Engineer’s lecture digs into the mechanics of Park City’s mines |

Engineer’s lecture digs into the mechanics of Park City’s mines

Park City Museum volunteer and mining engineer Donovan Symonds will give a free presentation about the process of converting ore into precious metals. The lecture is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Park City Museum’s Education and Collection Center.
Courtesy of Donovan Symonds

What: “Shiny Rocks to Silver Bars: Mining and Refining in Park City” with Donovan Symonds

When: 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6

Where: Park City Museum Education and Collection Center, 2079 Sidewinder Dr.

Cost: Free


Decades before the skiing industry made Park City a global destination, the mining industry literally put it on the map, and there are many people, including local residents, who don’t know about the science behind turning rocks into bars of lead, silver and gold.

Park City Museum volunteer and mining engineer Donovan Symonds hopes to shed light on the process when he gives a free presentation, “Shiny Rocks to Silver Bars: Mining and Refining in Park City,” at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Park City Museum Education and Collection Center, 2079 Sidewinder Dr.

The presentation will show what happened to ore after it came out of the ground, according to Symonds.

“I will use some videos that show how miners separated the rocks they didn’t want from the ores they wanted,” he said. “I will also talk about similarities of sorting methods and compare how the old prospectors used them as they panned for gold with the tables and jigs that were used in the bigger processing plants.”

Symonds’ lecture will also follow the process the ore took after it was shipped to smelters in Salt Lake City, where it was turned into precious metals.

“I’ll look at how the ore was crushed and concentrated,” he said.

Symonds’ lecture also has another purpose — to raise awareness of the Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History’s preservation work on historical mining structures.

Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History, a Park City Museum and Park City Historical Society organization that is headed by Sally Elliott, has been rehabilitating wooden remains throughout the Park City area, according to Symonds.

“I will talk about the history of the Silver King mill, and I will talk about the stabilization work we have been focusing on with the California Comstock mill,” he said. “I feel very strongly if we don’t make efforts to preserve these structures, they will disappear.”

Friends of Ski Mountain Mining History seeks additional speakers for the series, Symonds said. “If anyone wants to give a presentation, they can contact me through the museum.”

Symonds, who was raised in England, found his way into the mining world through his interest in geography.

“I thought about being a geography teacher at one time,” he said. “Then I met a mining engineer who asked if I ever considered becoming a mining engineer. He said I would be able to work with geography and may get a chance to work overseas. That appealed to my 18-year-old self.”

During his studies, Symonds landed a summer job in Canada.

“I flew to New York from England and took a Greyhound bus to British Columbia, and that gave me a taste of North American culture,” he said. “I decided I would like to return to that part of the world when I got a real job. And that’s what happened.”

Symonds graduated with a degree in mining engineering and later earned a doctorate in gravity concentration and mineral processing.

“I emigrated to Canada after I graduated, and I worked in the mining industry there for six years,” he said.

He moved to Salt Lake in 1977 and relocated to Park City in 1978.

“In 1980, I founded a mining consulting company, Norwest Corporation, where I worked until I retired eight years ago,” he said. “And that’s when I began volunteering at the Park City Museum. Since I have a background in mining, I usually talk with people and school groups about Park City mines.”

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