2019 BC CEO Awards: Randy Smallwood
PRESIDENT AND CEO OF WHEATON PRECIOUS METALS CORP. WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN THE CREATION OF A DISRUPTIVE NEW MINE FINANCING MODEL
Randy Smallwood is in a business that has a sizable carbon footprint — financing mines. He also travels a lot, which also produces a lot of emissions.
But when he’s home, his own personal footprint has been getting smaller and smaller. He now walks to work every day, and when he does drive, he drives an electric vehicle.
A family man with five children and six grandchildren, Smallwood raised his children in Tsawwassen. But a few years ago, after his kids began leaving home, he sold his home in Tsawwassen and bought a 124-year-old heritage house in downtown Vancouver — the Rand Family home, built in 1895. It’s just a short walk from the head office of Wheaton Precious Metals Corp. (TSX, NYSE:WPM).
“I liked the concept of walking to work,” said the 55-year-old CEO. “Once the kids were out of the house, I decided to get the commute out of the picture. The only time my vehicle moves is on weekends now.”
When he does drive, he produces no CO2.
“I’ve owned a Tesla since 2013,” he said. “I bought one of the first ones in Canada, and I have no doubt that’s the way of the future.”
That may explain why his company has recently added cobalt to the portfolio of metals it buys through streaming agreements with mining companies.
Cobalt is a critical element for electric vehicle batteries. But much of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are serious environmental and human rights concerns associated with cobalt mining.
Through its streaming agreements, Wheaton Precious Metals will source its cobalt from jurisdictions, like Canada, that have higher environmental and social standards.
“Cobalt is very similar to silver in the sense that so much of it is produced as a byproduct from nickel mines and copper,” Smallwood said.
The Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador, for example, produces cobalt as a byproduct of nickel mining, so Wheaton Precious Metals has entered a streaming agreement with the mine’s owner, Vale SA, to help finance a mine expansion in exchange for cobalt.
With a market cap of more than $16 billion, Wheaton Precious Metals consistently ranks in the top 10 on Business in Vancouver’s annual Biggest Mining Companies list, even though it’s not technically a mining company because it doesn’t own any mines. It does, however, own a lot of silver and gold, and the company’s Vancouver team of geologists and engineers has extensive mining expertise.
It’s fair to say that Wheaton Precious Metals revolutionized the way mines are financed, and Smallwood has been a critical player. It was the first company to develop the streaming finance model, in which the company puts up the capital needed for new mines or mine expansions in exchange for a share of the future production of byproduct metals — primarily silver, gold and palladium.
While credit goes to Ian Telfer for coming up with the idea, Smallwood was a key original member of the company. He was with it from the beginning, when it was spun out of Goldcorp (TSX:G) not long after it was merged with Telfer’s company, Wheaton River Minerals.
Born in Alberta and raised in B.C., Smallwood earned a geological engineering degree from the University of British Columbia and a mine engineering diploma from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and is a recipient of BCIT’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Source: Nelson Bennett | Business in Vancouver