A Career in Mining: Stanley Dempsey on Law, Leadership, Finance, and Community Engagement

Read the full transcript of Stan Dempsey’s oral history.

Stanley Dempsey is a geologist, lawyer, executive, and entrepreneur whose interest in the environment and outdoor pastimes led him to spearhead collaborations between the mining industry and activists, which anticipated the environmental legislation of the 1970s. Dempsey was at the forefront of developing the mining industry?s legal and policy responses to environmental regulation during this early period, and became Director of Environmental Affairs for AMAX, Inc., the first position of its kind in the industry. He was responsible for acquiring land positions and for construction contracts for the Climax and Henderson mines in Colorado. He directed the AMAX part of a multinational joint venture in iron-ore mining in Western Australia. In the early 1980s, he served as Vice President for the worldwide operations of AMAX. After a brief stint at a law firm, Dempsey co-founded a merchant bank called the Denver Mining Finance Company. In later years, he founded one of the first and most successful mineral royalty firms, Royal Gold, Inc. Dempsey continues to serve as a consultant, and is a longtime supporter and leader in many mining associations, including the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America and the National Mining Hall of Fame.

Global Mining and Materials Research Project

For over twenty years, the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) produced in-depth oral histories of members of the mining community, under a project called “Western Mining in the Twentieth Century,” which was overseen by ROHO interviewer Eleanor Swent. The 104 interviews in the project covered the history of mining in the American Southwest, Mexico, South America, and Australia from the 1940s until the 1990s.

ROHO has recently changed its name to the Oral History Center of the Bancroft Library, and with that change we proudly announce a new project entitled “Global Mining and Materials Research,” which will focus on key transitions in technology, policy, and geopolitics that have brought mining to its current state worldwide.

Much has changed in mining industries in the years since the Western Mining project was in full production, including the increased globalization of mining operations, the decreasing concentration of mineable minerals in ore, increasingly complicated regulatory environments, new systems of environmental remediation, new technology for exploration, extraction, and processing, and new stories of political conflict and resolution. In addition to collecting interviews about mining engineering, metallurgy, and administration, we also hope to explore the history of information technology and data analysis with respect to mining, as well as the legal, regulatory, and policy history of the industries.

This interview was funded with support from the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Metallurgists, and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration (SME), the Association for Iron & Steel Technology (AIST), the Minerals, Metals, & Materials Society (TMS), and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE). We are also collaborating with the IEEE to host these oral histories on the Engineering and Technology History Website.

Thanks also to former Western Mining Project Lead Eleanor Swent, Dr. Douglas Fuerstenau, and Noel Kirschenbaum for their advice and support while the Global Mining Project was being established. Finally, we are most grateful to Stanley Dempsey for taking time out of a busy schedule to speak to us about the evolution of the mining industry over the past forty years.

Paul Burnett, Oral History Center