Q&A from the experts: In conversation with Dr John-Mark Staude

November 19, 2020
Dr John-Mark Staude President & CEO at Riverside Resources Inc.

Dr John-Mark Staude graduated from Pomona College, US with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology in 1987, which was quickly followed by a Master’s degree in Economic Geology at Harvard, US. John-Mark’s academic achievements continued as he went on to acquire a PhD in Economic Geology at the University of Arizona, US, focused on the mineral resources and economics of Mexico. As a mineral exploration specialist, John-Mark has a wealth of experience with BHP Billiton in the US, Europe and Turkey, as well as Asian and Latin American experience with Teck. Drawing back on his PhD expertise, John-Mark now heads up Riverside Resources Inc. (Riverside), a project generator with a large portfolio of projects in Canada and Mexico.

Timothy Strong: What were your biggest influences when you first started out in geology?

John-Mark Staude: I was lucky to grow up in the US and study at Pomona College (Pomona) in Southern California, under the expert guidance of inspiring professors. We had excellent opportunities to do year-round field trips, getting to know a diverse and active geologic setting. After Pomona, I continued my studies at Harvard University and acquired a Master’s degree, instructed by world-class teachers with fundamental scientific approaches and leading-edge ideas.

I had the opportunity to work with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as well; the tremendous teachers and skilled professionals that were part of this organization let me tag along both in their laboratories and in the field, which gave me fundamental broad basis and confidence in understanding the principles and approaches to reading rocks.

The completion of my PhD was an important milestone, reached due to the experience that I had gained at MagmaChem, a research and exploration consulting company, and thanks to Mark Barton, Spencer Titley and DeVerle Harris, all professors at the University of Arizona with deep scientific roots.

Afterwards, I delved into the industry with Eric Seedorff, Mark Sander, Sergei Diakov and many others, which really helped me learn how to put theory into practice, and apply the educational science to mineral discovery.

TS: You have quite an academic background, with a BSc, MSc, and PhD in close succession. Was it always your plan to work in mineral exploration or were you initially more research-focused?

JMS: My parents were both professors, so I grew up in an academic world and felt that most likely I would pursue a career in research. For that reason, I went to Harvard and dove deep into detailed science, which was the natural course of events. However, I learned about the thrill of exploration and the value that discoveries brought both to society and the communities where we operated. I was bitten by the industry bug and never looked back.

What also helped me get my life on the right and fun path, was a discovery that we made at Mulatos, now called Alamos Gold. It was a big step in finding value; I have striven for the same in other projects and enjoyed doing it, so I can consider myself lucky.

TS: Which country has left the strongest impression on you and why?

JMS: China – I spent over two years back and forth, working on various projects that helped me learn and appreciate the realities of this country and its resource sector. Furthermore, I could see it was becoming an important powerhouse in the 1990s, which continued to develop over the following century.

TS: What has been the proudest moment of your career to date?

JMS: For mineral exploration, my proudest feat is the relationships and the great friendships that I have established and developed; as well as the lasting positive impacts. I have had a chance to create jobs, help communities, and grow businesses.

I have definitely enjoyed building Riverside Resources over the past 14 years, with a team of committed partners, including Rob Scott, CFO, and his operational team in Canada, and Pedro Herrera and the operational team in Mexico.

TS: How is the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting the mining industry in Mexico? How long will the COVID-19 trend last in the country, and when will work go back to normal?

JMS: Luckily for us, Riverside partners with strong international companies and we collaborate our adaptations to COVID-19. The Mexican government declared mining as an essential service, so we have its support to continue carrying out our work, providing jobs, and looking for discoveries that can unlock value for the country and our shareholders. The pandemic is definitely affecting us but in a positive way, as we have been able to build upon our data strengths, working remotely with our teams and local partners in the communities.

The current trend is towards evolving, accepting the situation and adapting to face coverings and additional hygiene measures. Work is progressing well over time; we see some potentially lasting differences but we are in action, looking forward to the next two quarters and hoping for a good flow of results and an improvement in the COVID-19 situation.

Dr John-Mark Staude in the field

TS: Mexico appears to come with a considerable amount of jurisdictional risk, yet is still favored by TSX explorers, why do you think this is?

