Expect Talent-Driven Mining M&A: Headhunter


Ten years ago, Andrew Pollard recruited his first CEO of a publicly traded mining company. He was 20 years old and bought himself a Porsche to celebrate, despite living with his parents at the time. In the decade since, he has built Mining Recruitment Group (MRG) to be the industry leader in executive search for the mining industry.

Today Andrew’s talking about the ebbs and flows of his MRG business. He tells me President and CEO searches are not where he’s making his money these days, it’s the operations roles. According to Pollard, a marginal, small gold mine may need $300,000 USD annually to recruit a solid general manager, while the president of the same operation may only be earning half that.

“Running a profitable gold mine is a lot easier at $1900 an ounce than $1200,” Pollard says. “Managers with a track record of cutting costs and raising output really are the white buffalos of the mining sector today.”

The irony is these managers are brought in to cut costs, but the companies have to pay a small fortune to get them on board, and may need the services of someone like Pollard to lead an international search.

Pollard is not only talking up mining general managers, he thinks the market for all mining executives is about to get extremely tight. According to a Fall 2014 survey by Pollard, 39% of mining executives plan to retire from full-time employment within the next four years.

“The mining industry is currently dealing with four years of declining commodity prices, share prices, financing activity, exploration activity, etc. As soon as the industry works its way past those challenges, it will be staring down the barrel of a demographic shotgun.”

Pollard is optimistic for a steady wave of mergers and acquisitions in the mining business, not only to replenish its reserves but talent as well.

“Talent-driven acquisitions in mining will be as common as they are in the technology sector.”

Mining Search Firm MRG in The Calgary Herald

Mining sector hiring slows

Many micro-cap companies in survival mode

Derek Sankey, For The Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, June 15, 2013

The pace of hiring in the mining sector is expected to be flat for at least the next six months, while 46 per cent of mining executives say they are considering layoffs, according to a recent survey by the Vancouver-based Mining Recruitment Group.

“What sticks out is just how negative the short-term sense of (hiring) is,” says Andrew Pollard, president of the Mining Recruitment Group. “When you’re looking at only nine per cent of executives in the industry having any sort of positivity on the market over the next six to 12 months, it doesn’t breed confidence.”

That number is lower than in any of the firm’s previous annual surveys and has already led to layoffs and reduced spending on investor relations and exploration – all facets of the business.

“You see that companies of all sizes are feeling strong headwinds, but the battles they face differ wildly depending on the size and stage of development they’re in,” he adds.

For micro-cap companies – those with $10 million or less in market capitalization – it means 65 per cent of their executives say they’re in pure survival mode. That compares to 15 per cent of larger firms reporting the same thing with more than $50 million in market capitalization.

“It’s these larger companies with larger projects … that will always have a need for scientific and professional staff,” Pollard says.

However, it’s actually executives that face the best job prospects. Of those hiring, 33 per cent of companies expect to make additions to their executive teams compared to 18 per cent for mining engineers.

That’s mostly due to demographics: “The mining industry is generally older than the rest of the population,” he says, particularly in the executive ranks. “The executive demand is always going to be there, whether it’s a good market or a bad market.”

It is the companies that can most easily access capital – typically the larger firms with proven, advanced projects – that are moving ahead with hiring, despite negativity in business outlooks for the mining sector.

Smart hiring decisions will ultimately yield the biggest returns, Pollard says. “A good executive and technical team is often the difference between standing still or fading into oblivion. There are many companies … that see this shakeout as a great opportunity to bolster their own team,” he says.

Most mining companies are active in gold, silver, copper or uranium, which is probably the best place to look for jobs among larger, established companies. Geologists and mining engineers are still being recruited in these areas, if you know where to look.

Steven Feldman is an exception to the overall hiring trend. He recently landed a job with Calgary-based TVI Pacific Inc. as vice-president of investor and corporate relations. The small-cap company with about $15.5 million in market capitalization discovers and operates mining projects. It currently has a copper and zinc mine in operation and has near-term projects in gold, silver and nickel ready to launch in the Philippines. He says the general hiring trend is reflective of the tight capital markets.

