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Matthew Fenton and Maggie Layman named Young Mining Professionals of the Year

YMP 2021winners Matthew Fenton and Maggie Layman. Image from YMP.

The winners of the Young Mining Professionals (YMP) awards this year are Maggie Layman of Osisko Development (TSXV: ODV) and Matthew Fenton of privately held Magris Resources.

The YMP awards, presented in association with The Northern Miner, recognize two mining professionals under forty who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills and innovative thinking and provided value to their companies and shareholders.

The awards are named after two iconic entrepreneurs in the mining industry, Eira Thomas and the late Peter Munk. Maggie Layman has won the 2021 Eira Thomas award and Matthew Fenton the Peter Munk award.

This year, due to the covid-19 pandemic, the awards will be presented during an online event on March 18 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. (EDT).

The selection process this year was truly global, says Stephen Stewart, chairman of YMP and CEO of Orefinders (TSXV: ORX), with roughly 100 nominees submitted from YMP chapters on “every continent, except Antarctica.”

The winners were nominated in a public submissions process. They were then discussed and selected by a panel of YMP chapters, including Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and London (U.K.), along with an equal vote from The Northern Miner.

The awards are named after two iconic entrepreneurs in the mining industry, Eira Thomas and the late Peter Munk

Stewart notes that Layman was the runaway favourite for the Eira Thomas award this year. “It was a combination of Maggie’s age and the level of responsibility she has taken on within a world-class company like Osisko Development,” he says. “The company is focussed on the Cariboo gold project in B.C., which is a storied property with a lot of history. For such a young person to be involved in a project of this nature at her level is very impressive.”

Layman is the second winner from the Osisko family of companies, with Jose Vizquerra, now the president and CEO of O3 Mining (TSXV: OIII; US-OTC: OIIIF), the 2018 recipient of the Peter Munk award.

Competition for the Peter Munk award was a close race again this year, Stewart says, but it was the diversity of roles that Fenton fills at Magris Resources that clinched the award. “He has been one of the key guys involved in the company’s flagship Niobec mine and has done a fantastic job in operating the mine and delivering great value to the company’s shareholders. It’s interesting to note that Fenton’s boss at Magris, Aaron Regent, is a former employee of Peter Munk.”

Maggie Layman

Maggie Layman is the Vice President, Exploration for Osisko Development, a newly created North American gold mining company primarily focused on developing a mining camp in the Cariboo mining district of central British Columbia.

Raised in St. John’s by a single mother whom she describes as an “empowering role model for herself and her sister,” Layman fell in love with the beautiful landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador and collected rocks as a child.

She went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Geological and Earth Sciences/Geosciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “It was this formative experience of growing up in a region that is also known as ‘The Rock,’ which has this incredible geology and stunning scenery that made me want to study geology,” she says in an interview.

While pursuing her degree, Layman spent three months working as a field assistant in central Labrador for the Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“We were living in tents at a remote field camp and collecting soil samples (a rite of passage for new geologists), which allowed me to explore this amazing wilderness,” she recalls. “There were also a lot of women on the team who had been working in the industry for many years and became role models for me. I knew then that I wanted to work in the exploration side of the industry.”

During her studies, she also worked as a student geologist for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, a joint venture between Rio Tinto (NYSE: RIO; LSE: RIO; ASX: RIO), Mitsubishi, and the Labrador Iron Ore Royalty Income Corp. (TSX: LIF), where she helped develop an open-pit iron ore mine in Labrador. The role, she says, allowed her to develop an understanding of mine production and geotechnical work and is the reason why she gravitated towards working on projects that are nearing the development stage.

“We had a great team at Vale, and the position exposed me to underground mining environments…I learned what it takes to build a mine and about the different technologies used by major mining companies”

Maggie Layman

After graduating from university, Layman landed her first job as a project geologist with Vale (NYSE: VALE) and moved to Sudbury, Ontario, in 2006.

Given Sudbury’s rich history of mining, “it seemed like an obvious choice to make,” she says. “We had a great team at Vale, and the position exposed me to underground mining environments and to get more involved in mineral exploration on brownfield sites. I learned what it takes to build a mine and about the different technologies used by major mining companies.”

Working at Vale (2006-2011) allowed her to hone her technical skills. This, she says, set her up for her next role as a project geologist with Vancouver-based Independence Gold (TSXV: IGO), where she worked on the company’s Boulevard gold project in the Yukon Territory, and the 3Ts (named for three veins: Tasha, Taken, and Tommy) and Capoose gold-silver projects in British Columbia.

“It ended up being a great decision as it allowed me to work back in the bush, and I loved working in the gold exploration side of the industry,” she says. “It was also a great opportunity to diversify my skill set as I was exposed to the project management side of the business and to work on grassroots to advanced exploration-stage projects.”

While at the company (2011-2014), she was responsible for target generation and drill hole planning, project logistics and budgeting decisions, managing community engagement programs, and supervising field crews. “One of the highlights of the role was working on greenfield projects in the White Gold district of Yukon Territory, which was an amazing experience, and the 3Ts project in central B.C., which later became the company’s flagship project.”

She then joined Barkerville Gold Mines as an exploration geologist in March 2015.

Towards the end of 2014, shareholders of Barkerville, which owned the Cariboo gold project in central B.C., decided to bring in new management and technical teams and replace the board of directors. The Canadian mining billionaire Eric Sprott also invested heavily in the company.

“I joined at a time when the company was in transition, but the strong support from Sprott gave me confidence that it was going to be a good opportunity for me, which turned out to be the case,” Layman says.

The first challenge at Barkerville was to develop a strong technical team and get a better understanding of the geology at Cariboo and what was controlling the mineralisation, she says. “We were re-building the project almost from the ground up, and it was a big part of moving the company forward.”

