EDITOR’S COMMENTS: Risk as a way of life

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By Ellsworth Dickson

Most people don’t need to consider taking risks when they go to work. Yes, there are some risky jobs such as entrepreneurs, stockbrokers and motorcycle racers; however, there is group of people that face risks every day for an entire career – and that is exploration geologists.

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that most mineral discoveries have been made by junior exploration companies – sometimes just a handful of people – and not senior mining companies. Seniors do better building and operating mines.

For example, tiny Dia Met Minerals made a major diamond discovery in the Northwest Territories that created a new industry for Canada. We are now seeing both new and brownfield discoveries in northwestern British Columbia’s Golden Triangle, in northern Quebec and Nevada, to name a few.

Sometimes serendipity plays a part when junior explorers are out whacking rocks. Diamond Fields made the giant polymetallic Voisey’s Bay discovery in Labrador when looking for diamonds.

These rare discoveries have resulted mines being built that generated billions of dollars and employ thousands of people. And that’s despite the cruel fact that maybe one mineral prospect in well over a thousand ever becomes a mine. Yes, prospecting can be a heartbreaking endeavour.

So, when facing these long odds, how can exploration geologists remain optimistic every morning when they arrive at work knowing that their program will likely fail?

Resource World asked veteran exploration geologist Bruce Downing, P.Geo., for an answer.

“It’s a basic curiosity that keeps us going,” says Downing. “Maybe there is a discovery waiting just over the hill or maybe I should drill deeper. Sometimes geologists bring data sets together and see or realize something that wasn’t known before that could point to a discovery. My geological curiosity overrides the long odds.”

Cynics might say that exploration geologists are spending other people’s money, so why should they care? Having met and written about exploration geologists since 1983, I can tell you the vast majority of them do care.

Since private placement funds to go exploring are usually hard to find, a junior exploration company wants to make a significant discovery or the company will be defunct in four or five years. A discovery will not only enhance a geologist’s resume, management will see some capital gains as will the company’s shareholders. Every management team wants shareholders to do well.

All this exploration effort often takes place when there are even more odds stacked against success – volatile commodity prices, shifting investor sentiment and unknown future commodity demands.

Right now, there are quite a few exploration geologists who have beaten the odds. Even with the recent slowdowns and suspensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just by browsing through the past two month’s stories on the Resource World website makes it clear that their geological curiosity has paid off as can be seen by excellent sampling and drill results. Mineral resources are being calculated and expanded. Mining companies are going into production. And the gold bull market sure helps.

Hugely successful investor/financiers such as Eric Sprott and Rick Rule have faith in quality junior explorers and have invested millions. Just like the exploration geologists that they are backing, Sprott and Rule remain optimistic or they wouldn’t risk their considerable wealth.

Considering the fact that numerous juniors are reporting encouraging exploration results in a time of robust gold prices and a positive investor sentiment, so should you.

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