Newfoundland and Labrador lost one of its finest last Sunday.
John Tuach, geologist, consultant, promoter of Newfoundland’s mineral and
mining sector, writer, poet, musician, and gardener, passed away on Sunday,
April 18th, 2021.
Known on this Blog as the “Bard of Pynn’s Brook”, he was to
the mining and exploration industry simply as “Tuach”. His was a sharp mind grafted
onto a wonderful wit which enhanced a view of the world that
belied frankness and honesty.
His notions of independence and self-reliance were iron strong.
He was a “Scot” for god sake – born in Ullapool Scotland. Ancestry is one thing, however, but he was possessed of so many talents he could only have been successful.
University studies in geology brought him to Newfoundland. Like
many geologists, his career began in Baie Verte, the Peninsula then the mining
capital of the Province. Tilt Cove, Advocate, Rambler/Ming Mine, and others located just up the road, near Springdale, notably Little Bay, Whalesback and Gullbridge, which, taken together, offer a sense of a vibrant geological region that has long attracted exploration, industry, and academic
interest, and still does.
He was interested in the earth sciences and was lucky to choose Memorial. He earned a Ph.D in Geochemistry/Earth Science. He would
have been inspired by the “world-class” Professors who expanded the
University’s Geology Department.
The mining business is persistently challenged by the inherent
obscurity of nature’s wealth as much by economics, cyclicality adding to its high
risk. Perhaps because nothing was ever easy, it attracted unique people like
John, hard-working, cynical and irrepressible, too.
Tuach remained in the center of it all, producing academic
articles, operating a consulting business, promoting opportunities and
investing in many parts of the province – western, central and Labrador. You can name most any mining region – Baie Verte, Green Bay, Buchans, Hope Brook, Voisey’s Bay to name a few, you can be certain that he was either directly involved or promoting the next opportunity, helping attract investment from big and small names alike. He was an industry
stalwart, not just savvy but innovative and insightful.
Later in his career, he went back to his “stonemason” ancestral
roots when he started NLFlagstone, the first business of its kind in western
Newfoundland. In retirement, John discovered new passions – skiing, birding,
writing stories and poems and cultivating his gardens in Pynn’s Brook.
Just a short time ago, he sent a group of his friends an email which he properly
titled “Proud Day”. He had commissioned his acclaimed cellist daughter,
Heather, to record “Laude” by Marcus Barcham Stevens, and he was very proud to
share it. To Heather, Ken and Will,
their mother Ruth Ginrich, his grandchild Lukas John Esley, special friend Judy
Wareham and all members of Tuach’s family, we offer our deepest sympathy.
Tuach died peacefully surrounded by his family listening to “Laude for John Tuach”.
|John Tuach (1950-2021)|
Tuach had many friends; five of them – Derek Wilton, Pat Laracy, Cabot
Martin, Phonse Fagan, and Brian Grant – offer their personal
memories of John for this homage:
John Tuach the geologist. When informed of his passing, almost
all of his geological friends and acquaintances remarked “I remember when I
first met John…” and go on to tell some wonderful tale; John was unforgettable.
John completed his MSc at MUN working on rocks from the Rambler Mine that were
particularly difficult to unravel, but he did. That mine is currently in
operation. Leaving MUN, John threw himself into the exciting
Northgate/Westfield exploration program in the Deer Lake Basin. John and crew
used some innovative new exploration technologies, that, while common today,
were cutting edge in the late 1970s. In the typical boom-bust cycles of the
mineral exploration industry, the Deer Lake project went bust and John returned
to MUN to work on his PhD with Dave Strong. His project involved a detailed
examination of the molybdenum (Mo) deposits at Ackley City, near Rencontre
East. John proved that the rocks were also fertile for tin, a wholly new
commodity in NL, and he also proposed innovative ore-forming models. After
graduation, John worked for the Newfoundland (at that time) Department of Mines
and Energy, documenting and explaining other Mo occurrences in NL. His work
laid the groundwork for our knowledge of these two significant Critical Minerals
(Mo and tin) in our province; two minerals that may become economically
significant. John switched his focus to gold and laid the groundwork this time
for our knowledge of fault-hosted (aka orogenic) gold deposits, the current targets
of considerable exploration in the central parts of the island. John then left
government and hung out his shingle as a geological consultant. In the mid
1990’s, John understood the true significance of the Voisey’s Bay discovery and
embarked on a period of corporate ventures that ultimately produced Buchans
River Ltd. With this entity he re-ignited exploration interest in the
world-class Buchans camp that continues to this day. Many geologists in
separate visits, recall John standing sat the edge of the Lucky Strike glory-hole
proclaiming “$1 billion came out of that hole”. When he retired from active
exploration and was building his magnificent property at Pynn’s Brook, John,
harkening back to his mason forbears, decided that he needed some nice, flat,
shale-like stones for walkways and sills. So John drove the woods roads on the
ridges above Pynn’s Brook until he found an outcrop of blue flagstone from
which he not only produced sufficient material for his manor, but he also
started a whole new industry. John was smart, but also tenacious and visionary.
