The Awards Gala at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) meeting resembles the Oscars for the mining business. The PDAC rolls out the red carpet at the historic Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, and mining executives celebrate the achievements of their peers.
As one would expect, the award winners have distinguished themselves in many ways, but this year’s group had something else in common: self-reliance. Many of them rose from modest means and worked hard to achieve success. They saw value where others did not, and they mortgaged their homes on a hunch.
The PDAC presented the Sustainability Award to the Lundin Foundation. The Lundin program focuses on four key areas: education and skills training, local supplier development, economic diversification, and environmental innovation. At the Fruta del Norte mine in Ecuador, Lundin trained 320 people from surrounding communities who had no mining experience. The foundation has invested $30 million in climate start-ups, and it supports more than 650 small businesses in communities in areas around the world that lack First World opportunities. The award recognized the achievement and vision of a Canadian mining giant, Lukas Lundin.
The Viola R. MacMillan Award was presented to John McCluskey and Alamos Gold in recognition of their efforts to revive the Island Gold mine. McCluskey started in 1994 working out of a spare bedroom, and today Alamos Gold is worth $5.5 billion. The market had a very dim view of the Island Gold mine, but he saw the mine through a different lens. On the day they acquired the operation from Richmont Mines, the company’s stock sank 17%. Alamos began building a management team, and relationships with First Nations near the mine. Alamos tripled the reserves and resources and doubled the mine life. Island Gold is now Canada’s most profitable gold mine.
The Thayer Lindsley Award was presented to Chalice Mining for a significant discovery they made in their own backyard, 70 km from Perth, Australia. The Julimar nickel-copper-PGM deposit was overlooked by previous explorers because of the regolith cover that obscured the geology. Chalice defined a drill-ready target on a shoestring budget of $50,000 in 2020. The maiden drill hole uncovered one of the most significant nickel sulphide discoveries, and the largest PGE discovery ever in Australia. That led to a jaw-dropping mineral resource estimate of 350 million tons, containing 11 million oz of PGEs and gold, 560,000 metric tons (mt) of nickel, 360,000 mt of copper and 54,000 mt of cobalt. Sometimes the biggest discoveries are closer than you think.
The Bill Dennis Award was presented to Great Bear Resources. When Bob Singh, vice president exploration, and CEO Chris Taylor, a structural geologist, reviewed the models, they were convinced previous geologists had misinterpreted the geology and the Dixie zone had a lot more gold to offer. Trusting science and their expertise, they acquired the mine for $200,000 and began to assemble their team. The fourth drillhole validated their hunch. Discoveries continued in quick succession. In 2022, Kinross Gold scooped up Great Bear Resources for $1.8 billion.
The Skookum Jim Award was presented to Glenn Nolan, who was appointed as a director for the association in 2005 and went on to serve as the first indigenous president of the PDAC from 2012 to 2014. Like a lot of us, he grew up in a mining town. He worked hard and rose to a prominent role in the mining business. He never forgot his roots and today he is still a driving force for the inclusion of indigenous people. The award was a crowning achievement for a man who truly deserved it.