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Life as a Heavy-Metal Slinger

Ralph Pray, 71, Monrovia

June 23, 1997

I don't really see what I do as adventurous--but everyone else does. I've spent the last 30 years traipsing through the Mojave Desert and other parts of the world in search of gold and other metals. I prospect for my own business, for companies and for various governments.

I prospect numerous smaller mines in the desert today. I've sold metals taken from these deposits such as tungsten for electric light filaments and zinc to Sherwin Williams to use in white paint.

My business has also taken me to South Africa, where I toured DeBeers' largest diamond mine, the Premier. This mine, located several thousand feet underground, was extremely modern and unusual because DeBeers outfitted it more like an underground subway tunnel than a mine. They let me take a rock sample that has diamonds in it home to my lab.

I spent two months in central Siberia in 1995 as the chief engineer for a Russian gold syndicate. This was the country's first private gold refinery.

Through the course of my career I have worked in almost every Western state, including 10 years in New Mexico, five in Alaska and four in Colorado.

I got involved in mining after I hitchhiked out west in 1944 from New York to Salt Lake City. There, I had to choose between being a busboy in a hotel or a mucker. I decided to be a mucker, cleaning mud out of the tunnels in a Nevada mine.

What I enjoy most about mining is the production of new wealth from the Earth. It doesn't take anything from anyone.

I own an office building on a city block in Monrovia. This is my lab, my writing nook and my home all rolled into one. In addition to having my mining work published, I've also had numerous short stories published in literary magazines.

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