Dr. Allen Van Heyl, Jr., was a consummate economic
geologist, who served with the U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS) for nearly 50 years beginning in 1943.
He studied more of the nationís mineral deposits than
most could begin to imagine. He developed a deep and
detailed knowledge of the nationís geology and mineral
wealth and left a body of written work that will serve
science for decades to come Ė a remarkable legacy of
227 books and papers that he authored or co-authored.
Heyl majored in geology as an undergraduate at Pennsylvania State University and earned his doctorate in geology from Princeton University in 1943. Vision problems made him ineligible for military service in World World II, so he accepted a position with the USGS, where he could serve in the nationís vital minerals exploration program. His first assignment (along with colleague Allen Agnew), involved the resuscitation of the moribund Upper Mississippi Valley lead-zinc district of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. The team located the 4.5 Mt (5 million st) Bautsch deposit near Galena, IL and other resources resulting in the recovery of mineral wealth valued at more than $1 billion between 1943 and 1978. This work also resulted in 24 major reports on Upper Mississippi-type deposits authored or coauthored by Heyl and included additional exploration in southeast Missouri; the tri-state district of southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and southeast Kansas; Arkansas; central Tennessee and the Illinois-Kentucky fluorspar district.
The 1950s brought Heyl new assignments coinciding with a surge in national interest in nuclear power. Field work in 1954 took him to the Bitter Creek carnotite deposits of Montrose County, CO and, in 1956, he examined the radioactive rare earth minerals of the Scrub Oaks Mine in New Jersey and uraninite occurrences near Peekskill, NY.
Also, beginning in 1954, Heylís expertise in the geology of lead and zinc deposits took him to Leadville, CO, where he investigated and interpreted the oxidized zones of former sulfide-enriched orebodies. In the 1960s, he published a series of reports that helped extend the life of the Leadville district into the new millennium, when Asarco closed the Black Cloud Mine.
During the same period, Heyl undertook the first significant geological study of chromite and other mineralization of the serpentine belt of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Simultaneously, he co-authored a report, published by the Maryland Geological Survey in 1965, on the copper, zinc, lead, iron, cobalt and barite deposits of that state.
Other assignments took him to mining camps in Hansonburg and Socorro, New Mexico, the Taylor District and Great Basin regions of Nevada, Utahís Tintic District, the Eagle District of Colorado, Californiaís Mojave District, the Viburnum Trend in Missouri and many more.
Heylís career was both vocation and avocation. His job was never just another day at the office, and it can be truly said that his suitcase was rarely unpacked.
From Mining Engineering (July 2010, p. 40). Text and graphic courtesy of Mining Engineering.
The National Mining Hall of Fame
The 23rd Annual National Mining Hall of Fame Induction Banquet
Allen Van Heyl, Jr.