Reflections on a career mined in the resource sector

What defines an outstanding career?

I was thinking about this question several weeks ago when I was honoured with an induction into the Business Laureates of British Columbia Hall of Fame. While the distinction is humbling, as I sat at the gala dinner, I naturally began to reflect on my career.

Those who know me, know I credit a large part of my success to luck, perseverance (or stubbornness) and the ability to take risks. These skills by definition are not different than a vast majority of people, which I guess is where luck comes in.

After spending a handful of my post-undergraduate years working a series of non-descript jobs, I decided that I was in need of a reboot and applied to a number of Masters of Business programs in Canada. Contrary to the good fortune I would later experience in life, I was turned down at all of the universities to which I had applied. Just before registration I received a call from the University of Ottawa telling me that a spot had opened up and that I had been accepted into their program.

Many years later, in the late 1990s, I was running a gold mining company that was experiencing pressure from a declining price in gold.  I was left with the very real prospect of not being able to repay our company’s loans.  Following the guidance of a friend, when gold rebounded momentarily and gained more than $50 dollars in one day, I sold all our company shares, paid off our loans and learned an even more valuable lesson: the value of timing.

This moment served as a catalyst and a lesson for the rest of my career.   But, it didn’t dull my belief that in order to succeed, you have to take risks.  Ideally, you have a gut feeling that the timing of a given ambition is right, and with that gut feeling, you boldly move forward.

In the 1990s, while gold prices remained low, I had a brief foray in the technology sector.  Although my time in the technology sector did not end particularly well, it also served as a learning experience. My time in the industry reinforced my belief that technology was going to be a game changer, and it was also going to eventually heavily influence the mining sector.

While many resource companies have been slow to embrace the potential technology offers, I’m proud that Goldcorp has been ahead of the curve as far as embracing the possibility in technological innovation.

In 2000, for example, Goldcorp became one of the first precious metal firms to engage in crowdsourcing. The Goldcorp Challenge is a unique initiative in which Goldcorp releases data from its Red Lake mine in Ontario to the public in a competition to maximize the site’s potential.

Today, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and digital sensors I think are really helping to revitalize and push forward mining. As a note, crowdsourcing has also become a viable investment tool for those who are interested in investing in mining projects. 

As I sat reviewing my career in the room filled with some of British Columbia’s best and brightest, I was honoured to be selected among the other inductees, but I was also humbled by how my career has been forged by partnerships, advice, warning, generosity and of course luck.

My philanthropy is often noted in the press, which to me seems strange because giving back is so intrinsic to the Canadian identity. However, I am honoured and blessed to be able to share my good fortune with others.

It was around this time in my reflection that I heard the announcement, “This year’s inductee Ian Telfer…”

And again I was reminded of how truly lucky I have been.