Russ Wood believed that the earth’s riches should be utilized for the good of mankind and produced in the most efficient manner with the least damage to the environment. He was known throughout the industry for his integrity, intelligence, common sense, and wry sense of humor. Dedicated to learning and the use of new technology, he constantly sought the better way. Russ’ relationships both with labor and industry leaders were sound, good-natured, and successful. He considered mining a noble profession.
Russ Wood graduated from the Colorado School of Mines as an engineer of mines in 1949 and went to work as a miner for Gouverneur Talc. In 1950, he became one of the first employees of the Colorado School of Mines Research Institute. From 1951 to 1960, he managed several uranium properties and was General Manager and a Director for Standard Metals.
Next, Russ moved on to the New Jersey Zinc Company, where he became Senior Vice President, overseeing eight domestic mines plus operations in Thailand and Bolivia. In 1975, he started and became President of Gold Fields Mining Corporation, a subsidiary of Consolidated Gold Fields that operated mines in the United States and Canada. He was heavily involved in the early development of heap leaching for gold, which made possible the reopening of a mine in New Mexico.
In 1979, Russ joined Louisiana Land and Exploration as a Vice President and became President of its Copper Range Company subsidiary. When Louisiana Land dropped out of mining in 1984, Russ led the initiative to buy Copper Range and reopen its White Pine copper mine in Michigan, which had been shut down for two years because of depressed copper prices and serious labor problems. Through his leadership and innovations, the company was revived and made profitable.
Russ Wood’s reasoned approach to resolving inherited labor problems was instrumental in increasing productivity at White Pine by 50%. In 1986, he was named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News. The Wall Street Journal carried a front-page story on the success of the White Pine mine. In 1989, the partners sold Copper Range to Metall Mining Corporation.
Russ served as President of Asamera Minerals from 1990 to 1992, when illness forced him to return to his home in Colorado. Russ was appointed to the Colorado School of Mines Board of Trustees in 1981 and served for 15 years, including seven years as President. Despite an eight-year term limit, the Governor of Colorado saw fit to reappoint Russ for two more four-year terms. Russ chaired the newly formed Trustee Development Committee created to raise funds for Mines. He taught as an Adjunct Professor. His contributions to education in general and Mines specifically were immense.
Russ was awarded the Mines Distinguished Achievement Medal in 1981 and the Melville F. Coolbaugh Memorial Award in 1993. He was a Founder and Director of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum and a Director of the Western Museum of Mining and Industry.
Russ Wood died in 2001 after fighting a ten-year battle against multiple system atrophy. Russ was a noble miner and a gentleman.