Since 2005 Robert Eveleth has made his home in Socorro. A well respected miner throughout the Southwestern region and father of three, Eveleth is retired and will be the Grand Marshal of the New Mexico Tech 49ers parade.
Question: Were you born and raised in Socorro?
Answer: I’m originally from back east, specifically the Boston, Massachusetts area. My father worked for General Electric in the jet engines division and was transferred to Ohio. A I moved here in 1963 to attend New Mexico Tech University. I graduated with a degree in mining engineering and continued in that field.
Q: Did you always work in Socorro?
A: No, but I never left the southwest region. I worked in Leadville, Colorado for a year then came back to finish up my degree before working in the extraction metals industry for about 10 years. My first job was with a little mining company in Silverton, Colorado called Dixie Lynn. It was all underground working stuff.
Q: How did you get back to New Mexico?
A: I went to Silver City, New Mexico where I became the chief mining engineer for U.S. Smelting and Refining Company. That was an above and underground company. I spent six or seven years there as senior staff with around a dozen staff members working under me.
Q: Is that when you came back to Socorro?
A: No. I worked for the Geological Survey Society in Albuquerque. I decided then that government work simply wasn’t for me - too much desk work. One of my college professors, Dr. George Grissell, stopped into my office for a visit and mentioned that the School of Mines was looking for a new mining engineer. It was almost too late because the meeting was on a Monday and the deadline for applicants was Friday. So I slammed everything together, told my bosses at work I was sick, took a few days down here and out of the field of 30 to 40 applicants they chose me. I’ve always felt very grateful for that.
Q: How was it that you were selected?
A: It was through what in the professional world is called a search committee. They sent out a list of candidates before cooking that down to their top list of three. After a series of interviews and lectures they seemed to have liked what I did so I got the position. I’ve had an opportunity to do research that I would not have experienced previously as well as complete an extensive publication catalogue. When you’re associated with a professional organization like that (Tech) you have the opportunity travel all around and meet a vast amount of different people.
Q: Where did your job at Tech take you?
A: All over the United States and all over New Mexico. Didn’t quite get up into Canada but close. At one time I participated in a symposium for the United Nations on small mining techniques in Mexico City.
Q: What was the best place you’ve gotten to visit?
A: It would have to be the major mining districts throughout the southwest. There are so many different techniques to learn about in the region and you meet people with special skills and abilities, especially when it comes to different types of equipment.
Q: How was your experience when you were actually in the mines?
A: Being underground is difficult to describe. You better have a good light because it’s darker than the inside of a cow. If you’ve never been in pitch blackness it’s certainly an experience. The humidity is high. It’s muddy. But you never go underground by yourself. It’s a very different way of doing things that one has to get used to. The claustrophobic element certainly has a way of separating people out very quickly.
Q: What would you tell somebody looking to get into the mining industry?
A: First of all, I would say if they’re looking for a soft office job this is not the one. You will be in an environment that is uncomfortable on many occasions. You be working in elevations that are tough on the lungs. You’re going to get dirty and muddy. So if that’s not for you then don’t get into it.
Q: What is your favorite type of music?
A: Picking one is hard. I would say western swing music come to mind, such as Bob Mills on up to the modern stuff. Merle Travis is also great, one of the better mining worker artists.
Q: Is there one moment in your life that changed who you are now?
A: When I met my wife Susan. As I was going to school here I tended bar at the Capitol. One day my boss called me down to the bar and said there was somebody you need to meet. Through a series of events that included one of my professor’s daughter , we met. She’s somehow put up with my henry-ness for all of this time.
Q: If there was something that you could change about Socorro, what would it be?
A: I would bring rail passenger service back to Socorro. I would also do everything I could to bring back the Magdalena branch of that railroad. It was a tremendous tourist sight and a huge lost for our area. I always thought that it deserved another old college try. It’s a shame we don’t have it anymore.
Retired for several years, Eveleth tries to stay active, including his involvement with the Hammel Museum. Anyone interested in mining is more than welcome to stop Robert and hear one of his hundreds of stories.