Rodney Ikola
2015 Goldich Medal Recipient

Rodney J. (Rod) Ikola was born and raised in the Finnish community of Esko, Minnesota. As he puts it, he had learned his first “foreign language” (ENGLISH) by the end of his first year in school. He has continued to be active in Finnish organizations throughout his life, such as Festival Finlandia at Ironworld in Chisholm, MN, and FinnfestUSA in Duluth in 2008. He has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Finland and served as a member of the Expatriate Parliament of the Republic of Finland for a number of years. Rod has a list of accomplishments in the field of geophysics that would make any Finnish Mother proud, and we suggest that they are worthy of adding Rodney Ikola’s name to the list of Goldich Medal recipients.

He did his undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, with a major in geology and a minor in mathematics.  He continued his education at the University of Utah on a scholarship in geophysics from the Continental Oil Company, during which time he obtained sufficient math credits to fulfill the requirements for a degree in mathematics. After one year he transferred to the University of Minnesota to complete his Masters degree. During his time at the University of Minnesota, Professor Hal Mooney knew that Rod had been doing gravity work around the southern end of the Duluth Complex and west into Carlton County, simply out of personal curiosity, using a gravimeter made available to him compliments of U. S. Steel. Mooney suggested that Rod should write up the gravity work he had already done and he would accept that as a Master’s thesis. This  gravity survey showed several gravity anomalies at the western edge of Carlton County, which became known as the Tamarack Intrusion; this is currently being drilled for copper, nickel and PGE by Rio Tinto-Kennecott.

During his days at the U of M, Rod worked on several geophysical projects. In 1959 he conducted his first geophysical survey; a magnetic study of the Barden’s Peak Intrusive of the Duluth Complex. During the summers of 1960 and 1962 he worked on field geophysical exploration for U.S. Steel under the supervision of their geophysicist, George Durfee. The 1960 project consisted of running magnetometer lines across every dip needle anomaly in northwestern Wisconsin (most of which were located in swamps). In 1962 he conducted an extensive gravity survey of Jackson County in central Wisconsin, for the Jackson County Iron Company, a subsidiary of Inland Steel; a taconite mine was developed a decade later in the Archean rocks in Jackson County.

In 1965 Director Paul Sims obtained funding to significantly expand the activities of the Minnesota Geological Survey and asked Rod if he would join the Survey to start a systematic gravity survey of the State. Rod accepted the offer and he and G. B. Morey started working for the Survey on the same day. Most of Rod’s time with the Survey was consumed with the gravity survey of the state. This resulted in the publication of several Bouguer gravity maps at a scale of 1:250,000. During this time he produced the first gravity map of the entire Duluth Complex. He was also periodically on loan to the U.S. Army Topographic Command to establish geodetic control over the central U.S.  At the AIME meeting in Duluth in 1970, Fred Chase, chief geologist of the Hanna Mining Co., asked Rod if he would be interested in joining Hanna. They had started a large exploration program in the greenstone belts of Minnesota and needed a geophysicist for the project. Rod accepted the offer, eventually was appointed chief geophysicist for Hanna in 1974, and became responsible for world- wide exploration, a position he held until 1982.

Initially his work with Hanna was mainly involved with geophysical exploration in support of Hanna’s geological activities in Minnesota’s greenstone belts and the Duluth Complex. However, he soon began working on all of Hanna’s projects around the world. The list of projects is too long to list here, but demonstrates a wide range of geophysical techniques that Rod mastered.

With the downturn of the iron ore market in 1982, Hanna eliminated their entire exploration program as the first step in the eventual demise of the entire company. With this event, Rod decided to go on his own as a consulting geophysicist, which he has been for the last thirty years. Almost immediately he became heavily involved in geophysical consulting in the Lake Superior region for many of the world’s major mining companies. Some of these include Newmont, INCO, American Copper and Nickel, Cominco American, Noranda, Phelps Dodge, DeBeers, (through their regional affiliate), plus numerous junior companies. Most of this work remains proprietary but one project in particular can be mentioned. He did all the geophysical work for Noranda that led to the discovery of the large Lynne (Cu-Zn) Deposit in northern Wisconsin. Only environmental issues prevented the development of the project into a commercial venture.

He also became extensively involved in Freeport-McMoRan for many years and acted as de facto geophysicist on many of their worldwide exploration efforts. He worked extensively in the Iberian Pyrite Belt of Spain and Portugal. One of these efforts led to the discovery of the Agua Blanca nickel deposit, which is Europe’s largest nickel producer. He also spent considerable time doing geophysics in the Grasberg area of Indonesia. And he worked on porphyry exploration for Freeport in Baja California.

Consulting work has taken Rod to numerous mining camps around the world. He has spent time at Noril’sk in Russia studying their geophysical exploration techniques. He also did some work for a consortium of companies exploring for gold in the “reefs” south of Lake Victoria in Africa, diamond exploration in Brazil, nickel exploration in Western Australia, uranium exploration in the Athabasca area of Canada, and deeply buried porphyry deposits in the southwest U.S.

In recent years, with the upsurge of mineral exploration in the Lake Superior region, he has spent more time close to home. He has been involved with Polymet Mining and Duluth Metals in the Duluth Complex, and Keweenaw Copper Co. and Bitteroot Exploration in Michigan. However, the results of this work remain proprietary. In recent years, Rod has been involved in numerous geophysical projects pertaining to environmental and groundwater problems. On a project with Barr Engineering, he helped develop a groundwater resource at the Sherco Power Plant in Becker, MN. For this work the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers awarded the group a Distinguished Achievement Award. On another project the group used a unique application of the SP geophysical method to delineate karst features in the Keweenawan sandstones near Askov, MN, to help prevent pollution from their sewage treatment plant.

Rod has always been interested in the use of geophysics in archaeological investigations, and he has participated in many studies. He spent two summers in Greece (one on top of Mt. Olympus with the Gods!!) looking at sites from the Homeric Age. On another occasion he used geophysics to look for buried Mayan tombs in Belize. Rod has been affiliated with many professional organizations during his career. He is an emeritus member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, belongs to the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, a member of the American Institute of Professional Geologists and has belonged to the Society of Mining Engineers for many years (and served on seven national committees for them). He is also a founding member, and was on the board of directors of the Minnesota Exploration Association (now Mining Minnesota). He is a Registered Earth Scientist in Minnesota and a Professional Geophysicist in California. He has been involved with the Institute on Lake Superior Geology for over fifty years. The first Institute meeting he attended was the fourth one, in Duluth in 1958, and has subsequently attended approximately 45 meetings.

During his career as a geophysicist, Rod Ikola has made many contributions to our understanding of the geology of the Lake Superior Region, particularly in the areas of government surveys and industry. These accomplishments, as well as his geophysical studies at so many other places around the world, make him highly qualified for the Goldich Medal.


Respectfully submitted,

Gene L. LaBerge
Richard W. Ojakangas