How A Boyhood Dream Became His Career
Bill Stavast has devoted his life to geology. As a young boy, he used to look for fossils in the field across the street from his childhood home. Fast forward a few years, and Stavast is now the chief geologist at the Freeport-McMoRan copper mine in Morenci, Arizona.
Freeport-McMoRan is the second-largest producer of copper in the world. Although Freeport-McMoRan is an international company with operations in Chile, Spain, and Indonesia, Stavast's operation in Arizona has earned praise for its reputation of environmental responsibility. Copper mining is normally marked by its adverse effect on the environment; however, Freeport-McMoRan has made a concerted effort to conserve wildlife and protect the surrounding ecosystems.
As chief geologist, Stavast oversees the entire geology department in verifying reserves, analyzing geological data, and overseeing logistics. He also directs several teams of geologists, including geology mappers, ore control geologists, targeting engineers, core drilling and logging geologists, modeling geologists, and mine planning engineers.
The company's environmental efforts—specifically at the site where Stavast is in charge—have earned them three awards last year. They received the Arizona Mining Association SPADE Award for Bat Conservation, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Voluntary Environmental Stewardship Award, and the Wildlife Habitat Council Mammals Award.
Stavast's biggest challenge is managing the natural turnover of staff within the company. He explained that as the older generations retires, there is a large influx of inexperienced geologists entering the field. "Traning the new generation of geologists is a monumental task," Stavast said.
Stavast feels that his education at BYU's geological sciences department prepared him to enter the field. "I learned how to describe rocks and minerals and observe the earth around me," he said. At a time when undergraduate research was less common, Stavast participated in mineralogy research with professor Dana Griffin on the x-ray diffraction of clay minerals. He also cultivated the mapping, research, and presentation skills critical for his PhD and career later in life.
Stavast earned his master's degree at BYU as well. As a graduate student, he focused his research on the generation of copper deposits. He then completed his PhD at the University of Arizona, where he studies porphyry copper deposits and their formation. He now builds upon his PhD research at Freeport-McMoRan.
Throughout his life, Stavast has continuously built on the foundation of knowledge that he began cultivation at a young age. "I still have books about geology that I use today from when I was 5 years old," Stavast said. Years of research, dedication, and study have led Stavast to a fulfilling career at one of the most important companies in his field. Although his profession is challenging, he finds enjoyment in mentoring other geologists. "I enjoy seeing them improve in their geological skills," Stavast said.