“The money isn’t flowing like it was a few years back,” says Feldman. “There’s probably some shyness out there in the marketplace about the big (companies) making further acquisitions.”

TVI Pacific is unique in that, as a small-cap firm, it doesn’t just explore for new mining projects and sell them to larger players, but actually operates its finds, providing more stability and the ability to hire people on location to run the operation.

Despite the current negative perceptions, Pollard believes the markets will bounce back, given some encouragement by gold. Hiring forecasts may be bleak for the foreseeable future, but that’s not to say they will remain so.

“There seems to be a consensus … that there is still a lot of potential,” says Pollard.

Hiring outlook in the mining sector

- Sixty-two per cent of respondents do not expect to recruit in the next six months

- About 82 per cent of executives say the fear of a sustained downturn has affected their budgeting and hiring outlook

- Of mining executives surveyed, 39 per cent say their companies has been launched into pure survival mode

- Only nine per cent of executives are bullish on the year ahead

- The Mining Recruitment Group

Mining Headhunter Andrew Pollard in Business in Vancouver- “Ask the Experts”

 Human Resources

Ask the experts: What do I need to know about hiring temporary foreign workers?

Take care when tapping into overseas labour pools

Andrew Pollard: President, Mining Recruitment Group Ltd.

No HR issue is more prevalent in the local media than the use of temporary foreign workers (TFWs). At best, this program is a short-term band-aid that allows companies to proceed with their plans where no other option is available, thus allowing further employment of local workers and an overall economic stimulus to a province so dependent on its natural resource industry. At worst, companies are able to abuse the program by using for their own benefit – by paying TFWs lower wages – which sparks union battles, lawsuits and the shuttering of projects entirely.

With the current backlash in the media surrounding the use of temporary foreign workers, companies are asking themselves if using the program will do more harm than good. I would resoundingly say “no.”

Every year, Canadian employers hire thousands of workers through this program to fill immediate openings that would otherwise have gone unfilled. It was only upon discovery that some employers might have been trying to manipulate the system for their benefit that such contention was spawned.

For employers considering using this program, don’t be dissuaded by the headlines – but do make sure you are doing it as a last resort and not as a means of trying to save money on wages (if found out, it will ultimately cost you much, much more). Ensure the requirements of the positions you are recruiting for are vital to the task at hand without being unreasonably specific (Mandarin is not usually essential for labourers in B.C.). Seek advice from HR professionals, lawyers and the federal government, as they, too, will help avoid potential pitfalls.

The temporary foreign worker program is vital to the health of our economy, but only when used as intended; when used maliciously, it turns into a threat.

Andrew Pollard is president of The Mining Recruitment Group, a mining executive search firm focused exclusively on junior to mid tier resource companies.

See full article: http://www.biv.com/article/20121204/BIV0115/312049970/ask-the-experts-what-do-i-need-to-know-about-hiring-temporary

Mining Executives Show Renewed Optimism in Sector



Fifty-five percent of the 125 mining executives surveyed believe that the sector will perform better in the second half of this year than it did in the first half, according to a study by Vancouver-based Mining Recruitment Group. The number is up sharply from June, when just 22 percent of respondents were more optimistic about the second half of 2012 than the first.

The Mining Recruitment Group surveyed executives from mining companies of all sizes and stages. Nearly half of the executives came from companies with market caps below $50 million, and 21 percent came from companies with market caps between $51 million and $250 million. Another 14 percent came from companies with market caps between $251 million and $1 billion, while 16 percent were from companies with market caps above $1 billion.

“Thankfully, this new report provides evidence that the worse may in fact already be behind us,” Andrew Pollard, president of The Mining Recruitment Group, said in a statement, adding that executives now “seem to be focused on growth as opposed to just mere survival. Across the board the outlook is better for all involved in the industry as sentiment has vastly improved.”

John Bulmer, an economist at Scotiabank, shares Pollard’s view, at least about the mining sector in British Columbia.

