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A Career in Mining
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Career Profile: Glenn Mullan

Glenn Mullan
President & CEO, Golden Valley Mines/Abitibi Royalties Inc. 

 

Headshot_Glenn Mullan

How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I was in the Canadian Armed Forces, doing the Changing of the Guard ceremony on Parliament Hill (Ottawa) when I got a call from my Uncle asking me to work with him. He was a founder of Phoenix Geophysics Ltd., and had been a principal of the venerable McPhar Geophysics Ltd.  Both companies were vanguards in the then relatively new exploration method of Induced Polarization surveys and Phoenix Geophysics was, in particular, doing research and building case-histories on results from the Frequency Domain method.   Case-Histories meant going to mines and remote areas and developing resultant profiles from known deposits, over different commodities and deposit-types (gold, VMS Cu-Zn, porphyry Cu or Mo, etc.).  I was enthralled from my very first excursion to the Gayna River in the N.W.T. and then onto Northern Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, BC, Saskatchewan, various parts of the USA, and Maritimes.   I absolutely loved “the bush” and couldn’t get enough of it.  Being paid to work in a place that others paid to go and see, it was a compelling idea to a young-guy taking it all in.  Packing heavy equipment around like a horse or mule, gradually evolved into being an “operator”, which, at that time I thought was the best job in the world.   I worked mostly autonomously, and would take the crews to various remote locations, or go underground in various mines, and build the case-histories, or conduct more conventional exploration surveys.  At that time, Phoenix Geophysics was also testing and refining what eventually became the Spectral I.P. system, and after several year this became their commercial focus.

I did this for about 8 seasons, all-told, from part-time in summers early on, to full-time, to part-time only to finance my university education in geology near the end.  After the first few seasons, I kept being amazed at how many people I kept crossing paths with, be they other contractors or competitors, mining company employees, or Government representatives.  This has remained constant to the current time and I still think I have  the best job in the world, although the “job” has evolved somewhat.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
The early “fieldy” position evolved to an operator position, and then after graduation (Geology, B.Sc.) into a geologist and contracting geologist / consultant at various times.  Early on, in my first year of university, I had started staking mining claims and then optioning mining propertiesand often kept the geological services work programs as well.  Within a few years, I was living in Val-d’Or, and  had assembled a large exploration group, focused entirely on working on 100%-owned projects - conceived, staked, and dealt in-house.  By 1998 or so, there were two conditions that together caused me to re-evaluate what I wanted to do going forward.  The first was the memorable Bre-X debacle, as it caused many of my public company clients to go out of business as they were unable to raise financing, and this had a predictable effect on a small exploration group.  The second event, was a brokerage firm that had been encouraging me for 3 years or so, to take my private prospecting business public.  I did so, and Canadian Royalties Inc. was incorporated in 1998 or thereabouts and later went public on a grass-roots royalties model.  The original business plan had us (“CRI”)  receiving “advance on royalties” payments from many properties in the Abitibi Greenstone Belt and Nunavik, Northern Quebec.  Soon, due to the difficult financing environment, many of the clients defaulted, causing the NSR’s to lapse, and the properties were then returned to Canadian Royalties Inc., as 100% owned assets, and not just NSR’s.  One of these was a Ni-Cu-PGE property in Nunavik, Quebec.  This property is now in full production and has had over $1.5B ($1,500,000,000) spent on it since staking and the early exploration quickly discovered and delineated over 20M tonnes of Ni-Cu-PGE  The company now has over 500 employees and is wholly owned by a Chinese nickel company, although still managed from Montreal and Val-d’Or, Quebec.

To what do you credit your career advancement?
Persistence, and the fact that I was a lousyemployee working for someone else, and that I was lousy at team work.  I wanted to work by myself for the most part, and to continue travelling to remote areas, mostly on my own.  I also did not like getting “dressed-up” to go to work, and not wearing a shirt and tie was a big motivator.  Geology, or more particularly, prospecting, started to look not just challenging, but affordable, attainable, and very motivating.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?
Be tenacious and follow your sixth sense.  “No” only means “no, today”, not “no, forever”, and usually it can be reversed if there are sound financial reasons underlying the premise. 

