of Mines, attracted by the opportunity to study under Professor Antoine Marc Gaudin, then the leading teacher of mineral beneficiation in the United States, and, years later, a founding member of NAE. Plato received his M.S. in 1932 and was invited to stay on as Gaudin’s assistant for an additional year. While in Butte, Plato made a number of close friends, some of whom later played significant roles in his career. In fact, lasting friendships were a salient feature of his personality throughout his life.
Despite his academic background, Plato chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and work his way up in the mining industry. After a short stint at the famous Alaska Juneau gold mine, he became a laboratory and field engineer for Pan American Engineering Company, headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area. His salary was only $120.00 per month, but the experience he gained testing ores from all over the world proved invaluable. He was also a consultant for Pan American customers, which required extensive travel throughout the western United States.
Along the way, Plato was learning, not just about technology, but, more important, about how mining enterprises were financed and managed. For Pan American, he did field work for the Placer Development Company and Phelps Dodge, which was testing the latest equipment for a large copper mine in Arizona (the Morenci project).
By that time, Plato’s father, who was established as a mining consultant in New York, encouraged him to get out of what he called “the peddling business” and concentrate on production. Through his father’s contacts, Plato went to Argentina to investigate several prospects, one of which was a copper-gold deposit. While his father was arranging financing for the mine, Plato returned to Pan American, where he had been on leave. But when the mine in Argentina encountered difficulties, Plato returned to take over its management. Soon, he and his staff had solved the problems, and the El Oro mine achieved its rated capacity. Even though this was his first managerial post, Plato felt that what he had learned up to that point, based firmly on his own observations, qualified him to organize a mining operation on a sensible, economical basis. He never looked back!