JMS: I think Mexico is favored for 3 key reasons:

  1. Endowment – Mexico has giant mineral resources;
  2. Strong mining history – Mexican people know mining and have good skills; communities have seen the value that the industry can bring with jobs and lasting infrastructure;
  3. Cost-effective – bordering the US, Mexico is easy to get to and has year-round cost-effective workability. Lack of snow and powerful infrastructure – the combination of these factors make the country and its economy very viable, developing high-margin types of operations.

TS: In terms of economy, what obstacles do mining companies face in Mexico, compared to other locations?

JMS: Mexico has traditionally been positive and supportive when it comes to mining, which has brought great successes to the country over the centuries. Mexico is a world-leading producer of silver, having developed 10 of the largest 15 silver resource projects on the planet. Mexico has also been large for copper, gold, and many industrial commodities. However, Mexican mining has recently faced some obstacles – the President has been against foreign mining investment without the support or the agreement of the rest of the politicians, who generally do see resource development as a positive thing.

TS: Riverside was founded 14 years ago, how have things changed in that time?

JMS: Several key things have changed starting with technology, which plays an important role, due to the abundance of data available on the internet, the emergence of new software that allows us to work more effectively and machine learning.

Surface access has continued to take a large amount of time, as we need to meet, discuss and develop strategies to get work approvals.

We have moved to a centralized office; decision-makers come on site trips but long periods of detailed field work are no longer required. Our staff is now less interested in spending time in the field, which has previously been a trend.

The speed to reach a decision and obtain permits in hand are some of the factors that have evolved in the past 14 years and I see these trends continuing as we are working to adapt ahead of them as a business.

TS: Do you see Riverside expanding outside of North America?

JMS: Riverside is focused on opportunities; we have many good ones, including our portfolio in North America. It makes sense to seize and develop them, and stay within our strength zone rather than expand beyond.TS: Tell us more about Riverside’s La Silla Gold-Silver Project. JMS: La Silla is an exciting gold-silver vein district with over USD 33 million invested by Yamana and former gold mining companies. Riverside controls three vein subsystems and lots of good upside. The veins have good values and potential for more growth with drilling and then potential mining.

TS: You have recently partnered with BHP in Mexico. Can you tell us about the significance of this partnership?

JMS: Working with the world’s largest publicly traded mining company, BHP, is an honor for us. It is a great opportunity to participate in the search for large targets and big discovery upside with a transactional structure that works well for both companies. Along the way, all properties and potential royalties are 100% in Riverside’s name. We welcome the further growth in copper discoveries as our shareholders get the confidence that we have major companies doing their due diligence and choosing to invest money in properties that Riverside controls.

TS: What changes have you observed over the past 20 years in the way drilling contractors work?

JMS: Drillers are key partners for us and we really see the innovation and enthusiasm they contribute to discoveries. The competition by drilling companies is fierce and we have been lucky to have safe and successful programs in Canada and Mexico, completed over the years.

TS: What has been the most challenging drilling campaign in your life?

JMS: Helicopter drilling, and high elevation – above 4500 m (14763.8 ft) are two of the big challenges for drilling. We faced them during a campaign in Panama; we had remoteness and steep jungle topography, which really made for an arduous job. There were no flat spots and we had to sling in pads and walk through treetops to get around, it was quite an experience, luckily no one got hurt.

TS: From your point of view, is there a drilling technology that significantly improved the way drilling contractors work and helped them meet clients’ expectations?

JMS: Oriented drill core and downhole surveys are key innovations, followed by geophysics. Downhole data is really making a positive difference to the value of drill holes. More drill holes stay open so that down-the-hole tools can be used, which is important and helps the business progress.

TS: Describe the modern-day geologist and the modern-day driller.

JMS: Geologists are scientists, reading rocks and reconstructing history. Drillers are productive, working to get holes down with the highest potential recoveries in the most efficient ways. Both work well together.

TS: If you could go back to the very beginning of your career and give yourself a single piece of geology-related advice what would that be?

JMS: Follow the top successful explorers and work with them. They really make a difference and being mentored by them you are bound to be involved in fine discoveries.

TS: Where do you see the price of gold in 12 months?

JMS: It can only go up. The debt, printing of money, and hard asset of gold is solid and real.

TS: What does the future hold for mineral exploration, particularly in Mexico?

JMS: Mineral exploration and resources development is vital; we need to open new mines in order to meet our growing demands. I see a great future for mineral exploration and especially for Mexico, which is a key country for the industry.

For more information visit: www.rivres.com