Modern explorers

Life, as a modern explorer

It really is one of the best jobs in the world.


Chris Pettman is the Head of Exploration for Rio Tinto in Canada, and this is his story.

I didn't start my career as a geologist. I was one of those guys who did a degree in economics, went out into the world and did what I was supposed to do. And it sucked. I just didn't enjoy my life on a day-to-day basis. Then one day, my wife told me to go back to school. She told me to do something I love – so I chose geology.

Since then, I’ve never had a day where I don't want to go to work in the morning. We start early, and when the weather is good, we spend up to three weeks at a time outdoors. Forest, tundra, desert; wherever there are rocks to be collected, we get to go there. Sure, we still spend some time in the office – but there's nothing quite like walking through the bush, looking for samples.

Why exploring for Rio Tinto is “one of the best jobs in the world.”

It's like a hunt. But we're hunting mineralization that shows us where the next Rio Tinto mine could be. And yeah, the stakes are high. You don't just stumble on a copper mine by accident. But that's part of what makes it so fulfilling. I think that's why most of the geologists I've met are still so passionate about what they do.

It really made me see the world in a whole new light. We get to learn a new language that most people don't speak.
- Chris Pettman, Head of Exploration, Rio Tinto Canada

They look at a rock and see something gray and dull. We look at the same rock and see the entire history of the Earth compressed into that one object.

These rocks have been around for millions of years, and they still have something to tell us. I never would have been exposed to any of this if I'd stuck with my first choice [of career]. And I'm so glad that I get to do this instead. It really is one of the best jobs in the world."