Each year we ask a graduate to write an article on his/her past and current activities since leaving Acadia. This year we invited Anastassios (Tassos) Grammatikopoulos, who studied at Acadia from 1990-92.

Anastassios (Tassos) Grammatikopoulos

I arrived at Acadia University to do my M.Sc. degree under the supervision of Dr. Barr in early June of 1990. My English was not so good and I was sceptical about this whole thing as I had been in Canada for only for a year or so. However, I stayed to taste what proved to be some wonderful experiences for the next two years that followed. A few days after I arrived I went to Cape Breton Island with another student, Brent Miller, but to my surprise (!) it was nothing like the Greek islands that I was used to!  It took me some time to get accustomed to the new environment and people who later became very good friends.  I started doing my thesis on gabbroic plutons in the Avalon terrane in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The thesis yielded a couple of papers in Canadian journals and few abstracts dealing with the age, mineralogy, petrology, and economic potential of the plutonic rocks. Two years later I was leaving Wolfville with wonderful memories and full of hope and pride in my accomplishments at the University.

I arrived at Queen's University in mid-August in 1992, where I started my Ph.D. thesis on wollastonite (CaSiO3) skarns. I had to face new challenges, both cultural and scientific. Initially, I did not know much about this topic and for the first couple of years it was a struggle to define the boundaries of the research project. I did a lot of mapping, sampling, petrography, geochemistry, and dating of three different skarn bodies related to Grenvillian plutonic rocks older than 1 Ga. The main topic was to distinguish between metamorphism and metasomatism in the three areas where regional metamorphism varied from greenschist to granulite facies. It was difficult to understand the genesis of the wollastonite skarns and the lack of metallic minerals, and explain the formation of million tonne, essentially monomineralic wollastonite occurrences and deposits in the Grenvillian calcitic marbles. I tried to connect the field and laboratory research between the skarns and the plutonic rocks. A few new terms were raised such as "fluid exsolution" and "fluid flow" which I had to work through in my mind and incorporate in my thesis. Writing a Ph.D. thesis proved a difficult process. I wanted to provide some data to the mining industry with regards to the wollastonite characteristics, chemical purity, and industrial applications, and I slowly developed a group of properties that were essential in determining the quality of the mineral. I published a paper with my supervisor in the CIM Bulletin illustrating how to deal with such issues on industrial minerals. Ultimately I concluded that the skarns are metasomatic, and had formed from fluids that infiltrated the calcitic marbles under H2O-rich conditions that carried a large number of elements, including Mg, Fe, Si, Zr, P, and Ti.

Having completed a first draft of the thesis, I left for a few months to work in Guyana in South America as a mineralogist looking for diamonds. I did a lot of microscopy, mineral chemistry, and geochemistry, and looked for diamond indicator minerals (Cr-diopside, G-10 garnet, and chromite).   After completing the thesis a couple of years later, I took a job at SGS Lakefield Research Limited in Peterborough, Ontario, a service company for the mining industry, where I worked as mineralogist and senior mineralogist. The work included initiation, co-ordination, and design of project work in process and exploration mineralogy, environmental mineralogy, and industrial mineral exploration. I had to examine a lot of different rock types and metallurgical samples, complete technical reports, and participate in pilot plants. I learned how to deal with the QEM-Scan (Quantitative Scanning Electron Microscope) and Image Analysis. I also completed some accreditation on point/grain counting and liberation techniques to prepare Mineralogical Services for ISO Guide 25.  I was part of the Mineralogical Services, a group of scientists that carry out work for exploration companies but also for the metallurgists, in house, that compose the core of the company. Thus, the role of our group was to solve mineralogical and metallurgical problems. I dealt with various deposits, Zn, Cu, Au, Pb, PGE, REE, Nb-Ta, diamonds, etc. This new aspect of mineralogy was not at all boring!  I had to be alert and up-to-date on current research, and also had to educate geologists and metallurgists on mineralogical issues. Mineralogy appeared to be a whole new field and I came across a lot of scientific issues that we typically do not deal with in everyday classes in the universities. For example, in several gold projects I had to deal with the distribution of gold in deposits with both visible (> 1 μm) and invisible (<1 μm) gold. Invisible gold was analyzed in many sulfides, mainly pyrite and arsenopyrite, by Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, which mainly constitutes refractory (not easily recovered or non-recoverable) and has tremendous implications for any project and mining company. The grade of Au was generally low and I had to apply several techniques to separate gold and gold-bearing minerals to define the size and form of gold (gold minerals such as native gold, electrum etc.) and carry out mass balance calculations to define recoverable and non-recoverable proportions. Many times I also had to deal with liberation of Cu-bearing minerals, or Zn or Pb, etc. Thus, I learned to use terms such as middling particles and liberated particles, which were in many cases quantified by the QEM-Scan and tried to give information directly applicable to metallurgical processes. 

            This "process or applied" mineralogy experience was tremendous and I obtained knowledge in many technical issues.  I like very much this approach because it gives a new status to geologists that specialize in mineralogy. I completed a large number of projects in SGS Lakefield Research and I had the opportunity to write a few scientific papers that were published in conference proceedings and various journals.  While at the company, I got heavily involved with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy, and Petroleum, and served as Chair (2001-2002) and as a Vice Chair (2002-2003) for the Industrial Minerals Division.

            However, after five years with SGS, I took a position to teach at the University of Patras in Greece, where I had completed my B.Sc. degree 15 years earlier. Thus, for the last couple of years I have been teaching economic geology and introducing process mineralogy to fourth year students at the university. I also started research on PGM in chromite deposits in ophiolite complexes in Greece and I am trying to develop techniques to concentrate PGM minerals and define their distribution in such rocks. I am also involved with research projects involving gold occurrences in Greece and wollastonite deposits in China.  In Canada, I am again working with Dr. Barr, her students, and colleagues, using my new skills to look closer at the PGE mineralization in the Mechanic Settlement pluton, one of the plutons from my M.Sc. thesis. We have discovered a number of platinum-group minerals, including sophcheite (Pd3Ag4Te4), only the fourth occurrence of that mineral to be found in Canada.

            I seem to live between the two countries and I keep coming back to Canada as it is hard to forget good friends and colleagues that I met for the last 15 years. Perhaps I will be back permanently in the next few years. Canada appears to be the centre of geology with great people and I am always going to be thankful and grateful that I choose to study here. As I have said many times to friends and colleagues, I would never have imagined the course of my scientific life when I arrived in Canada. Acadia was one of my greatest experiences, and I take this opportunity now to thank the university, and all of my teachers there who helped me tremendously. I may not have been back for a few years, but my degree from the university will always remind me of the great people that I met there. 

Note from editor: During 2004, Tassos and his wife Betty became the proud parents of Steven-Adrian, who was born on September 7th in Montreal.