Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and your career.
I’m currently the VP Corporate Development for Endeavour Silver, a mid-tier silver and gold mining company. My main responsibilities are to handle M&A transactions, which in turn influences the long-term strategy of the company. Although I’m more of an “office” geologist now, my early years began much like other young geologists. I graduated in 1996 with a degree in Geology from the University of Alberta, in my hometown of Edmonton. Soon after that, I was off exploring for base metals, precious metals and diamonds mostly in northern Canada. After 14 years of practical geology, I moved over to the capital markets and worked as a mining analyst for investment banks and private equity.
What is the biggest challenge in this market at the moment?
Financing for mineral exploration. Canada, and more specifically Vancouver, has traditionally been the world’s incubator for exploration companies. About half of all global mining financings went to Canadian-based mining companies – approximately $6.5 billion in 2018. Although still significant, it is the lowest amount since 2011, when $12.5 billion was raised. When put into the context of junior exploration companies, those with less than $100 million market capitalization represent only 23 per cent of all money raised in Canada. Back in 2011, juniors were able to raise 2.4 times this amount. With less money to explore, fewer discoveries can be made and projects may not advance. In addition, with over 700 Vancouver-based companies in the mining industry, the downward trend of available capital to deploy is a concern to many. What are the biggest opportunities in this market at the moment? It’s no secret that our industry is driven by discoveries. Investments in companies with quality projects have a higher probability of success and the potential for significant returns. Innovation is also important and has been a topic of great discussion lately. New world-class discoveries do not happen as frequently anymore, so new ways of exploring and analyzing data could provide the key to new mineral deposits. Innovative exploration methods can be successful in mature mining areas and lead to new discoveries.
How has the market changed in the past five years?
What do you predict will happen in the next five to 10 years? Even though there has been a downward trend for junior exploration companies, we have seen a shift in the commodities targeted by those exploration dollars. Since 2008, Canadian gold exploration expenditures doubled relative to other commodities, jumping from 31 per cent to 65 per cent. This has come at the expense of uranium, diamond and nickel exploration. Over the next five to 10 years, I still believe the majority of exploration and financings will be for precious metal. However, the wild card will be battery metals, cobalt and lithium. In recent years, these two metals have seen prices increase mainly due to rising demand for electric vehicles. If the worldwide demand increases as expected, we could see another commodity shift.
What do you think are some of the reasons that people should attend Roundup 2020?
As innovation is vital to our industry, Roundup 2020 is excited to offer a short course on machine learning, a subject that has been of great interest and curiosity to the industry at large. Paired with courses on porphyry and epithermal targeting to extend past learning, we believe there will be something for everyone. The Innovation Hub has been growing in popularity over the past few years and will focus on the application of geophysics amongst other new technologies. We encourage you to visit the Project Generator’s Hub and Prospectors’ Tent to find your next potential project, while the Gathering Place will once again provide a welcoming space for Indigenous, political and industry leaders to meet. For hands-on geology, the Core Shack runs all four days in the Exhibit Hall and is always a must-see.
Can you tell me what topics will be covered in the technical sessions?
This year’s theme, Lens on Discovery, will focus on changing viewpoints and identifying new opportunities and untapped potential within our industry. We will also have regional overviews that provide updates on B.C., Yukon and Alaskan mineral exploration and mining activities. Precious metals and base metals will continue to have their own dedicated talks covering a wide range of deposit types. The New Geoscience session covers geoscience initiatives and their impact on the understanding of Cordilleran geology in relation to mineral deposits. This ties in nicely with the B.C./Yukon/Alaska session that highlights exciting exploration programs in western North America. Not to be missed is the Commodities and Financial Markets session, where presenters share their expertise on the outlook for the metals and mining industry.
In what ways does the Roundup Organizing Committee decide the speakers for the various technical sessions?
What makes our conference unique is that our audience is mostly geologists. Knowing that, we try to focus on the science and technical details of mineral deposits and exploration methods. We look for technical successes and highlight what it was that led to the discovery. Whether it was geophysics, geochemistry or artificial intelligence, our audience wants to know why something is the way it is, and why it’s not something else.
What are you hoping that attendees learn from attending technical sessions?
As we attract so many companies and people who specialize in mineral exploration, we really hope that we can inspire, motivate and renew the passion for professionals and non-professionals to keep exploring. Look outside the box, apply what you have learned to your own projects and leave no stone unturned. The science of geology is slow to change with deposit models that are well studied and proven. However, I feel that the science of discovery is about to see significant progress due to necessity, lower commodity prices and lower exploration budgets. It’s no secret that, as explorers, we need to innovate and become more efficient with limited available capital.
What else would you like to highlight for Roundup 2020?
One of the most successful pre-conference events is Discovery Day. This is a free event that happens on Sunday, January 19, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. It’s interactive and has hands-on, educational displays for kids young and old. My kids loved going last year and really enjoyed gold panning and the 3D Virtual Reality topographic display. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of geoscientists and explorers to carry on the tradition of excellence in exploration.