“Notwithstanding a year-over-year softening, historically high mineral prices have supported continued mining sector development,” Bulmer said in a recent report. “Natural Resources Canada forecasts that annual mineral exploration expenditures will increase by 43% in 2012, reflecting expectations of medium-term strength in global demand.”

The Mining Recruitment Group survey found that 47 percent of respondents are bullish about the six-to-12-month outlook for the overall strength of the mining industry. That is up significantly from the June survey, when only 8 percent of executives held a bullish outlook and 38 percent said they were bearish.

The fact that the October survey shows that only 11 percent of respondents hold a bearish outlook and 41 percent hold a neutral view indicates that “there has clearly been a massive change in the psychology of mining executives over a very short time,” Pollard said.

The study also found that the long-term outlook stayed “steadfastly rosy,” with 69 percent of respondents being bullish on the strength of the industry in terms of a three-year time frame. Only 8 percent were bearish.

Nearly three in five respondents (59 percent) were moderately to extremely concerned about a lack of investment capital moving into the industry over the next two years, down from the 76 percent who held this view in June.

Two of three respondents said they expect to recruit over the next six months. In the June survey, 60 percent said they would not be hiring. And 90 percent of executives surveyed said they are not considering further layoffs for the rest of the year.

Nearly three out of four respondents said acquisition opportunities are at the top of their mind as access to capital becomes easier. More than half (55 percent) would like to see increased exploration and development budgets and 14 percent said they plan to increase their marketing and investor relations budgets.

The mining industry is subject to cyclical fluctuations in prices and can be affected adversely by general economic conditions and end-user markets. The weakening outlook for global economic growth has emerged as a major headwind for the mining sector, but this survey certainly shows renewed optimism.

The IMF said on October 9 that the global economic slowdown is worsening and cut its growth forecasts for the second time since April. In its latest health check on the world economy, the IMF projected that global output in 2012 will grow just 3.3 percent, down from a July estimate of 3.5 percent. It predicted only a modest increase next year to 3.6 percent, below its July estimate of 3.9 percent.

MRG President Andrew Pollard in The Calgary Herald: Layoffs Loom in Mining Industry

Layoffs loom in mining sector

Boom-bust cycle cited as cause

Derek Sankey, For The Calgary Herald

Published: Saturday, August 04, 2012

Twenty per cent of mining companies in Canada have already begun laying off employees this summer in a sector that has taken a recent beating in the markets.

The good news for existing workers is that employment appears to be getting more stable, with 76 per cent of the 140 mining executives surveyed not considering any further layoffs in 2012, according to a new report.

“What you’re seeing now in the market is (mining) companies are taking a wait-and-see approach,” says Andrew Pollard, president and of the Mining Recruitment Group in Vancouver.

While the industry is bracing itself for a round of job losses, mining companies say the future of the sector is bright.

Firms in the mining sector have been scaling back on their exploration and development plans (80 per cent) and reducing overhead costs (71 per cent), according to the survey Pollard’s company released recently.

“There are a lot of unknowns, (but) the fundamentals of the industry are quite sound over the long term,” says Pollard, noting 82 per cent of executives are bullish over a three-year period, despite short-term caution.

“They’re riding out the markets hoping things will return sooner than later,” he adds.

Sixty per cent of those surveyed do not expect to recruit in the next six months, however a generation skills gap exists for geologists with mid-level experience of 15 to 30 years under their belt.

Elmer Stewart, president and chief executive of Calgary-based metals company Copper Fox Metals, says there was a period when students avoided going into the sector, leaving a dearth of talent in a key demographic.

“You have a crop of younger graduates coming out with five to ten years’ experience, but you don’t have the people with 30-plus years experience,” Stewart says. “New grads coming out are starting at a relatively good salary, but they need the field experience.”

Junior exploration companies are suffering the most, says Pollard. They’re the ones relying almost exclusively on investment financing, which has dried up in recent months.

A report last month from the TSX showed financing dollars raised through venturecapital companies – a key source of financing for junior mining firms – was down 57 per cent, while all sources of financing combined were down 28 per cent.

