AME BC chair David McLelland has clarity about the activities that are important in his life, but his true strength lies in his approach: “I believe most people have principles, but the bigger question is always what order they’re in. I aim to maintain a structure that provides for prioritization. I understand the things I do are to supply the needs and wants of my family – that’s my first objective. My second objective is for the people I work with and who work for me. Those are the order of the things I have interest in doing – it’s really quite simple.”
The glue holding together these principles and priorities is an unshakable faith in life.
In 1999, McLelland and his family moved to northern B.C., where he reignited a lifelong passion when he went prospecting with his four year-old son on the local rivers and creeks. After years of following various career paths, McLelland once again became an avid rock collector, prospector and researcher. Valuable mentorships by Jacques Houle and many other geoscientists helped focus his direction. His thirst for learning about mineral exploration guided his entry into highly specialized business and postgraduate degrees from Simon Fraser and Manchester Metropolitan universities.
These days, in any given week, McLelland and his team at Auracle Geospatial Science Inc. can be found developing satellite and geographical information systems (GIS) databases for projects, creating seismic survey models, interpreting spatial analysis, or ground truthing to determine spatial accuracy. They also consult worldwide in the highly specialized field of remote sensing and geoscience. He points out this exposure to worldwide markets and exploration trends provides valuable insight into industry best practices.
McLelland became politically active in his youth, “and over time I have come to the conclusion that we simply do not produce enough. We have a responsibility to produce as much of the things that we need here as we possibly can. And we don’t. In B.C., mineral exploration and mining is our forte. B.C. is a mineral-rich province; we are the world centre for mineral exploration; we have more head offices for mineral exploration in Vancouver than anywhere in the world. We have a very wealthy endowment. It is this wealth that pays for health care, education, social treatment and good governance, and research. What’s left, we get to spend on other people – including charity. I think that’s really important.”
This belief underpins his involvement with the Association for Mineral Exploration BC. He states, “I am committed to forwarding the interests of mineral exploration and mining in the province of B.C.”
McLelland came to the organization through the Vancouver Island Exploration Group almost 10 years ago when AME BC was the B.C. & Yukon Chamber of Mines. He says the restructuring and renaming of the organization has been positive in that it has streamlined governance, clarified the mandate, and established structured regional representation. “I believe it has made us more effective.” He views his role as chair as being a representative of the Board’s agenda, facilitating the atmosphere required for it to take place, and being the liaison who makes certain it is communicated.
McLelland particularly supports regional representation, saying, “It reduces the effect of centralization so that not only are people being heard, but they have the opportunity of full participation. It takes pressure off being issue-based, which can be geographic as well as economic or philosophical. Having a broader geographic representation assures AME BC is seeing more of the picture, allowing it to have a better understanding of the province-wide effect.” He adds, “The ability to speak freely with peers cannot be overstated.”
These peers include women. He asserts, “The glass ceiling in our industry is not what it appears to the public.” He points to the number of upper-echelon executive positions occupied by women in the mineral exploration field and says their numbers are reflected on the Board. Still, he maintains there is a need to create opportunity for more women to participate. “The industry and government of Canada human resources analyses point to a looming demographic crisis in our industry. In the near future, we won’t have the people we need to fill the places that we will have. Part of the way we can fill that gap is by empowering the women who are actually already qualified to come to work or to stay working in our field – we’re one of the places they can hang their hat.”
Another cause McLelland and AME BC champions is raising public awareness of the importance of mineral exploration and mining to the fabric of everyday life. He says simply, “Our society is not as cognizant of that as it ought to be.” He reiterates that education, public relations and public information are critically important to both the membership and the Board of AME BC. “As the stewards of our industry, we have a responsibility to inform the public as correctly and as frequently as possible.”