This rock star enjoys hard rock and heavy metal—literally and figuratively

Randy Miller has been searching for rare earth elements since Grade 13

by Kyle Born

The life of a chief geologist has many twists and turns: navigating mountainous landscapes looking for rare minerals, completing 10 years of university and—surprisingly—staying employed. “The biggest challenge for a geologist in the past 40 years has been to find good jobs,” said Randy Miller, chief geologist and vice-president of exploration for Search Minerals. “I didn’t aim to be a VP of exploration for any company; it was pushed onto me when I only wanted to be a field geologist working on neat rocks.”

If geology is unstable, why invest so much time and energy into it? “You have to love what you do or it’s very difficult to advance,” said Miller. “I got into geology because I wanted to learn more about rocks; to find out how rocks and mineral deposits were formed. Now I want to find those elusive mineral deposits that are hiding from me.”

Hard rock

Miller’s fascination with rocks began in an Ontario high school. He knew what he wanted to do with his life before he even completed Grade 13—back when there was a 13th grade. Hard rocks and heavy metals were interests of his beyond the geological sense. “I like to listen to heavy metal, blues and blues-rock music,” he said. If anyone has ever fit the mould of a hard rocker, it’s Miller.

Wearing two hats as the chief geologist and vice-president of Search Minerals means Miller splits his time between the field and the office. “In the field, I normally walk 10 to 15 kilometres—with a pack on my back—collecting rock samples, writing field notes, fighting the Labrador black flies and mapping the geology I’m walking over,” he said. “In the office, I mostly stare at my computer screen making geology maps/figures, compiling and interpreting data, writing reports and—oh yeah—all that admin stuff.”

The most exciting and rewarding aspect of Miller’s work is when he finds something new. “I enjoy the thrill of discovery,” he said. “It could be finding a pattern in assay data on my computer or discovering a new Rare Earth Element (REE) mineralized outcrop in the field.”

The pursuit of deposits

Since 2009, Miller has been employed by Search Minerals. Search is a small exploration company focused on the search for REE mines in Labrador. The company has found and defined one REE resource at their Foxtrot location in coastal southeastern Labrador, with two other very good REE prospects near by.

Search Minerals’ current projects include the flagship Foxtrot REE deposit, the drill-ready Deepwater Prospect and the new, less explored Fox Meadow Prospect. A metallurgical pilot plant for Foxtrot is currently ongoing and should be completed in the near future. This summer, the company will begin the required environmental studies to advance the Foxtrot project. The company hopes to find and develop a number of Foxtrot-like REE resources in the Port Hope Simpson REE District to feed the same processing plant for an extended life and at a low cost.

Miller has built up a reputation as the best REE geologist in Labrador, which is why he was sought out by Search Minerals. Search’s faith in Miller has been rewarded. Over the years he integrated an exploration and genetic model of REE ore formation for the Foxtrot deposit and similar mineralization in the Port Hope Simpson REE District. Several years of mapping, prospecting and integrating of data from tens of thousands of analyses and over 70 drill holes have been compiled. This model has led Search to several other discoveries and its recent success.

With so many projects on the go for Search Minerals, there won’t be much downtime for Miller in the coming months. This chief geologist will “rock” out while continuing the “search” for those elusive mineral deposits. 

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