See you soon, dad (adapted from 2018 Eulogy)

Note: I wrote the original piece in 2018, a year after his passing, and read it with my brother Javier, and first cousin, Nelson, at the inauguration of the Argentina Mining Convention.

In memoriam. Argentina Mining 2018. Salta, Sep 5, 2018. Pictured Paola & Javier Rojas and former Salta governor, Juan Manuel Urtubey.

Today is the 4th anniversary of the death of my father, Nivaldo Rojas. His was a short -yet fierce- battle with a lung cancer, detected only a few months earlier, that took us all by surprise. The news of his departure spread quickly via social media. Dozens of his friends, former colleagues and acquaintances reached out to us to express their condolences, and many traveled to Mendoza to say farewell on a hastily organised wake. He had gotten sicker suddenly and as his sister, my aunt Coty, and I were due to fly from Santiago and Sydney respectively, as he passed away.

As I got to the wake direct from the airport, to a small gathering of about 50 people, it was so clear to see how loved he was. It was a wonderful send off.

I adapted this post from the eulogy I wrote back in 2018.

Who was Nivaldo?

Nivaldo, or Niva as we called him, was born in 1944, in Cerro Blanco, a small mining town in northern Chile, abandoned long ago. At least 3 generations of his family were miners, as we have been able to corroborate by the genealogical research started after his death. His passion for minerals was undoubtedly in his blood.
He married Any Cuevas, and English teacher who later became an artist, with whom he had two children, Javier & Paola.

After studying at the University of Atacama, he worked first at the Geological Research Institute in Santiago, and later at Minera Utah (a company later acquired by BHP). He continued with BHP until he moved to Argentina in the 80s, eventually becoming country manager. In 1998 he began working as a consultant, founding Rojas & Asociados, and years later Argentina Mining, with his family.

He was considered an outstanding explorer, participating in the discovery of Escondida in Chile (alongside David Lowell, and his brother Nelson Rojas), and the identification of Agua Rica, Taca Taca and Diablillos in Argentina. He was awarded numerous times, the most relevant being the Exploration Excellence Award, presented to him by BHP in 1996. In 2016 he also received a recognition of 50 years as a geoscientist, from the Institute of Mining Engineers in Chile.

Niva at the site of the discovery hole in Escondida, and in the inset the commemorative plaque he received on the 5th anniversary.

Now some personal messages from Nelson, Javier and myself.

“My old man was a very special person to me and although he is now gone, I feel him very present in my day to day.

As a father, I always had his unconditional support. I always knew that I could take a risk and follow my instincts and dreams, because whatever happened he was always there to support me, if something went wrong. And thanks to that, I have taken many more risks than I would have taken otherwise. And I found the life I always wanted to live.

As a partner and colleague, he taught me a lot. He was patient and enjoyed passing on his love for geology and exploration. From him I learned to analyse reports, and rate projects, a big part of what I do today. My interest in Australia also started with him, when as manager of BHP in Argentina, we received Australian colleagues. So in a way, he pointed me towards the country that today I call home.”

Paola Rojas, daughter

”My father taught me many things, but I chose for this recognition to mention how he taught me the value of someone’s word. He had a firm and solid sense of honesty and of being true to what he promised – always.

I also want to thank him as he was “the nono” for my daughter Sofia, as he told her stories, made her laugh and was always willing to talk to her.”

Javier Rojas, son

”Niva was my closest uncle and in many ways he was like a father to me. What I value most about our working relationship was being in the field with him and being able to share so many exploration campaigns. First at BHP, then at Rojas & Asociados and Argentina Mining, many years of working together. I feel privileged to have learned from him when it comes to activity in the field, but above all I keep from him his energy, honesty and willingness to teach.

I know that throughout all these years, many geologists passed by our company, of every age, and they surely learned a lot from him. I have eternal gratitude towards Nivaldo, who unquestionably left a mark on me and on all of them, with the love for this noble industry.”

Nelson Rojas, nephew

As a tribute and recognition, Argentina Mining created a special edition wine for the occasion, together with Bodega & Viñedos Pumalek . A Fortunato of the Lambrusco Grasparrosa variety, from Mendoza, his last home. All delegates who attended the event received a bottle. A local graphic designer and friend of my brother, Mario Azaguate, created the label.

I want to close this piece with a phrase from my little niece, Sofia. One day someone asked her about her grandpa and what she felt, knowing he was gone. She replied simply:

“When I miss Nono, I just have to think about him, and speak with my heart.”

Sofia Rojas, granddaughter

Thanks for everything, Niva, and see you next time!

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