Ailbhe Goodbody - 01 May 2023
Long-time CIM volunteer Michael Cinnamond takes on the CIM Presidency at an important moment for the industry and the Institute
Mike Cinnamond, CIM’s 2023-2024 President, brings in-depth knowledge of the corporate side of the mining industry to the CIM Council. Currently the senior vice-president of finance and CFO of Vancouver-headquartered B2Gold Corp, he has been involved in CIM for two decades, first at the Branch level, then on the national level on the CIM Council. As an advocate of promoting knowledge and learning within the mining industry, he thinks organizations like CIM play an important role in knowledge sharing and the development of best practices.
CIM: How did you get involved in the mining industry?
Cinnamond: I came to Canada in 1997 and worked for one of the big accounting firms, Coopers & Lybrand, which later became PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). I wanted to work on some of the mergers, acquisitions and other financing transactions that were happening at the time, and everyone said I should go and work for the mining team, because that’s where the deals were happening.
That was in 1998 and although the deal pipeline for mining companies soon dwindled in the downturn, I really loved the industry, so I stayed in the PwC Mining Group. Eventually, I became a partner, and by the time I left in 2013 I was running the Mining Group. I really enjoyed it, with clients on both the base and the precious metals sides who were good people to deal with, operating around the world and always with something interesting going on in terms of projects and transactions.
Then I was lucky enough to come and work on the company side of the industry—I got the chance to join B2Gold in mid-2013 as its CFO. I’ve really enjoyed being right in the middle of things and involved in the day-to-day running of a successful and entrepreneurial mining company. It’s a very fulfilling job; every day is very different.
CIM: In what ways has the mining industry challenged you?
Cinnamond: I think it challenges me in many ways. One of the challenges is geographical; there is a lot of travel involved in this industry—for B2Gold, we must fly over an ocean pretty much every time we go to one of our projects. We currently operate mines in Mali, the Philippines and Namibia and through our recently completed acquisition of Sabina Gold & Silver, we now also have the Back River project in Nunavut. It’s great to have a project in Canada. Keeping in touch with the people at various operations, and being able to help with what’s going on, can be a challenge. You must make sure you have the right people working with you.
The mining industry is also intellectually challenging, as there’s always something new to deal with or to negotiate. As you get involved in new projects, or when you’re trying to negotiate something like a new stability agreement with the government of a particular country, you have to deal quickly with issues as they arise—there’s no handbook. You get to meet a lot of interesting and clever people, and you have to adapt and deal with each scenario as you get to it.
CIM: What advice would you give to an ambitious university student about to enter the mining industry?
Cinnamond: I’d say go for it! Mining is an essential business with lots of opportunities around the world, and Canadian miners are very well respected. If you want an opportunity to travel, develop yourself and learn about a lot of different countries, cultures and people and how they operate; as long as you have an open mind, you’re going to find the industry rewarding.
Mining is a global industry, but compared to other industries, for example the utilities or oil industries, it’s still relatively compact and close knit—and that means that its it not difficult to get to know a lot of people quite quickly. That’s one of the things I think is neat about CIM; it doesn’t matter where you are—it can be in West Africa or Mongolia—wherever you go, you can almost bet that you’re going to meet another CIM member and they are going to know lots of people you know and have worked with. It's great seeing that Canadian stamp globally and the support CIM members provide to each other. So, if you are an ambitious student, join up at your local CIM Branch or Student Branch and get yourself out to their events to meet your future employers.
As soon as I first became involved with CIM’s Vancouver Branch, I started to build that network. CIM is an excellent venue for meeting people, including those at a more senior level, who are prepared to give you their time. You feel like you’re part of the industry quite quickly. There’s a large technical aspect to CIM but there’s an equally large fellowship aspect to it too which maybe isn’t obvious until you attend your first local event. But then you know.
CIM: How long have you been involved in CIM?
Cinnamond: It’s been almost 20 years now, in quite a few different roles. I got involved as treasurer of the Vancouver Branch when I was a manager at PwC back in 2002. After being treasurer for a couple of years, I became the Deputy Chair, and eventually Branch Chair for a couple more years. In 2008-2009, the same year that Jim Popowich was CIM President, I became CIM’s Finance Chair and kept that role until 2014. I mention Jim Popowich because he left a lasting impact on me as the first CIM President that I had worked directly with. He was instrumental in overhauling CIM’s governance structure that year and was the kind of dedicated member and colleague that I think exemplifies what CIM is all about.
