The Young Mining Professionals (YMP) — a non-profit group with chapters in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Sudbury, Perth, Brisbane, Johannesburg and London — has given its Mining Professional of the Year awards for 2018 to Andrée St-Germain, chief financial officer of Integra Resources (TSXV: ITR; US-OTC: IRRZF) and José Vizquerra, executive vice-president of strategic development and a director of Osisko Mining (TSX: OSK; US-OTC: OBNNF).
The YMP Awards, presented in association with The Northern Miner, are intended by the YMP to “recognize two young mining professionals, a male and a female, who over the past year, and during the course of their careers, have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and innovative thinking to provide value for their companies and shareholders, as well as for themselves.”
Nominees were under 40 years of age in 2018 and active in some aspect of the mining industry anywhere in the world. Voting on a selection of nominees was held in January by a committee representing YMP branches and The Northern Miner.
St-Germain has been awarded the Eira Thomas Award (female), named after the iconic mining executive who first gained prominence for her role in growing the diamond miner Aber Resources, while Vizquerra has been awarded the Peter Munk Award (male), named after the legendary founder of Barrick Gold.
The YMP Awards Gala to present St-Germain and Vizquerra with their awards will be held on the evening of March 2 at the Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Toronto, the day before the start of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention.
Awards gala tickets are limited and can be bought at
Barrick Gold, KPMG, Cassels Brock and Rio Tinto are the gala sponsors.
YMP was established to help its members obtain the skills, support and knowledge to advance their mining careers, develop a network of contacts within the industry and find career and mining-related investment opportunities. YMP facilitates these objectives through its scholarship program, social events and high-profile guest speaker events.
Andrée St-Germain, 39, was born in Haiti and raised in Gatineau, Quebec.
She earned a Bachelor in Business Administration from the Université du Québec (TÉLUQ) and an International Master of Business Administration (Honours) from York University’s Schulich School of Business.
St-Germain began her career in investment banking working for Dundee Capital Markets, and interacted with mining companies on mergers and acquisitions advisory and financing.
In 2013, St-Germain joined Golden Queen Mining as chief financial officer, where she played an instrumental role in securing project finance and overseeing Golden Queen as it transitioned from development and construction to commercial production.
She joined Integra Gold as CFO in early 2017 and helped oversee its sale to Eldorado Gold in July 2017 for C$590 million. After the sale to Eldorado, the former Integra Gold team regrouped to form Integra Resources, and bought the DeLamar gold-silver project in Idaho from Kinross Gold.
“Andrée was originally hired as our CFO, due to her operational experience in mine-site construction and management at Golden Queen — a professional niche, I might add, where there are few female role models leading the charge,” says Integra Resources president and CEO George Salamis. “I had known Andrée for several years prior to her hire at Integra, most specifically while she was a well recognized investment banker at Dundee Capital. Her energy, dedication and pragmatic approach has always made her a stand-out in the field of resource finance.”
St-Germain is also a director of Barkerville Gold Mines (TSXV: BGM) and IDM Mining (TSXV: IDM). (The latter is the target of a friendly takeover by Ascot Resources.)
José Vizquerra, 39, was born and raised in Lima, Peru.
Jose holds a civil engineering degree from the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas (UPC) and an MSc in Mineral Exploration from Queens University. He is currently finishing the General Management program at the Wharton Business School.
Vizquerra previously worked as the head of business development for Minas Buenaventura (NYSE: BVN) (a company his grandfather founded in 1953), prior to which he worked as a production and exploration geologist at the Red Lake gold mine in Ontario.
In 2011 he moved to Canada to work with the Osisko Group.
In 2013, the Osisko Group’s Braeval Mining, of which Vizquerra was president and CEO, endured a trying period when six team members were kidnapped at the company’s mining camp in Colombia, including vice-president of exploration Gernot Worber, who was held for 200 days. Vizquerra led the team responsible for coordinating and assisting with the liberation of the kidnapped personnel, all of whom were safely returned.
Before his current role at Osisko Mining, Vizquerra served for over four years as the president and CEO of Oban Mining, where he led the change of business strategy that resulted in Oban’s acquisition of Corona Gold, Eagle Hill Exploration and Ryan Gold to form what is now Osisko Mining.
“Jose has been instrumental in the creation of the new Osisko Mining, which started as a company with an $8-million market cap in the summer of 2015,” Osisko president and CEO John Burzynski says. “After three short years and approximately 50 transactions, Osisko has grown to a $750-million-market-cap company developing the high-grade Windfall project in Quebec.
“Jose is bound to be an important player in the next generation of Canadian mine builders. He has a solid technical background in geology and mining engineering, and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He has mastered financial dealmaking, and he has honed his business skills with the multiple and frequent deals at Osisko. All of this is a potent and well-rounded mix of experience for a successful, rising star in the Canadian mining industry.”
Vizquerra is also a director of Alio Gold (TSX: ALO; NYSE-AM: ALO), Sierra Metals (TSX: SMT; NYSE-AM: SMTS) and Discovery Metals (TSXV: DSV; US-OTC: AYYBF) .
The Northern Miner reached out to St-Germain and Vizquerra via email with some career-related questions, and below are their answers.
The Northern Miner: Do you have any family connections to mining?
Andrée St-Germain: One of my uncles, Denis Tremblay, is a geologist from Val-d’Or. Perhaps that’s what first awakened my interest for gold as a kid. My partner is also a CFO in the mining industry. He is a valuable sounding board and understands the demands and rigour of the job, together with the ups and downs that come with our industry.
José Vizquerra: I was introduced to mining by my grandfather Alberto Benavides de la Quintana, who used to invite me to the management meetings he conducted every Saturday at his office. During those meetings, geology, mining and metallurgical matters were discussed. I am married with two children and I hope to pass on the passion for mining that my grandfather passed on to me.
