BAM Biographies:   John Sulzbach


John's youthful interest in rocks and mountains motivated him to flee the flatlands of his suburban Chicago home for an engineering education at the Colorado School of Mines. After graduation, he worked at an underground uranium mine in Ontario, Canada, before being drafted. Fortunately, he was then assigned to surveyor and shift boss duties on ice and permafrost tunnel research projects for the Corps of Engineers in northern Greenland---unique and valuable experience.

Upon discharge in 1959, he packed all his belongings in his beloved '52 MG-TD and moved to Oakland, California, to begin a 31-year career with Kaiser Engineers---about half of it resident overseas, managing large international engineering and construction projects. His first overseas job, as project engineer on the diversion tunnel for a large hydro dam in western Greece, also sparked a life-long interest in archaeology and history. Then came a stint of managing an exploration-drilling program for an iron mine in the arid outback of northwest Australia. This was followed by another phase of the Greek hydro job, then back to Western Australia to build an iron ore load-out terminal on the isolated northwest coast at Dampier.

In 1975, he was assigned to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as the managing director of Binladen-Kaiser, a partnership with the largest (then and now) contractor in the Middle East, and the eldest brother of the infamous Osama. Subsequently, he managed an ore-reserve exploration program and feasibility study for a ferromanganese smelter in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Starting in 1981, he led Kaiser's efforts to design/build an aluminum smelter in Libya, until the tense political situation finally stalled the project. Later, he moved to Brisbane, Australia, to manage a visionary concept to build and operate a launch facility for commercial telecommunication satellites from the near-equatorial tip of Cape York, using Russian rockets.

John left Kaiser as a vice president in 1992, and consulted for various international clients, starting with a proposal for clean-up of the Gulf War "oil lakes" in Kuwait; followed by a four-year effort to help a Romanian oilfield equipment manufacturer modernize, and find an American partner. Other assignments included a privatization study of ten state-owned industries in Armenia---a satellite communications project in Kazakhstan---a telecom retrofit program in Ireland---and some more spaceport-related work in Australia.

As the consulting opportunities thinned out, he "mostly retired" and got back into minerals, focused almost entirely on field-collecting. His explorations have mostly taken place in California and Nevada, but he also has made eight trips to Brazil where he was able to live and field-collect at small pegmatite mines near Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais. The collecting bug led him to BAM in 1998. He and his wife Ann Marie, a retired elementary school teacher, indulge their shared interests in educational travel, archaeology, and volunteer work. They have no children, but do share their home with a mellow Siamese cat who is sure it is hers. John enjoys daily swim workouts, and competes nationally in Masters Swimming events.

Most recently (fall of 2012) he answered the siren's call for a "last hurrah" of project management---returning to Saudi Arabia to consult for an Egyptian engineering company that was managing the design and construction of several industrial-scale poultry projects. It was challenging and invigorating---and confirmed that old mining engineers could indeed learn new tricks.

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