October 2013

Garth Kirkham named incoming president-elect

CIM’s 2015-16 president wants organization to become the world’s go-to standards resource

By Krystyna Lagowski

When Garth Kirkham attended a performance at his daughter’s junior high school recently, students onstage, dressed up in hard hats and holding pickaxes, portrayed miners in a negative and destructive light. The spectacle reminded him of the work the industry must do to improve its public image.

Named CIM’s incoming president-elect by council in July, Kirkham hopes to influence people’s views on mining by explaining how the modern world requires mineral resources to function, and how the job of geoscientists, miners and engineers is to locate, extract and produce those resources in a responsible manner. “Historically, standards and best practices have been poor,” the Vancouver resident concedes. “Our mission at CIM is to bring those standards up to the highest level, and to communicate what we’re doing.”

Kirkham will serve as president in 2015-16 and he will focus on promoting best practices and bringing CIM’s standards and definitions to the forefront. “CIM is the go-to resource for those kinds of things, serving both the industry and the public,” he says. Best practices, Kirkham adds, are always a work in progress: “Situations change so better practices evolve.” A case in point is how lower prices for commodities have resulted in companies writing down huge assets. A CIM subcommittee is now examining how companies can improve their cost reporting and make the process more transparent for the public and government.

“There’s an expectation from government that a mine will make billions of dollars, but they don’t take operating costs into account,” says Kirkham. Mining companies are in the business of mining, but they must also make some profit. For this reason, Kirkham says the sector needs to continue to develop ways of operating in a sustainable manner, both from an environmental and economic point of view.

Geoscience matters

A geoscientist with nearly 30 years of experience, Kirkham believes his peers are often under-represented in professional organizations such as CIM. He stresses that geoscientists must understand the issues that engineers face and vice versa. To this end, he has been working with colleagues to add more geology content to the CIM Convention technical program in order to provide more opportunities for cross-pollination.

“I served for a number of years on CIM Council, so I’m very familiar with how CIM works, and that’s how I can help go forward as president,” he said. Kirkham wants to continue pushing efforts on best practices, building CIM’s reputation as the preeminent organization for resources and information. In addition to his work with CIM, Kirkham is also an active member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia.

New world

Incumbent CIM president Bob Schafer describes Kirkham as someone who is not afraid of taking on difficult projects or getting involved in tricky situations. “As an entrepreneurial consultant, he’s self-reliant and willing to work through tough tasks,” Schafer says. “And as a geologist, he’s very conversant in a variety of commodities and geologic environments.”

Kirkham’s skills do not end there. “Garth has insights and ideas that he’s not afraid to put forward,” says Jean Vavrek, CIM executive director. “He’s courageous, forward-looking and asks the right questions. Garth is very generous with his time and knowledge, and in many ways, I think he exemplifies what CIM is all about in terms of fellowship.”

Vavrek appreciates that Kirkham is involved in various geological societies and that he has governance experience in other associations. “CIM needs different points of view as well as expertise in governance,” he says. “We’re also looking for leadership in our work on reporting standards, and Garth’s background in defining resource reserves, and as a board member of mining and exploration companies, fits our strategic direction.” Specifically, Vavrek points to consultation work being done by securities administrations and provincial securities commissions around National Instrument 43-101, for which CIM provides definition guidance on various commodities.

Kirkham sees the industry in a state of flux and believes that by the time he becomes president in 2015, the organization will have to be nimble, offering value in everything it does. He admits that his approach is very direct: “As volunteers, we all have day jobs, and I want to make sure that the time people spend volunteering is respected.”

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