In 2017 I was back on Council, as a Director-at-Large, which I did for maybe another three years. Then in 2021, I was announced as the 2023-2024 President.
I think that CIM is an amazing organization for ground it covers. The Branches and Societies are very active and rely to a large degree on the service of dedicated CIM volunteers to run their well-attended local events. That’s the core of what maintains the CIM community locally. Then at the National Office level, there is a relatively small staff who organizes a lot in terms of national and international conferences and events, as well as assisting the Branches and Societies in their endeavours. I’m always impressed by how much a small group of people with dedication and drive can get done.
CIM: You received the CIM Distinguished Service Medal in 2022, could you tell me a bit about that?
Cinnamond: Well, I can certainly tell you that I was surprised and that it was a great honour to receive it.
I’ve been involved in CIM for a long time now, so maybe that was part of it. Another thing that might have been behind it was that when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, CIM’s annual convention had to be cancelled. That was a major disruption for CIM and we experienced a significant loss of revenue that year, like many other organizations during the early part of the pandemic. We also had to act quickly to rethink our short-term strategy and how to best serve CIM’s membership in a suddenly impersonal world.
With CIM chief executive officer Angela Hamlyn’s help, a few of us started what we called the Corporate Patron Initiative. Basically, we reached out to a lot of mining companies to tell them how CIM had been impacted by COVID and had lost a year’s worth of conference revenues, and we asked them to help support the Institute by being a patron sponsor over the next year as CIM reorganized its strategy.
A lot of companies stepped up and were very happy to support CIM, a well-respected organization that they regard as very meaningful and important for the mining industry. We raised $1.74 million and helped to replace the lost conference revenues.
So, the Distinguished Service Medal may have been partly in recognition of having been involved with that initiative, although the real winners were CIM and everyone who participated in and supported it.
CIM: What is your vision for CIM during your year as President, and for the future?
Cinnamond: CIM has been here for 125 years and has served its membership very well through that time and it continues to do so today. When the COVID pandemic hit and CIM rolled out its new strategic plan, it had three parts—to Recalibrate (2021); to Renew (2022) and to Revitalize (2023). So here we are in 2023, and I think CIM is firmly on the path to reach its goal to Revitalize. CIM’s outgoing President Anne Marie Toutant, the Presidents before her and all of CIM’s dedicated staff and members have helped us build up the momentum to get there. For 2023-2024, my goal as CIM President is to maintain that positive momentum.
I see Revitalization as building the new resources and systems necessary for CIM to meet its objectives, the core of which I don’t think have changed that much over its 125-year history. I think CIM’s primary goals are still to both create and convey knowledge and technical expertise and to unite and engage its members. Another key element is for CIM to continue to engage the public and to expand awareness of not only mining best practices and expertise but also of the essential contribution that mining makes to us all every day.
I want to help CIM continue to grow its individual and corporate memberships and partnerships, something which has already been an initiative for the last couple of years. This will not only allow CIM to strengthen its financial resources but also to spread the word about all of the things CIM does that can benefit its members.
It’s also time we took the next step in our governance journey, like that we took under Jim Popowich’s leadership. We need to update our by-laws and governance documents to reflect current best practices as well as harmonize how CIM interacts internally and externally. This is the same journey that all modern mining companies are on.
The community aspect of CIM is important to me, and I would really like to get out and meet as many Branches and Societies as I can over the upcoming year. I’d like to come and provide updates on what CIM is doing at the national level as well as listen to the feedback of our members. By sharing information, objectives and strategies across our community, be it Branches, Societies, Committees, National Office staff or CIM members, the more cohesive a community we will be. We can tighten connections and share leading practices.
That last point is an important one in our ongoing effort to Revitalize. To achieve its core objectives and the goals above, CIM needs to ensure that it has the necessary business infrastructure in place. That will require us to upgrade our current platforms to cover areas including managing stakeholder needs and interests; streamlining and centralizing systemsand data collection; further automating processes and enhancing how we communicate with each other within CIM and externally.
None of these are brand new initiatives but they are all essential as CIM continues to both Revitalize itself and grow its membership. I really look forward to working with the CIM Council, Angela [Hamlyn] and her dedicated National Office team and all our members during the upcoming year to help move us forward. The first 125 years have been great ones. The next 125 years are going to be even better.