He was also a lot of un.
Pat Laracy, President, Vulcan Minerals:
“My experience with John was that he was proud of being
as independent as life would allow. He was a free and creative soul who enjoyed
a good laugh and honest opinion.”
Myself and John go back to the days when he ran a substantial
geological consulting firm. He carried out a lot of exploration programs and
met a lot of real characters. I always enjoyed his stories and he passed along
a lot of knowledge about the junior mining world when we started Vulcan. In
fact he was one of our early Directors.
Acknowledging the very cyclical nature of the industry, he
would say that a bear market was a good time to reflect and build something,
like a house, which was what he did when he built his retreat at Pynn’s Brook.
In the early days of the mining industry’s lack of success in
drilling gold showings, he always said in a funny way “Newfoundland was the
home of the ‘inverted pyramid ‘, the widest dimension of the showing was at the
surface and disappeared when you drilled underneath!”
He was very cynical of the old fashion Vancouver promotions
that were common years ago even to the point where “he sometimes doubted his
own geological evaluations!”
John was a practical man. When his son, Kenny, obtained his
master stonemason credentials he had to build a substantial stone structure as
part of his final examination. He would have to travel to the US, and as John
would say ” have to leave the stone structure there”. So John offered
to fly the examiners up to Pynn’s Brook so Kenny could build the structure in
his yard, “at least we get to keep it”…. and that’s what he did.
I stopped into visit him last summer after I heard about his
illness. He was strong, proud of his garden and independently resilient to
whatever lay ahead.”
Brian Grant, BG Capital Ltd.:
“John and I worked together on mining exploration for many
years; I particularly remember initiatives around Hope Brook, the Buchan’s River Formation, Voisey’s
Bay and other areas of Labrador, too. We had many good times together. He was a
“He was as solid as the rocks that were so much a part of his
life. He never seemed to get flustered or upset, yet you somehow knew that this
was a man not to be messed with. In later years, if I ran into him here and
there we would generally talk about the markets, on which he wisely advised
“caution”. The last time I saw him was when Pat and I visited him at
his house around 2009. As I recall he made us feel very welcome, served up some
delicious beer and took a good hour out of his time to show us around the
property. An extremely interesting, honest, and talented man. No doubt he will
be sorely missed by his family, friends, and community.”
“John was really good guy and a
consummate geologist who could really spot the rocks in the woods.
He loved birds and nature especially
trees of which his collection at Pynn’s Brook is unparalleled on the Island.
All sheltering those precious gardens and stone structures – his Arcadia.
He also appreciated the whole idea of
Deep Geological Time and wove some of those thoughts into his poetry.
The longer I knew John the more I liked
him; and never stopped learning from him.
At the start of this month I had the
following email from him:
Heather’s latest project was to
commission, and play a ‘Laude’ for me. Written by her friend, an
acclaimed modern composer in London. It was recorded by another friend with
top-notch mobile recording studio!!
There will eventually be two more
pieces – Stone, and Bird
Hope you enjoy!!
So the best way I know to remember John
is to watch and listen to Heather as she plays Laude, for John Tuach – by Marcus
Barcham Stevens – YouTube
John Tuach wrote one last poem which perfectly depicts the man himself and how he would like to be remembered:
When I am dead, and my breath is gone,
Remember me as Stoneman John,
Or if on birds you were bemused,
Remember me – as bird enthused.
Perhaps you knew me with the trees?
Or geology or downhill skis?
Celebrate, as fortune shone,
Have few regrets, that I am gone.
Times well lived came my way,
And content I was in work and play.
“Hush, Hush, Hush”
February 2, 2021
John Tuach (1950-2021)