In 2017, the company began a significant exploration and delineation drill program, Layman says, “with ten drill rigs turning pretty much constantly at one point, and by the end of 2020 we had drilled about 560,000 metres.”

After three years in the role, Layman was appointed vice president of exploration in 2018. “My boss at the time, Chris Lodder [now president of Osisko Development], was very supportive when I transitioned to the new role. I had been to the site many times and had a good relationship with the drill team, and I understood what the exploration objectives were and the company’s strategy for the project. So, it was a fairly seamless move for me.”

In the new role, Layman says she started learning a new set of skills, working with engineers to prepare preliminary economic assessments and feasibility studies, as the company continued to expand Cariboo.

Towards the end of 2019, Barkerville became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Osisko Gold Royalties (TSX: OR; NYSE: OR). A year later, Osisko completed a reverse takeover of Barolo Ventures to form Osisko Development, which assumed the development of Cariboo, and named Layman vice president of exploration.

“This a very exciting time for the company as we continue to raise money and grow the deposit,” she says. “Of course, it’s very challenging, but I’m working with an exceptional team, and it’s so fulfilling to be involved with a new company from the very start. I love the role.”

Matthew Fenton

Matthew Fenton is president and chief financial officer of Magris Resources, a privately held investment company that acquires, develops, and operates industrial minerals and mining assets. The company, set up in 2012 by former Barrick Gold CEO Aaron Regent, supplies about 10% of the world’s niobium and 50% of the talc used in North America from its four mines and seven processing facilities in the U.S. and Canada.

Born and raised in Toronto, Fenton pursued an Honours Business Administration program at the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University in London, Ontario, which combined two years of economics studies with a two-year business program.

“The business program was very interesting, with around 75 of us on the course, which provided a great opportunity to interact with people from so many diverse backgrounds,” he says in an interview. “It led to my passion for the financing side of things, I knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in investment banking and private equity.”

After graduating from university in 2007, he landed his first job at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Toronto where he worked in the investment banking and debt capital market groups. “The role instilled in me the importance of paying attention to detail, which is something that has stayed with me my entire career,” he says.

He then joined Brookfield Asset Management in 2008 and worked in the company’s private equity and advisory groups. During this time, Fenton and some of his colleagues at Brookfield set-up Endura Energy, a Toronto-based renewable energy company that designed, developed, and constructed solar energy systems.

After nearly two years at Endura as vice president of business development, Fenton returned to Brookfield and worked in its private equity group. It was at that time he initially met Regent, who was leaving Brookfield to join Barrick.

Earlier this year, Fenton led Magris’ $223 million acquisition out of bankruptcy of largely all the assets of Imerys Talc North America

Towards the end of 2012, Regent contacted Fenton and asked whether he would be interested in joining him in a new venture. “Aaron told he was about to leave Barrick to start his own company and asked me if I’d like to join him to build the company,” Fenton says. “It was a time when it was tough to find good value opportunities across most industries, especially in the mining industry, which was going through a particularly challenging time.”

Fenton left Brookfield and joined Regent at Magris Resources in 2013. It was there that he was first “bitten by the mining bug,” he recalls.

“My first couple of years at Magris were spent building a team, developing the business, and building relationships with our capital partners,” he says. “It’s very hard to find good assets with good value and at the right time and we must have looked at more than 250 different projects, which gave me the opportunity to visit mining projects in Chile, Peru, and Brazil.”

In 2015, Magris, in partnership with CEF Holdings Ltd., a Hong Kong-based financial services company, and Temasek, an investment company headquartered in Singapore, made its first acquisition, purchasing the Niobec mine from mid-tier Canadian miner Iamgold (TSX: IMG; NYSE: IAG) for $530 million.

The Niobec mine, about 200 km north of Quebec City in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, is one of only three niobium mines in the world. The niobium is alloyed with iron to produce ferroniobium, which, when added to steel increases steel’s resistance to corrosion as well as making it stronger and lighter than pure steel and is used extensively for pipelines and in the automotive and construction industries

Following the purchase of the mine, Fenton was appointed president and CFO of Niobec.

“Niobec is a world-class resource and has remained a stable asset over the years through the various mining cycles,” he says, “and has now become our primary focus.”

Since acquiring the mine, Fenton and his team have increased production at Niobec by more than 20%, reduced operating costs by more than 20%, and increased mineral reserves to extend Niobec’s mine life from eight to 30 years. “Our efforts have provided a strong return to our shareholders and strengthened the relationship with our partners, allowing us to pursue other opportunities,” Fenton says.

“I love to visit Niobec, where we have over 450 people employed, with each contributing in different ways to produce the materials that go into products that are making our modern world.”

Earlier this year, Fenton led Magris’ $223 million acquisition out of bankruptcy of largely all the assets of Imerys Talc North America, a company with a portfolio of talc mines in the U.S. and Canada. “We are currently integrating the talc assets into the Magris platform, with the plan to become a leading minerals platform with a portfolio of world-class mines providing critical minerals for a range of industrial applications.”

One of the things that Fenton loves about the industry is its global reach, and meeting people from around the world and interacting with diverse cultures, he says. He also finds that the industry attracts “colourful and interesting characters.”

“I find it fascinating to chat with geologists and find out how they find and develop orebodies, with the people who build companies and bring assets together, and to visit different mines around the world. The industry has given a lot to me over the years.”

In recognition of this, he joined the board of Mining4Life, a non-profit organisation that since its inception in 2010 has raised over $30 million to support children’s health and education in communities worldwide. He also serves as co-chair of Reasons for Hope, a non-profit initiative that has raised more than C$5 million to support youth and adolescent-focused mental health research at the University of Toronto.

(This article first appeared in The Northern Miner)