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
The best deals are always done in the worst of markets and the worst of deals are always done in the best of markets.  The latter is at least partly responsible for the former, as investors are very quick to hold accountable those who overpaid and those who did many dumb deals by grossly overpaying at market tops.  Often, many such deals are done by those with either very little, or no “skin-in-the-game”.  This is an essential key to success.  Speak with your own funds, and then others might follow.  There is no substitute to speaking with your own funds, and working to get them on your own is the surest path towards a positive outcome.   Successful contractors, consultants and mining companies, and even countries, have figured this out.  Good projects will always find the money.  There are not enough good projects. 

Career Profile: Glenn Nolan

Glenn Nolan

Vice President Aboriginal Affairs,  Noront Resources Ltd.
President, Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)


How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I was raised near an operating gold mine in Northern Ontario. It was easy for me to move into the industry as an older teen looking for work as a summer student. The open pit mine where my dad worked when I was in high school offered students positions during the summer months. My jobs ranged from clearing washrooms to helping electricians and mechanics to work in the engineering department. It was a great place to cut my teeth in the industry and help me focus on an area that held a lot of interest for me – exploration. I liked exploration because it allowed me to get well paying work, allowed me to travel to some of the most remote and beautiful regions of Canada and I was still able to be working close to nature. Working in the bush is something I still value today.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
I worked as a geophysical technician and also as an independent Contractor doing prospecting, line cutting, camp management, claim staking, geophysical surveys, sampling and more. I moved into corporate roles as an Executive, Director of a junior company, Consultant and advisor to companies in Canada and internationally.

To what do you credit your career advancement?
They are all very simple things; hard work, a love of the industry, listening, being open to others’ ideas and a real need to engage with Aboriginal people.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?Ours is great industry that offers tremendous opportunities if you are willing to work for it. You have to be flexible and willing to adapt to sometimes rapidly changing circumstances.

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
Be open to change and consider taking on other contracts/jobs outside your area of expertise even outside geology. All experience is good experience – consider diversification to make yourself more marketable and don’t limit yourself to one geographic region. The world is your playground and the time to travel and gain as many different experiences as you can is while you’re young and with little commitment. Be willing to travel to find the job. The industry is cyclical but there will be positive change and new areas for growth during the downturn.  

Career Profile: Matthew Pickard

Matthew Pickard
Director, Safety, Health, Environment & Community Relations, 

Sabina Gold & Silver Corporation

How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I’m born, raised and educated in Sudbury. Sudbury is a great mining town; I have relatives in the industry so mining is literally in my blood.  I opted to take my initial degree in Environmental Earth Science which led to my first few summer jobs with Falconbridge in Sudbury. I spent summers in the field taking water samples, groundwater studies, reclamation work and more.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
I’ve now worked in many commodities but always within the Canadian mining industry.  I started with various roles in Sudbury, Timmins and Toronto within the nickel and zinc divisions of Falconbridge.   I then moved on to Coordinator and Manager roles within De Beers focused on diamond exploration and development in Canada, particularly in the North.  Following that I moved into iron ore with Baffinland Iron Mines who was working to advance a large project in Nunavut at that time. There I held Manager and Director roles within the company. That led me to my current role with Sabina Gold and Silver focused on advancement of gold properties, once again in Nunavut.

To what do you credit your career advancement?
Experience is everything.  Getting good experience early in my career put me on the right path.  Get the right education and do what you have to do to get the initial experience.  In my case I knew early in my career that I did not want a field based, science-type role.  As a result I went back to school to complete an MBA and subsequently secured numerous professional designations including Professional Geoscientist, Environmental Practitioner and Registered Safety Professional.  This helped me to move into corporate roles at a young age. Finally, build relationships. The mining industry is a very social one, people are generally happy to help one another, especially if you’ve made yourself known.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?
The industry is hot and cold.  Hot is great because there are numerous opportunities with good compensation.  Cold can be a challenge as roles disappear and so does some of the fringe compensation and benefits.  Build relationships, use them and keep all options open.

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
Be flexible.  Learn what you can when you can.  If things within your company don’t go as planned be willing to take on different roles.  In the 2009 down turn I actually offered to work rotations as an Acting Environmental Superintendent, a bit of a step down from my Manager role.  This allowed me to learn more about site operations and maintain my place within the company.  Once the economic recovery started in later 2009 and 2010 I was rewarded with more senior corporate work which eventually helped lead to my promotion to Director.

Career Profile: Rodney Thomas

Rodney Thomas
General Manager, Votorantim Metals Canada Inc. 


