Outside the tech industry, there aren’t too many sectors of the economy where you can find 31-year-old presidents of major companies, and certainly not in the field of mining, where the demographics in management are often skewed in the other direction.
But Rob McEwen, known for routinely challenging convention, doesn’t believe it has to be that way.
On Sept. 13 the CEO of McEwen Mining (TSX: MUX; NYSE: MUX) announced the promotion of his 31-year-old senior vice-president, Ian Ball, to become president of the mining company, which has a market capitalization of $721 million and projects in three countries.
“Ian has been taking on more responsibility and demonstrating that he can do the job well, and I thought it was time to recognize the contribution and the responsibility,” McEwen says in an interview, adding, “I like enquiring minds, energy and focus, and a lot of that comes with youth — I’m not a big believer in the status quo.”
Ball says the promotion was really just a formalization of what he had already been doing as senior vice-president on the operations side, with everyone in the company, from Nevada to Mexico to Argentina, reporting directly to him.
But Ball also points out that over the past year, he and McEwen have been dividing up more and more of the presentations that are given on behalf of the company.
“It’s the divide-and-conquer strategy,” McEwen jokes. “There are a lot of people to talk to, and one person can’t cover the ground.”
Since joining the company in late 2005 with a degree in business from Ryerson University, Ball has advanced the development of McEwen Mining’s Mexican assets, in particular the discovery of the El Gallo 2 silver deposit and the restarting of the El Gallo 1 gold mine and its current expansion.
“In the mining industry there isn’t a crowded field of under-30 presidents, but it doesn’t mean there can’t be,” McEwen offers. “It’s about maturity and experience and drive, and all those factors combined to present these opportunities.”
For his part, Ball says the mining industry should put more emphasis on attracting younger talent. “In the technology industry you have a lot of young people accomplishing big things, [but] when you look at mining it doesn’t attract a lot of the young brain power that technology or science does,” he continues. “There’s a real opportunity here. We need to bring new thinking in. You don’t need to be a mining engineer — you can look at other industries that have people who can bring in a new skill set.”
Adds McEwen: “There’s a great deal of inertia in the industry, so by breaking out of that there are large wins.”