Edwin Noel (Penne) Pennebaker built a world-wide reputation as a no-nonsense, uncompromising geologist, working at far-flung deposits in the United States, Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean. He devised innovative exploration programs for porphyry copper, vein pattern, and strata-bound ore deposits. He detailed ore reserve estimates for mine finance and development and was called as an expert witness in several court cases involving mining. Penne Pennebaker’s practice was to be extremely thorough in his fieldwork, allowing at least one-third of his time for data processing and an equal amount of time for producing very readable, insightful reports.
Penne Pennebaker studied and helped develop major producing properties in Nevada and Arizona, where he worked in the Bisbee District and later at the United Verde Mine for Phelps Dodge, the Miami District for Miami Copper Company, and the Pima Mine with Cyprus Mines. He also developed regional exploration programs for Consolidated Copper Mines in Arizona and New Mexico, Homestake Mining Company in the Mojave Desert region, and Hecla Mining Company in Arizona and New Mexico.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Penne Pennebaker spent a significant amount of time traveling in Africa, Australia, and the Caribbean countries, examining and mapping properties. Friends remember a sometimes frenetic schedule. In 1956, for example, he spent a month examining properties in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Jamaica and Cuba. In June of the same year, he flew to Australia. In July and August, it was a coal survey in the southwestern United States. Back to Australia in October, trips to New York, and in between, investigations of a gypsum enterprise. Finally, two months in Idaho for Sunshine Mining Co.
Throughout his career, Pennebaker would recall the exhilaration of exploring and mapping geology in remote corners of the world. Pennebaker began his long relationship with the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in northern Idaho during the 1930s, studying many properties, including the Bunker Hill and Sunshine mines. He was a legal expert on the “Apex Law,” solving complex geologic structures in the Idaho area. In his later years, Pennebaker was a consulting engineer to Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation of Idaho and was a Director of the company from 1975 to 1984 and Director Emeritus from 1985 to 1991.
Penne Pennebaker graduated from the University of California College of Mines in 1924. He first worked was as a geologist at Cananea, Mexico and then as Chief Geologist for Consolidated Copper Mines in Ely, Nevada. In Nevada, he met his wife, Catherine, a school teacher in Tonopah, and began many long friendships and relationships as a teacher and mentor to many fellow geologists and mining people. During his long career, Pennebaker was named a Legion of Honor member of the Society of Mining Engineers.