How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
In high school I had no idea what I wanted “be” when I finished my education and was only concerned in that ‘teenager kind of way’ about what would happen after high school.  I had this vague idea that I wanted to be outside and maybe build roads – a surveyor perhaps? I didn’t have a plan. I entered university and inexplicably signed up as a physical sciences major with an emphasis on physics. After one term of a second-year physics course without having done first year Calculus, I put to bed any illusions of pursuing electricity and magnetism as a career.  First year Earth Sciences at McGill University did however catch my attention.  It was a big class, held first thing in the morning in Leacock 132 and Professor Stearn used to play James Taylor’s Fire and Rain over the PA system as the cue that the lecture was about to begin.  In those days we were apparently running out of all resources. Middle East hydrocarbon resource nationalism was on the upswing and everyone was looking for uranium. That lead to my first summer job working in the Carboniferous basin in Nova Scotia looking for roll front uranium deposits, in the Mt. Laurier region of Quebec looking for pegmatite hosted uranium deposits and in the Hottah Lake area of the Northwest Territories looking for vein type uranium.  I got to travel, fly about in small planes and helicopters, roam about in canoes and powerboats, cut down trees, ford rivers, carry a firearm as protection against bears, camp in tents, eat free food…and I got paid.  I was nineteen and I got hooked!

 

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
For the first part of my career I worked with large mining companies starting off as a field geologist, project geologist, senior geologist, district geologist etc.  I was exploration manager with BHP based in Toronto for much of the 1990s. Through most of the 2000s I worked in the junior sector and was a contract geologist initially and then Vice President Exploration or President for a number of junior companies.  Since 2008, I have held the position of General Manager and Director of Votorantim Metals Canada Inc. which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Brazilian multinational Votorantim Metais.

To what do you credit your career advancement?
Hard work mostly. In all fairness I think it was a lot simpler employment environment when I first started working.  Most of the employment opportunities were full-time with established mining companies and the junior sector was more of a curiosity than a potential employer.  I was fortunate to work with large established mining companies in the early part of my career and I found that very rewarding from a professional perspective. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry? You learn by your mistakes.  Nobody owes you a living and in lean times you may have to do work that normally you would not consider.  Excellent communication and people skills are an asset- use any and all opportunities to improve these.  Wear a tie…and by this I mean that appearance does count particularly when seeking employment.  In the very least wear business neutral attire.

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump? 
Stick with it. You may have to take that job that you really don’t want or aren’t interested in but you can also work on upgrading your skills at the same time. If you really can’t see yourself doing anything else then don’t give up.

Career Profile: Felix Lee

Felix Lee
President, ACA Howe International Ltd. 

How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I graduated from McMaster University in 1986 with a degree in geology with the intention to enter the oil and gas industry as a petroleum geologist. Unfortunately for me, the oil and gas industry suffered a severe downturn just as I graduated so I was forced to change my focus to hard rock.  At that time the mineral exploration industry was still going strong following the gold discoveries at Hemlo. Even so it was still very difficult to get my first job but I did, eventually, starting out with a small junior exploration company doing work in Rankin Inlet, NWT.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?
I’ve been a junior geologist, project geologist, senior geologist, operations manager, director of a couple public companies and most recently, since 2003, President and co-owner of ACA Howe International Limited, a Toronto and UK-based geological and mining consulting firm. I’ve learned something from each of the positions I’ve held and I haven’t stopped learning. This is an industry where you can learn as much as you want to learn and you can be as successful as you want to be with the right attitude and determination.


To what do you credit your career advancement?
In a word, perseverance. Especially in the beginning, and a strong work ethic that will see you through the rest of your career. I can’t stress enough the importance of being professional, in all things and all places, even when you think no one is paying you any attention. Apply a professional approach to every task and every job that you undertake.  Tied into professionalism is respect; treat every person that you interact with as someone you can learn from and treat every experience as a learning experience. From drillers to miners, everyone has something you can learn from. People in our industry are usually very willing to share their knowledge and experience, you just need to ask, and they can be a valuable resource.
I’ve found that having a strong network of colleagues and friends, and friends who are colleagues, has been very advantageous to my career, especially in leaner times. Decision-making based on friendships comes into play more often than people think and many of my career decisions have been made based on friendships and the benefits from doing so have far outweighed the risks. There is something to be said for the support, comfort and security that comes with working with people that you know and trust and that have complementary skills. As a group you can be quite strong and it’s easier to take on risk in numbers. For instance, during one downturn, my colleagues- all of them good friends- and I decided to foray into healthcare and the development of one of the first cloud-based healthcare software that was rolled out into many physician’s offices and clinics across Ontario. The software was later purchased by US-based HMO but it was all financed by mining industry people. When you’ve been in the business long enough it helps to know people and have them know you – this can see you through tough times and help you move your career forward.