TNM: What first got you interested in a mining career?
ASG: Serendipity! I started working in investment banking at Dundee Capital Markets after completing my MBA. While I worked in several industries at first, mining was what captured my interest. Shortly thereafter Bob Sangha and Sandeep Singh joined to lead the mining practice, and they brought me into their team. I’ve never looked back since.
JV: I fell in love with mining after I visited Buenaventura’s Orcopampa mine with my uncle Raul when I was 12 years old. I found it fascinating to be in the underground tunnels, but more importantly I was extremely impressed by the contribution the mine was making to the development of a town located over 3,500 metres above sea level.
TNM: What keeps you interested in a mining career?
ASG: My passion for the multiple facets of our industry, and its often very colourful people. In my role as a CFO and also as a director, I have the opportunity to be exposed to many aspects of mining, from exploration, environmental, corporate social responsibility, financing, etc., which makes for a stimulating career. I believe in the future of our industry. Mining can enhance the lives of local communities and make a positive impact on all stakeholders.
JV: The development of rural communities keeps me extremely motivated. As you know, you don’t choose where you will find a mineral deposit, but whenever mining operations are established, one may, and indeed should, strive to improve the lives of surrounding communities. The opportunity to positively affect the lives of many people by providing them with long-term employment and help to develop their communities, together with the opportunity to solve intricate geological puzzles that the earth has in store — those things keep my passion at the highest level.
TNM: Have mentors been important to you? Any specific people?
ASG: I wouldn’t be where I am without the support, mentorship and guidance of many individuals. Bob Sangha, Sandeep Singh and Rick Cohen during my investment banking days, Lutz Klingmann, Bryan Coates, Brenda Dayton, when I left investment banking to join the corporate side, and over the past few years, George Salamis and Steve de Jong. All of these individuals have always believed in my potential, and sometimes even more than I believed it myself.
JV: Mentors have been unquestionably important to me. I have already mentioned my grandfather. In my professional life in Canada, the most important person has been John Burzynski. John is an extremely bright professional, but more importantly, he is an exceptional human being. He has taught me in the best way possible: by example.
In addition to many other lessons he taught me, for instance, he helped me truly understand that the best deal is not the best deal one can conceive, but the one that can be executed.
TNM: Do you have any advice for young graduates starting out in a mining career, or younger students considering mining-related degrees?
ASG: It is a fast-changing industry facing many challenges, but also opportunities that require dedication, hard work, flexibility of thinking, and above all, humility. I also believe the quality of a team is as important as the quality of the mining assets, which highlights the importance of picking your team wisely. I’m fortunate to have a great team at Integra, as well as at IDM Mining and Barkerville Gold Mines — teams able to navigate the multiple challenges our industry faces. Never underestimate the power of networking. This is a small industry and we are all connected in one way or another. Finally, and most importantly, love what you do and be passionate about it, because that is what will get you through the lows of the cycle.
JV: If I could give one bit of advice it would be to always be open to help others in all that one can. Our industry needs to be more united, so we can face together the challenges of the future. Also, to be always open to keep learning, or even better, to always start by assuming you don’t know the answer.
TNM: Millennials and other young people are known for wanting a better “work-life” balance than previous generations. Is this something you’re doing or aiming to do?
ASG: I didn’t have much of a work-life balance for most of my career, and was a true believer in having to “pay your dues.” I now have a much more balanced life, and work with a team who supports work-life balance. I’m feeling less stressed and healthier than I’ve ever been, and this gets reflected in the quality of my work, and my enthusiasm at the office. I’m totally converted now, and a strong believer in the physiological and mental benefits of work-life balance. There are times where the demand of work will make balance difficult to achieve in the short-term, and that is part of the job, but we should always be striving for balance in the long-term.
JV: Our industry requires us to be in the field and the more time we spend looking at rocks or learning new mining or metallurgy methods, the better professionals we become. I believe that the key is to make the workplace interesting so more people will be attracted to the lifestyle and to the promise of self-betterment, and the sense of adventure that the profession offers.
I don’t think all millennials want to spend all of their time in front of a computer or to be always working from home. In the past the rotational nature of the work of many geologists and mining engineers managed to attract a lot of professionals, and I do not believe that today this lifestyle is unattractive to millennials.
TNM: What big changes do you see happening in the mining industry?
ASG: We’ve seen a strong push on technologies these past few years, and this trend is here to stay. Environmental and community engagements are becoming, rightly so, top priorities for management. Shareholder activism will keep management teams on their toes. Some of the biggest challenges, for the industry as a whole, will be to motivate the younger generation to join the industry and get younger investors interested in mining stock. On the positive side, the industry is taking diversity seriously, and I’ve seen great improvements in the past years.
JV: There have been many advances in our industry which have not been well publicized. For example, bio-leaching, long-hole mining at 1-metre width, new artificial intelligence that maneuvers block modelling, etc.
We can achieve much thanks to technological development, but one of the big challenges we have today is the lack of sufficient sharing of information.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the biggest changes were with regards to metallurgical breakthrough, such as the introduction of solvent extraction–electrowinning for copper and the use of cyanide in gold processing. In the case of mining, it was also the use of bigger trucks. I believe the more substantial changes in our industry today will come with the increase in use of automated trucks, and mining equipment in general.
Another source of innovation will come from the use of alternative energies, which I believe will have a big impact on costs. That in turn may allow us to process deposits whose developments have not been considered economically feasible, previously.
In general, I believe that the mining industry will need to work more collaboratively to have a bigger impact on technological innovations in the modern world.