industry. Such a large group allowed geochemists to be an integral part of the exploration team on each project. This would not have happened if not for Paul’s persistent demonstration to management that geochemistry added value. A highlight during this time was the annual geochemistry meeting Paul organized that allowed each geochemist to present their work and provided an opportunity to review research results. It was also an opportunity for the geochemists to socialize and many great friendships exist today as a result of these interactions.

Paul’s enthusiasm that Clark Smith witnessed early on was part of his personality and is one attribute that sets Paul apart from many other great geochemists. As David Seneshen noted, “Paul was happiest with his sleeves rolled up and a shovel in his hand.” Paul loved field work as this was a way for him to pursue his natural curiosity and to share his knowledge and learn from his colleagues. Michelle Carey remembers Paul coming to Kambalda to conduct an orientation survey at Lake Lefroy. Paul was completely un-phased by the thick layer of dense salt that lay on top of the gooey organic muck that they wished to sample. Paul dug pit after pit as Michelle watched and wondered how anyone could be so enthusiastic about collecting samples. His enthusiasm must have worn off because she later returned to graduate school to obtain her PhD in Aqueous Geochemistry with Paul’s support and mentoring.

Paul was very serious about his work but he also had a keen sense for what was important in life and his family was always first. He had a humorous side that made him fun to work with and it was never too hard to convince him to play 9 holes of golf before or after work, which offered more opportunity to talk about the latest innovation in geochemistry or other interesting subjects that he always seemed to be thinking of. Paul will be remembered most for his positive and supporting spirit, his loyalty, his enthusiasm for mentoring, and his strong sense of family.

Dave Kelley
Larry Smith
Dave Seneshen
Michelle Carey
Shea Clark Smith