May 2011

Paying it forward

CIM Vale Inco Medal winner fostering an interest in geology

By Correy Baldwin


Robert Quartermain and then-CIM president Michael Allan at CIM Conference & Exhibition 2010 | Photo credit: Normand Huberdeau / NH Photographes Ltée

Robert Quartermain always wanted to make sure he was generous with what he had. “I’m from the Maritimes,” he says by way of explanation, “and was told you give back.”

As the recipient of the 2010 Vale Inco Medal (as of 2011, “Vale Medal”) Quartermain has been recognized not only for his leadership, but for his generosity – to the people, institutions and communities that enabled him to become what he is today: a leader in the field of precious metals exploration and development, and someone keen on fostering an interest in geology in young people and supporting their geological education.

Quartermain grew up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, where he spent his summers working at his grandfather’s store, being taught the value of money early on. He received a bachelor’s in geology from the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and his master’s in mineral exploration from Queen’s University. After spending several years with Teck Corporation, he was brought to Vancouver to head up a small exploration company called Silver Standard. He spent 25 years as the company’s president and CEO, turning it into one of the world’s largest silver companies.

“When I started at Silver Standard, it was a company of two – myself and a receptionist – and it had a market cap of around $2 million,” he says. “Ultimately, we took it to a firm of close to a thousand people with an operating mine, 17 projects in seven countries around the world, and a market cap that reached $2.7 billion – things I could be proud of as an exploration geologist who was transferred from North Bay, Ontario, to Vancouver without any experience at all in public companies.”

Quartermain considers himself just one of a host of successful entrepreneurs. “This town is full of people who’ve been entrepreneurial that have good geological technical background and have been able to create a lot of shareholder value,” he says. Success, Quartermain adds, lies in deploying shareholder’s money wisely, a love of discovery (and focusing that love on “things where you might have a bit of success”), not being afraid of taking risks and, of course, surrounding yourself with good people.

The success of Silver Standard provided Quartermain the means to give back, with much of his efforts focused on UNB and the province he grew up in. He set up a scholarship at UNB to support second- and third-year geology students, as well as the McAllister Field Trip Fund, which finances field trips to geological sites whereby students are introduced to the importance of geological field study. The fund was named after the late professor emeritus Arnie McAllister. “He was certainly instrumental in my career and my going into economic geology,” says Quartermain, “and we were able to build the fund in his honour.”

There is also the Quartermain Centre, he adds, “an earth science centre at UNB that will focus on not only teaching and providing resources for its students, but reaching out to school-aged children who will be able to visit the centre and hopefully get them thinking about a career in geology. We have to build into the early stage of our scholastic system an understanding and appreciation for the fact that we use metals every day,” he explains, adding, “the consequence of using them is that we modify the environment, and we all need to try and do that as minimally as we can.”

Quartermain also funded a sports medicine centre at UNB, in the hope that “some things might be able to pollinate between what goes on with geology and sports medicine. We need healthy geologists.”

In addition, he has contributed to a hockey arena in St. Stephen, a marine biology research station in St. Andrews, programs at Queen’s University, the University of British Columbia’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering, and the Britannia Mine Museum, as well as other private foundations, and work with the Canadian Hemophilia Society.

Certainly, his contributions have had a positive influence on a great number of people.

Post a comment


PDF Version