- What are some of your goals for the PDAC in your role as President?
During my tenure as PDAC President, I have two objectives. Firstly, I want to see some attention return to independent prospectors and people working for themselves. These roles are a focal point of the mining industry and have created much wealth and opportunity in Canada. Work has been done to highlight the best companies, both majors and juniors, and I would like to see this complemented by encouraging young people and students into self-employed prospecting careers.
My second objective is more local. As a Québecer living in Val-D’Or, I would very much like to see increased membership and participation in the PDAC Convention from my home province. I hope to accomplish this through new and collaborative arrangements with organizations, and through increased PDAC communications. Québec is an important mineral producer and cutting-edge explorer, and has set many positive precedents in our industry. I want to see it better represented as a key partner that is more proportional to its population and mineral production.
- What are some things that PDAC has done well over the past five years?
A few areas stand out to me. The Student-Industry Mineral Exploration Workshop (S-IMEW) has grown over the past decade, and now some of the graduates are making their mark on the industry, which is something we can all be proud of.
Aboriginal Affairs is one of PDAC’s priority areas. It is well-represented at the convention through the Aboriginal Program, which brings success stories and achievements to life, while offering opportunities to discuss challenges.
Corporate social responsibility is a major theme for PDAC, and for the rest of the world. I believe that one of the top reasons folks travel from 125 countries to attend the PDAC Convention is because of the way we do things here in Canada, and the way Canadian companies operate around the world. There are some great stories, case studies and experiences to be shared by our corporate members, including several operating in remote regions of Canada, creating new opportunities and wealth for the nation.
- What was your involvement with PDAC prior to being President?
As hard as it is to believe, 2017 will be my 42nd PDAC Convention. I have been attending since I was 16 years old and have not missed a single one. About 10 years ago, a Past President of PDAC approached me about volunteering with the association. I became involved on several committees and eventually chaired one of them. The importance of networking became extremely apparent once I was on a committee, as I was suddenly working closely with peers from across Canada, and sometimes internationally. Eventually I joined the PDAC Executive Committee that led to my election as Second Vice President. It has been a very positive experience and one that gives much more than it takes. The value I bring back to my little company and “day job” far outweighs the time requirement involved.
- Tell us a little bit about your career path and how it led to where you are now.
It’s a simple story. I read Klondike by Pierre Berton when I was 16 years old, and it blew my mind. Many other books followed, all filled with stories about discoveries, prospectors and remote locations across Canada and Australia. I loved the idea of setting out with almost nothing and creating wealth in the face of constant obstacles.
In the 1980s, I obtained a prospectors license in both Québec and Ontario and began staking claims and making deals—including some at the Royal York Hotel during the PDAC Convention—which paid my way through Concordia University in Montreal. The day of graduation I moved to Val-D’Or and started my career.
One project that I staked as a grassroots claim is now an operating Ni-Cu-PGE mine, owned by an international nickel producer. My business has dabbled in many other projects and places, however, Canada is still the best place to explore, develop and operate a mine, bar none.
- Over the course of your career, what major developments do you feel have played a role in making Canada’s mineral exploration and mining sector a global powerhouse?
Globalization was a phenomenon that Canadians embraced with little fanfare and little flag waving. We simply went anywhere with favourable geology. Most geologists are not really urban folk, and going to the “boonies” comes naturally, which is a good thing given that most mines are not downtown.
China’s emergence as a global powerhouse brought an appetite for base metal commodities. This was recognized early by Canadians, and successful exploration programs in Africa, South America and here in Canada found new and willing buyers on an unprecedented scale. Capital markets evolved and the exchanges aligned to create an improved national agenda, and succeeded in attracting international capital, both in the form of companies listing here, and in new equity for existing companies and projects.
Building mutually-beneficial relationships with Aboriginal communities here in Canada has opened more areas for mineral exploration while also generating economic opportunities for Aboriginal people. Many excellent examples of company-community partnerships have emerged over the past decade.
- How can juniors, and even mid-tier to large companies, succeed in today’s volatile economic climate?
There are no guarantees for success and there never will be, but there are a few things that can be done to mitigate risks. Firstly, be focused. It is too easy to chase after everything everywhere. Secondly, know your market, know your position, and adapt to changing conditions. Thirdly, be creative. Being in front of changing trends is less expensive than fixing problems that could have been avoided. And lastly, some things can’t be fixed, or at least not now. Move on.
- What is something you feel could be done better in Canada’s mineral exploration and mining industry?
One of the most common complaints I hear from public companies is related to regulations and costs. There is an enormous financial burden with being public. Provinces and territories could do more together to encourage exploration and development, similar to what stock exchanges did to align themselves into a stronger financial position. Geology knows no boundaries, and much influence in exploration comes from our legal and social framework. Infrastructure in the North is not a new issue, but it is a critical one that must be improved, similar to what other countries are doing.
I would love to see resurgence in independent prospectors across the nation, and there is no reason that this shouldn’t happen. Prospecting is a terrific vocation to embrace.
- If you could choose one place to explore in Canada where would it be? Why?
Val-D’Or, Québec. Aside from being my home, I believe that it’s the best place in the exploration, development and mining industry. It is a great town with sound infrastructure and includes access to the far North. In this region, we are fortunate to have supportive municipal and provincial authorities. It’s also a great place to raise a family.
- The industry’s skills shortage comes up every now and again. Are you concerned about new talent coming through the system? How can graduates be encouraged to go into mining?
The PDAC convention attests to the growth in the student sector over the past few years, and some of the new academic initiatives in Canada demonstrate that these clusters seem to be generating new ideas, new talent and attracting a new breed of student. The established Earth science institutions from British Columbia to Nova Scotia have a great reputation and have helped generate explorers who do things properly and in consideration of the communities they operate.