Dec '12/Jan '13

CSR done right

Selwyn Blaylock Medal winner Stephen Quin takes community interests to heart

By Dan Plouffe

 

Stephen Quin accepts award from Chuck Edwards, immediate past-president of CIM.


The simple desire to see the world in his youth brought Stephen Quin to Canada early in his career, allowed him to participate in the discovery of several world-class deposits and helped him become a well-respected mining executive. Recognized for his focus on corporate social responsibility, Quin is the recipient of the 2012 CIM Selwyn Blaylock Medal that recognizes distinguished service to Canada through exceptional achiev­ement in the fields of mining, metallurgy or geology.

After graduating from the Royal School of Mines in London, British-born Quin started his career by working in exploration in Canada but was quickly drawn to the broad spectrum of disciplines involved in project management. His first job as a project manager was in Wales in 1984. In 1986, Quin returned to Canada to work for Miramar Mining Corp., and over a period of 18 years, led notable projects such as the Hope Bay gold project in Nunavut, which he helped take from 3.4 million ounces to 10.8 million ounces of gold in resources over six years. Quin also collaborated with Northern Orion Explorations, a Miramar affiliate, on a joint venture with BHP Billiton, which led to the discovery of the giant Agua Rica copper-gold deposit in Argentina.

Quin’s geology background was of great value in his executive roles when it came to identifying projects with big potential. “You get a better sense of confidence that you’re making the right decisions,” he explains. “You can look at the information yourself and make your own judgments, instead of being totally reliant on technical people.”

Perhaps his most challenging and successful project was the development of the Minto mine, a copper-gold operation in the Yukon. When Quin’s company, Sherwood Copper, acquired the site, it had been dormant for 30 years. Due to a cumbersome regulatory process, no new mines had been permitted in the Yukon for 10 years and none were in operation when Sherwood got involved.

Sherwood Copper was a success, going from acquisition to production in just under two years. During the continued growth and expansion of the Minto mine, Sherwood joined the Capstone Mining Corp. banner. Additional discoveries were made and operations were expanded to what is now almost a 4,000-tonne-per-day operation, up from 1,560 tonnes when it began.

The mine was the first of its kind in Canada: it is located on wholly owned First Nations land, so the project had to have First Nations support to be allowed to continue. Ensuring it had a positive local impact was essential.

Fortunately, corporate so­ci­al responsibility was always a priority for Quin, who says a successful mining project should act “like a pebble in the water with the ripples flowing outward,” meaning that economic benefits from the project should be felt at the local level first and then spread out into the communities beyond.

Quin promoted the creation of sustainable businesses and trades in the region by offering direct employment contracts, by helping establish the Yukon Mine Training Association to facilitate on-the-job training for First Nations, by providing scholarships and apprenticeship opportunities to locals, and by giving First Nations companies priority access to contracts, such as catering, trucking and drilling, while supporting capacity development.

Quin volunteered with governmental and industry organizations and helped develop new laws to facilitate both project financing and an im­proved mineral royalty structure in the Yukon. He used his positions to push for an agreement that has helped spur a renewal of mining in the region. A key element in the deal, he notes, was providing the Yukon and First Nations governments a greater share of federal revenues if a mining project was successful, instead of being capped out at a very low rate. As a result, local governments see direct benefits from mine development in their territory.

Still on the quest for new adventures and discoveries, Quin left Capstone in 2011 to take the helm as president and CEO of Midas Gold Corp., a Vancouver-based gold exploration company with a world-class gold asset in Idaho.

Find out about other CIM Awards.

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