The pioneer of heap-leaching has founded several gold producers. He’s now 88, and still building.
Chester Millar is the founder of several multi-billion-dollar gold producers including Glamis Gold (bought by Goldcorp), Alamos Gold and Eldorado Gold. He was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2008. The 88 year old mine developer credits luck, experience and a simple strategy for his success.
Millar let me in on his strategy during a recent interview: “You should be in the gold mining business [not exploration], you should be earning a profit, and you gotta show growth.”
Millar was born in Powell River, British Columbia in 1927 and graduated from the University of B.C. in 1950 with a degree in geological engineering. He soon started a drilling contracting company. When Millar wasn’t drilling for others, he staked and optioned exploration properties and drilled wild-cat holes himself. “If you don’t buy a sweepstakes ticket, you’ll never win,” Millar says.
In the early 1970s, Millar staked the Afton property in B.C. and later drilled the discovery hole of the Afton copper-gold deposit, which Teck Resources acquired and put into production. After Teck gave Millar the boot, he sold his stake in the mine for $9.7 million and was set for life “seventeen times over,” he says.
When Millar received the windfall he was wildcatting in California and Arizona. There he pioneered the heap-leach method for mining gold, and switched his focus from exploration to production.
Millar took his time building Glamis Gold, founded in 1977. He deliberately operated Picacho, Glamis’s foundational mine, for only eight hours a day and made the property last 20 years. “If I had been influenced by the stock market I could have mined it out in five years. It gave us the ability to chose among many opportunities that came by to make intelligent acquisitions.” In 2006, Glamis was acquired by Goldcorp for US$8.6 billion.
“I’ve started Glamis, Eldorado, Alamos, and Castle Gold, and all of them are making money in the gold mining business today. I can build a company but I can’t run them. When things get down to being tedious, I lose interest. I get my jollies by finding things and starting them up. Once they start up, I move on.”
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