Given the cyclical nature of the industry you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
Our industry is cyclical in nature and it is inevitable that you will face a downturn at some point in your career. Every downturn is difficult to weather and the only thing that one can really do is to hang tough and persevere. It helps to consider work that uses geology but may not be directly related to mineral exploration or mining. For instance, during a downturn a close colleague of mine got a job in the geo-environmental side decommissioning old gas stations, work which required him to carry out or supervise soil sampling and drilling programs. This experience taught him management and reporting skills. He was still able to use his knowledge and skills but applied it in a different circumstance and took new skills away from that experience.  Again, treating every experience as a learning experience and will add value and knowledge that you can bring back to the industry on the next upswing. Additionally one should always remember that even in the midst of a downturn there is always something happening somewhere in our industry; that our industry never completely stops and that it may be worthwhile to consider moving to a northern community to look for work. If you are in the right place at the right time you can get the opportunity.

Career Profile: Sherri Hodder

Sherri Hodder                                                                                     

Independent Consultant & Director, PDAC


How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?
I started out in the construction industry and was a draftsperson in Newfoundland for 8 years. I was hired on by BP Selco under Dr. Geoff Thurlow when BP was exploring on the west coast of Newfoundland for gold. It was a great experience and I became more interested in learning about geology and chemistry through this position and wanted to be that person out in the field. I still see Geoff at PDAC conventions and am grateful to him hiring me so many years ago! Memorial University of Newfoundland is where I graduated from with a degree in geology - a great place with great people. It was tough, but I learned a lot and had fun. We had a great class and I'm still in contact with most of them. I started out during a downturn, similar to what we are facing currently and it would have been much harder to break into the industry without the great network I developed through my classmates and professors.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?  
Since earning my degrees I have been a junior, intermediate and senior geologist, project manager, exploration manager, senior project geologist, project specialist, lead geology supervisor, heavy oil manager and geology operations manager. I have continued to strive for roles with increasing responsibility and I always try to learn the roles and expectations of my colleagues in each position that I have held. I’ve found that helps me learn more about the industry as a whole and how it works. When I am familiar with my teams’ roles and responsibilities I can provide a better work experience for everyone, I can do my job better, mentor other geologists and ensure that the client is happy with the services being provided to them. I typically prefer contract work that involves a bit of field and office work and I prefer to take on positions that I feel challenge me on a personal or professional level. 

T
o what do you credit your career advancement? 
My career has advanced by some technical skill but mostly by sheer luck and perhaps some tenacity! I happened to be in the right place at the right time when the industry turned up a few notches and they wanted people with my particular skill set who wanted to travel! I was also lucky to have met great people in the industry who were willing to teach me new skills. As a scientist I'm a curious person by nature, but after 3 months of logging every scrap of underground core and learning as much as I could about the deposit I was working on, I began looking for additional challenges. Dan Leroux at ACA Howe International Ltd was a terrific mentor - he was seeking a cross shift for his position on the DMS plant and I asked him to train me instead of hiring someone new. He did and it was a great opportunity for me – being mentored by Dan enabled me to be able to begin consulting internationally. I was contracted over a 3 year period at 2 diamond mines on feasibility programs that advanced them into production. From this experience I was able to contribute on a professional level to the diamond exploration industry through this advanced exploration. During the 2008-2010 downturn I got involved in the oil and gas industry supervising well site geologists through a former classmate, Gary Bugden of Cabra Consulting Ltd. My experience on large projects in Africa and Russia together with my managerial skills and mentoring experience got me in the door and Cabra provided training on the lithology. This was not something I would have initially considered, but as a result of this I have learned more about the exploration industry as a whole, while still maintaining work and other connections in the mineral exploration industry too.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?  
I've learned a lot of lessons but I would say teamwork is the most important one. Everyone has a role and it is your job to do yours "very well". Be the "best" dishwasher, cook, camp manager, helicopter pilot, driller or geologist you can be. You want to be a good team player. As a geologist, and eventually as a manager, you have to understand that no one person is more important than anyone else when you’re working in the field or at a site. You’re a part of a team and you have to learn how to get along well in order to get the job done successfully. When a team works well together management will want to keep them. You will know that you have been successful if you are sought after by your colleagues and they want you to work for and with them. I have been very lucky to meet fantastic, hard working people and I have developed lasting friendships and successful business relationships. Through these important human connections I’ve learned through others eyes about the mineral exploration and the oil and gas industries and this has helped me to succeed in both. They mentored me without really knowing it, and I have never underestimated anyone's ability no matter what position they have held. Everyone has something to teach you if you just let them.  

