Rodney Thomas
VP, Exploration
Generation Mining Ltd. 

Rodney Thomas

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.