In Conversation with Andrew Cheatle
PDAC’s new Executive Director shares his thoughts on what it was like being at the helm during PDAC 2015, the challenges and opportunities facing the industry, and how the PDAC is putting its members first.
Q. You made it through your first PDAC Convention as Executive Director. What were some of your impressions and fondest memories of the event?
A. The main thing that stood out to me is that our annual convention truly is where the world’s mineral industry meets. In addition, it was a great honour to take part in various sessions and functions in an official capacity, such as the Awards Evening. I think Robert Friedland from Ivanhoe Mines, who spoke at the Commodities and Market Outlook, summed it up best when he said that the Awards Evening is the “Oscars of the mining industry.” It was a big thrill for me to be a part of that event and to present the PDAC Environmental & Social Responsibility Award to Noront Resources. On a personal note, I also enjoyed carving out a few hours to walk around the Investors Exchange and Trade Show to meet attendees and catch up with friends and colleagues.
Q. Since starting at the PDAC in early February, what have you learned about the association that you didn’t know before?
A. In addition to the PDAC’s world-renowned convention, as well as our leadership in such areas as Aboriginal affairs and CSR, I’m excited and impressed at just how well connected the PDAC is with the Government of Canada. It is evident that the government has tremendous respect for the PDAC’s input into the policies that shape our industry, as reflected in how they seek out our advice on a range of policy and advocacy issues.
Q. Tell us a bit about your professional background.
A. I have worked in the minerals industry for more than 25 years—from the rock face as a ‘beat geologist’ to the boardroom as President and CEO, and Director of a junior exploration company. Over the years I have spent time working in underground mining, and on domestic and international exploration projects on five continents, always with a keen interest in CSR and capital markets. I have also been actively involved as a volunteer with the Association of Professional Geoscientists of Ontario (APGO), where I recently held the position of President.
Q. Why did you decide to take on this role at the PDAC?
A. This was a tremendous opportunity as PDAC is a national and international leader when it comes to advancing mineral exploration and development. In addition, I accepted the role of Executive Director to make a positive impact on the industry and to serve our members in promoting Access to Capital, Access to Land and Aboriginal Affairs. For me, this role is very exciting. It brings together many aspects of my work, leadership and management experience to the national and international stage.
Q. Over the past couple of years while serving as President and CEO, Director at Unigold, what were some of the projects that your company was working on and some of the challenges that you needed to overcome during the economic downturn?
A. While at Unigold, which is a junior explorer, we were working on projects in the Dominican Republic. It’s still in business and the discoveries that we made are still there as the company remains an ongoing concern. It became increasingly more difficult to raise finance and that obviously impacts the ability to explore at the rate at which you would like to. We were fortunate to have the ISC, part of the World Bank Group, as an investor, which enabled us to extend our work into the downturn.
Q. How do you think your experience as President of an Ontario junior will help you lead a national organization?
A. Good question. I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to gain both national and international experience as a geologist and consultant, and as an industry executive. I understand the real day-to-day challenges juniors and geologists in the field are facing, as well as some of the broader hurdles the industry must overcome. Specifically, my most recent position as President and CEO of a junior exploration company allowed me to be intimately involved with capital markets, CSR activity, and networking with key industry people, which will be a great help as Executive Director.
Q. You mentioned that you were previously the President of the APGO. What lessons did you learn working for a regional association that you feel can be applied to a national association?
A. Some of the key things I learned were that you represent your members and that is very, very important to remember. You also, in the case of the APGO, represent the professional geoscientist in Ontario and, where appropriate, on the national level. At the PDAC we represent our members both nationally and internationally, but because we are so large, as the government has reminded us, we represent the industry in so many ways in addition to the individual members. Currently, our members want us to continue to advocate for certain policy measures to support the industry, such as the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit (METC) and that the Canadian Exploration Expenses (CEE) be included into the METC. We still provide a very big forum, particularly through our convention for our members to meet, for junior explorers to meet with major companies and vice versa to help facilitate the business environment. Furthermore as a Board member of the APGO, I gained a great deal of experience in terms of governance and working with staff.
Q. What are the biggest obstacles and challenges facing the industry in 2015?
A. The immediate concern is restoring investor confidence in the sector, along with ending a prolonged downturn for the broader industry. The PDAC has an important role to play in advising governments and investors on how a sustainable mineral industry is crucial to Canada’s economy and prosperity, and why it is a rewarding place to invest.
Q. What opportunities do you see for prospectors and juniors in the coming year?
A. This is a great time to seize ‘value for money’ opportunities and attend to mergers and acquisitions that make business sense. Some of the most successful mining entrepreneurs that I know started in tough markets and delivered success for themselves and investors as the market cycle turned positive.
Q. What will be some of your priorities for the association as PDAC Executive Director?
A. The PDAC has a team of highly-skilled staff, Board of Directors, executive, committees and volunteers that will maintain the organization’s strategic focus on Access to Capital, Access to Land and Aboriginal Affairs. And after meeting with numerous international delegations and ministers of mines at PDAC 2015, it is clear that the PDAC is uniquely positioned and has an important role to play in helping to facilitate government-company interaction. Maintaining and building the PDAC brand will also be an important
part of the job, and as we look ahead to the upcoming year leading into PDAC 2016, we will strive again to deliver exceptional value to our members in promoting the industry both nationally and globally.
Q. Outside of work, what are some of your past times?
A. Like many people, family time is very important to me as I have two teenage children, a 17-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. I enjoy travelling as well, particularly getting into the mountains and hiking. I also enjoy sitting down with a good book and am currently plowing my way through a new translation of Boris Pasternak’s famous Dr. Zhivago.