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
This is a tough question. What inspires you? What makes you passionate about getting up and going to work? I believe that you should "do what you love to do". I love my job. I think that I have the best job ever and people pay me to do something that I love while allowing me to travel the world. I have had to be creative and take on positions that I would not have initially considered but change is constant and in addition to teamwork you have to learn to be flexible. The exploration industry is constantly in flux; you need to be able to see the ups and downs coming and maybe take the job that might not be “perfect” for you. No job is perfect but you will always learn something even if the pay is bad, the conditions are horrible and the weather is crap. Sometimes you learn more about yourself.  
Stay involved with the industry, stay in touch with your "network" of friends and business associates, go to social and professional meetings that interest you, volunteer at a university to assist undergraduates in geology and go have that coffee with a friend who is currently working. Join and stay connected to associations such as the PDAC. Get involved in the entire industry - don't just log onto your computer and expect to find a job. Geology is a career and is multifaceted and like everything in geology, finding a job takes time. Ask yourself - are you willing to spend the rest of your life doing this? If so, you will find a way. Be tenacious.

Career Profile: Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas RCF Management (Toronto) Inc. Managing Director

How did you get started in the mineral exploration industry?

Like many geologists, I was looking for a career that would combine my love for the outdoors with my love for science. After Grade 12, my father connected me with a friend of his who was a VP of Exploration for the mining division of one of the big oil companies, back when they still did a lot of mineral exploration. He arranged for me to join a field crew west of Pickle Lake, mostly doing things like soil sampling and geophysics. So yes, I am one of those people who had a door opened for me but it was up to me to keep it open.

What are some of the positions you’ve held over the years?

Where to begin! Dirt bagger, line cutter, geophysical assistant, geological assistant, core mover, core logger, field geologist, project geologist, sell-side research associate, mining analyst, institutional equities specialty mining salesperson and, now, the Toronto representative for a mining-focussed private equity fund.

To what do you credit your career advancement?
I always tried to perform tasks to the best of my abilities, regardless of how menial they seemed at the time. I spent a lot of time on independent study immersing myself in subjects I found interesting such as greenstone belt evolution, ore deposit genesis and, later, financial analysis. I tried to make the most of the opportunities that were given to me. I try to work with very good people, people from whom I can not only learn but learn how to do things the right way. I would also like to think that my passion for the industry is manifested by an enthusiasm for my work that people find appealing.   

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while working in the industry?
Mineral exploration and development are all about taking a sub-optimal data set and using the information to efficiently allocate capital in a manner that increases the probability of discovery and, ultimately, profitable exploitation. Mother nature is humbling; she must be respected! It pays to be an optimist. Be willing to move to where the work is. Work/life balance is a great aspirational goal but as a young geologist career advancement and professional development should be the main priorities.  The industry is competitive but success will ultimately come to those who work harder and smarter than their competitors. This business demands a strong commitment, passion and energy from its participants. Expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible, regardless of how minor they seem because they can often lead to other, bigger, opportunities. Finally, everything you do must be guided by a strong moral compass.

Given the cyclical nature of the industry, you must have faced a downturn – how did you weather your way through it and what advice would you give to young geologists and recent graduates that are facing the current slump?
Remind yourself that slumps don’t last forever. Manage your personal finances carefully such that you can ride out the slumps and still stay in the industry. Take jobs that don’t pay well or aren’t particularly interesting. Take contract work that may be intermittent. Work for smaller companies that can pay you in shares but not cash. Consider going back to school to enhance your knowledge and skills. Stay mobile, flexible and positive!