Geologists can make good business decisions too
Robert Quartermain, one of Canada’s leading geologists and mining executives, said there is a leadership role to be carried out by earth scientists in the development of significant new mining projects in Canada.
Quartermain, who is the executive chairman of Pretium Resources Inc., was speaking at Laurentian University as part of the Goodman School of Mines lecture series January 8.
He is well known for growing Silver Standard Resources (now SSR Mining Inc.) as well as for the development of the high-grade Brucejack gold mine in Northern B.C. Quartermain is also known for his generous support of education initiatives at the University of New Brunswick, his alma mater.
He said in geological terms we live in the Holocene Epoch but we might be entering a new age called the Anthropocene Age, which reflects the result of irreversible human impacts on the planet.
“And so it is now more important than ever that we as earth scientists are really aware of what our impact is and what we can do about that,” said Quartermain.
“If we look at this as resource professionals, we want to ensure that the decisions which are made from our economic and political and regulatory environment are both science-based and evidence-based,” he told the audience.
Quartermain was prompted by a question from one Laurentian student to suggest the best advice that might be offered students for success in their chosen fields.
“I am an earth scientist. I am geologist by training. The good thing that occurred when I was in the industry back in the 70s was to get out and bash a lot of rocks,” Quartermain replied.
He added that when he sees rock samples, he sees things differently than the people who inhabit mining boardrooms.
“When I look at a rock sample, I look at data. I can make determinations around it relatively quickly – quicker perhaps than management at many mining companies because they may be run by financial individuals,” he remarked.
At another point in his talk, Quartermain remarked that the development of the Brucejack gold mine came about after determining that the initial high grade gold samples were not an anomaly but a true indication of the gold mineralization that would eventually be discovered.
“Geology is a bit of both an art and science. It’s about interpretation,” he said.
“We are trying to take things that occurred 190 million years ago and determine what was going on at that point in time. And then how things interact.”
He told the students to do everything they can to learn and grow in their chosen discipline.
“So get good experience,” said Quartermain. “You’ve got great professors here. Spend as much time as you can looking at rocks, looking down microscopes,” he added.
“And when you get out, bash rocks, go on mine tours and trips. But be good scientists. Focus on the science around it. I am where I am because of science.”
Quartermain said he still takes pride in being a geoscientist and tries to stay current with whatever is new in earth science.
“An opportunity will come your way. I never planned my career to end up on this stage. I just like discoveries, drilling holes and getting out and looking and prospecting and by doing that and focusing on it, it has led me here.”