The Young Mining Professionals (YMP) — a non-profit group with chapters in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and London, U.K. — has given its Mining Professional of the Year awards for 2017 to Stephen de Jong, chairman of Vancouver-based gold-silver junior Integra Resources (TSXV: ITR), and Catherine Raw, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Barrick Gold (TSX: ABX; NYSE: ABX).
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 are under 40 years of age in 2017 and active in some aspect of the mining industry in Canada, the U.S. or the United Kingdom. Voting on a selection of nominees was held in January by a committee representing the four YMP branches and The Northern Miner.
Stephen de Jong has been awarded the Peter Munk Award (male), named after the legendary founder of Barrick Gold, while Catherine Raw 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.
Stephen de Jong
De Jong, 33, was born and raised in B.C. and earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Royal Roads University in Victoria.
In 2012, de Jong became CEO of Integra Gold, a junior exploration company focused on reviving the venerable but bankrupted Sigma-Lamaque gold mine and mill complex in Val-d’Or, Quebec.
Over the next five years, de Jong helped build and lead a team that raised over $150 million during difficult market conditions and grew the business from a $10 million exploration company through to its $590 million sale to Eldorado Gold in July 2017.
Integra also showed creative promotion by its sponsorship of the $1-million Gold Rush Challenge in 2016, and as co-host alongside Goldcorp of #DisruptMining 2017.
De Jong has been chairman of Integra Resources since August 2017, and serves as a director of GFG Resources. He recently became CEO of VRify, a Vancouver-based tech startup focused on improving company engagement with stakeholders and investors.
The mining industry, de Jong says via email, is “like every other business: it’s all about people and your relationships with them. Our company wouldn’t have achieved a fraction of what it was able to without the support of so many individuals, both employees and external parties, who went out of their way to help us. Real relationships take time and energy to cultivate but they are the best investment you can make.”
As for any tips he’d give young entrepreneurs, de Jong responds: “You don’t need to pretend you know everything. Embrace this, treat your mistakes like opportunities, be open to learning new things and your personal development will happen quicker than you ever expected.
“And always try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you’re dealing with. Whether it’s an employee, director, contractor or investor, I’ve found when you try to see the situation from another’s point of view it often leads to much quicker, mutually beneficial resolutions.”
De Jong says countless individuals have helped him during his career so far, but a few stand out: “My dad played a key role in getting me started in the industry, and Integra Gold’s chairman George Salamis and our senior VP Herve Thiboutot were both phenomenal mentors that taught me all facets of this incredible industry. Looking back now, the only reason I ever had a chance at realizing any sort of success was because right from the early days, which often involved spending more time on the road than at home, I had the support of an incredible wife and family.”
Catherine Raw, 36, says the first inkling that her career would be in mining came during a first-year university placement working for a PhD student at Boliden’s Laisvall lead-zinc mine in northern Sweden.
She went on to earn a Master of Arts degree in Natural Sciences specializing in geology, with a first-class honours, from Downing College, University of Cambridge, and a Master of Science degree in Mineral Project Appraisal from Imperial College London, where she was sponsored by the Mineral Industries Educational Trust and had the chance to work with Anglo American in London and Johannesburg. She later rounded out her education by adding a CFA designation.
The combination of a geological background with finance allowed Raw to join Merrill Lynch Investment Managers, which was later bought by BlackRock, as a mining analyst on its Natural Resources Team in London.
She gained prominence in the U.K. mining investment scene as a fund manager of mining and gold equity funds at BlackRock, and was co-manager of the largest mining equity fund in the world, leading in-depth financial analysis and evaluation of every major mining company.
“I lived through both the highs and lows of the cycle,” Raw says in an interview via email. “That allowed me to get an unparalleled understanding of the good, the bad and the ugly of the mining industry and in particular how a focus on just production and a lack of good risk management led to the significant destruction of shareholder value.”
Raw joined Barrick in May 2015 as executive vice-president for business performance before rising to the position of chief financial officer in April 2016.
Asked what her strategy for corporate success is, she responds: “My philosophy is simple: manage risk, focus on returns and remember mining is about playing the long game. My strategy for success is to be transparent, open-minded and welcome the challenge.”
As for advice to younger people entering the mining industry, Raw comments that mining is an “old economy industry that needs to embrace the future. It is foundational to the global economy and yet it is considered in the scheme of things as relatively niche. By bringing in new ideas and combining them with the lessons of the past, the younger generation can make the mining industry, and the gold industry in particular, investable again.”
The YMP Awards Gala to present de Jong and Raw with their awards will be held on the evening of March 3 at the Shangri-La Hotel in downtown Toronto, the day before the start of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada convention.
Tickets are limited and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/young-mining-professional-of-the-year-awards-tickets-42288435850.
Barrick Gold, KPMG, Cassels Brock, and RBC Capital Markets are the gala sponsors.
New YMP Canada scholarships
In late January, YMP joined with Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) and Orefinders Resources (TSXV: ORX) to establish a new YMP scholarship fund that aims to attract young Canadians to the mineral industry by supporting their academic studies in earth sciences and mining engineering.
The scholarships are designed to help students who show superior leadership, determination and entrepreneurial spirit.
Three scholarships of $4,000 each will be awarded for the 2018–19 academic year, with one awarded to a male, one to a female, and the third to an indigenous person. Iamgold will fund the female and male scholarships, and Orefinders will fund the indigenous scholarship. (Orefinders CEO Stephen Stewart is a director of the YMP Toronto branch.)
Applicants will be considered on the basis of their academic achievements as well as how their submissions show creativity, innovative ideas and a commitment to a career in mineral exploration or mining.
Scholarship applications must be submitted by April 30, with recipients announced by May 31, 2018.
For further details, visit www.YoungMiningProfessionals.com/scholarships.