Pollard’s survey showed about 60 per cent of mining companies have enough cash on the books to last more than nine months.

Despite the cautious tone of the sector, key workers that can fill that mid-level range will continue to be in demand.

During the 1980s and 1990s, many workers decided to go into oilsands mining for the oil-and-gas industry instead of the targeting the traditional metals and minerals mining sector.

Pollard isn’t yet seeing that trend materialize again under current market conditions. Most skilled professionals are focusing their careers on specific commodities, such as diamond exploration, uranium or precious metals. Others target geographic locations.

Mentoring will play a key role in successful mining companies’ future strategies, as part of a bigger focus on overall succession planning. Pollard advises workers in the sector to broaden their skill sets as much as possible, rounding out their experience and keeping up to date with professional training.
The situation in the Canadian mining sector hasn’t gotten too dire. Pollard says he’s not seeing any significant mine closures.

“This time around, what I’m noticing is a much more passive approach,” says Pollard. “They might not be planning on recruiting as much but, at the same time, they’re not making the same deep cuts they were making three or four years ago.”

Stewart’s company, Copper Fox, has only two fulltime employees. It relies almost solely on contractors, including the executive team and workers out in the field.

The $480-million company (measured by market capitalization) prefers to offer its workers the flexibility of working on a contract basis at projects like its Shaft Creek location.

He says the industry has been on a constant rollercoaster ride over the last 30 years.

“From 1997 to about 2004, you couldn’t find a job in this business if you tried,” says Stewart.Then as markets boomed prior to the recession, labour supply dried up.”For the last few years in this business, it’s been very difficult to get your hands on good people,” he says.

Today, professionals who have jobs in this sector are busy during the peak summer work season. Stewart is in the middle of it now.”We have no time off in the summer,” he says “It never stops.”

Mining Recruitment: Getting inside the executive office

Mining recruitment: Andrew Pollard

Getting inside the executive office; the differences that make the difference if you want to land a top-notch job

Tapping into the executive ranks in the mining industry is no easy task, but the candidates I see who are able to climb the corporate ladder know their value and aren’t afraid to seek out opportunities.

The mining sector is an incredibly tight-knit community, where, for better or worse, everyone knows everyone else.

Those at the top tend to stay at the top (whether they are able to consistently deliver shareholder value or not), while those looking to break in to the executive ranks often find themselves stagnating in their career, waiting for the perfect opportunity to come to them.

What’s the difference between those who are able to bridge the gap to the executive ranks and those who have the desire but not the luck?

Here are four key differences between successful candidates and those who fall by the wayside.

Know your value proposition

All too often on resumés and in interviews, candidates brush past their true expertise in favour of vague generalities. Don’t expect people to pick up on your true talents.

The onus is on you to market yourself. Know your strengths: what makes you different and better suited to the position than other candidates?

Time and again, the people who are able to position their strengths for the task at hand are the ones that get job offers.

Interviews are not the place to be humble.

Know your weakness

No one is perfect and no candidate is expected to be.

More often than not, the well-rounded candidate gets passed up in favour of the person who knows precisely what they excel at and readily admits to their weaknesses.

The candidates that get serious consideration are those that not only leverage their strengths, but also address their weaknesses.

They provide a reason as to why a weakness wouldn’t stop them from excelling or a way to circumvent that weakness altogether (installing a team beneath them that excels in areas they might not, for example).

The same goes for perceived weaknesses such as age, experience level and commodity exposure.

Tackle those issues head on or you risk leaving big question marks in the heads of those making the final decision.

Also, don’t be afraid to align yourself with people who know what they are doing.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize there are a few key people in the industry who, time and again, are able to deliver tremendous shareholder value and build companies with solid fundamentals.

In a city with more than 900 mining companies, management teams like this are few and far between, making it even more important to actively seek them out. Aligning yourself with management that has a track record will not only look good on your resume, it will give you the perfect opportunity to learn the “secret sauce” that breeds successful mining companies.

Seek out opportunities and keep an open mind

When I first got started in executive search I was blown away by the calibre of executives in the industry who made a point of seeking me out.

