David Thomas
Managing Director Canada, Resource Capital Funds

Dave Thomas

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!