Most were happy in their current roles, but wanted to be on my radar should an extremely compelling opportunity come across my desk.

It soon became abundantly clear that part of what made them successful along the way is that they didn’t just wait for opportunities to magically find them – they sought them out.

When you are approached with an opportunity, solicited or not, it is worthwhile to keep an open mind.

It costs nothing to hear it out, and you would likely know in less than two minutes if it’s something that warrants further attention.

I can’t count the number of times I have placed a candidate that initially said he was happy in his current job and had no desire to leave.

Break out of your comfort zone

It happens to everyone at some point in their career: they get comfortable.

They stop growing in their job and do just enough to get by.

This industry is too competitive to take your foot off of the pedal.

If you feel that your career is beginning to stagnate, maybe it’s time to broaden your skill set, forge new relationships or look for a job that will expand your horizons.

If you know where you want to end up down the line then you also need to consider the skills, relationships and know-how you will need to get there. •

Andrew Pollard is the president of the Mining Recruitment Group Ltd. (www.miningrecruitmentgroup.com), a boutique executive search firm focused on the needs of the mining industry.

This article from Business in Vancouver December 13-19, 2011; issue 1155

MRG in the Vancouver Sun- Executives bullish on future


Canada’s mining executives bullish on future

 By Scott Simpson, Vancouver SunJanuary 5, 2010

VANCOUVER — Canadian mining executives are rapidly shedding anxiety about the economy in favor of bullish sentiments about the industry’s immediate and long-term prospects, according to a new survey.

Mining Recruitment Group surveyed executives with 74 companies, including substantial representation from British Columbia, and found that 70 per cent expect the industry will perform better this year compared with 2009.

Even more, 78 per cent have a strongly positive outlook on the industry over the long term, the group reported in its annual mining executive survey.

Gold, copper and uranium were the metals perceived to have the greatest upside for price in the coming year — although 71 per cent expressed either caution or extreme concern over the volatility of commodity prices.

“Sentiment is as high as I’ve ever seen it,” Mining Recruitment Group president Andrew Pollard said in an interview Tuesday.

“This time last year we did the same report and … at that point 85 per cent of them were bearish. Now only nine per cent are bearish to any degree over what’s going to happen over the next year.”

“There is less fear out there.”

Respondents expect easier access to capital compared to last year, when many companies had to shed employees and curtail or cancel the drill programs that are integral to new mine development.

Eighty-seven per cent anticipate that mineral exploration and project development activities will expand in 2010, and 68 per cent of respondents anticipate spending more on exploration and development.

Thirty-eight per cent indicated they will spend more on staffing, including new hires and salary-cut reversals.

“People have more of a focus on tomorrow, as opposed to just getting through today,” Pollard said.

“The first place they want to spend money is putting it in the ground, in exploration and development, and getting some of their capital projects underway again.”

The survey also found that 39 per cent of companies are actively seeking acquisitions.

“Some companies are still in a bit of a bind, still looking to shed some assets and get cash in that way — so acquisitions will be also be a key part [of activity in 2010].

“There is a lack of good projects available and a lot of companies after the same sorts of things, so there is going to be a war to see who can complete the deals,” Pollard said.

Meanwhile Vancouver-based Teck Resources more or less confirmed the sentiments uncovered in the survey, announcing on Tuesday that its Antamina copper-zinc mine partnership will spend close to $1.3 billion this year to expand production by about 30 per cent.

Teck has a 22.5-per-cent interest in the Peruvian mine, one of the world’s largest copper-zinc producers, and in the last fiscal year earned an operating profit less depreciation of $231 million US from Antamina.

“We believe that demand growth in copper is going to be very strong and the world is going to have trouble keeping up with supply to meet that demand, so we believe the market is going to be pretty tight,” Teck Mining vice-president for investor relations Greg Waller said in an interview. “We are quite bullish on the demand for copper and the pricing that is going to result from that.

“The project has got to the point just in the last few months to bring this expansion proposal forward to the partners, and the partners are obviously all on board for wanting to proceed at this time with it.”