Nolan Watson is the inaugural recipient of the Young Mining Professionals’ Peter Munk Award. Named for Barrick’s founder, the award is one of two bestowed upon young mining professionals—one male and one female—who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and innovative thinking in the pursuit of value for their companies and shareholders.
Watson, 38, is part of the team that founded Sandstorm Gold, a gold royalty streaming company that has achieved a market capitalization of nearly $1 billion since its creation in 2008. He also served as Chief Financial Officer of Silver Wheaton, a position he achieved before the age of 30, and one in which he played a key role in helping to turn Silver Wheaton into the largest precious metals streaming company in the world.
“I’ve always had a pervading feeling that life is short and that life has to have a purpose.”
Peter Sinclair, Chief Sustainability Officer at Barrick, presented the award at a ceremony in Toronto on March 4. “I’ve had the good fortune to get to know Peter Munk,” Sinclair said in his remarks. “While it only takes minutes to be captivated by his incredible charisma, it’s only after spending time with him that you come to appreciate the unparalleled drive, the passion, the keen intelligence, imagination, boldness and desire to give back. These are the things that define him, and by all accounts, Nolan Watson shares many of these qualities.”
In an interview following the event, Watson said that, like Peter Munk, he is motivated by a desire to give back to the community and make a difference. “I’ve always had a pervading feeling that life is short and that life has to have a purpose,” he said.
These are not merely words. Watson invested his life savings in 2003 to found Nations Cry, a charitable foundation that has raised more than $1 million to support education in Sierra Leone. He also has an adopted daughter from that country.
Watson said he never intended to pursue a career in mining. While articling for his Chartered Accountancy designation, a trip to Myanmar to do auditing work at a remote mine left him hooked. “I fell in love with mining,” he said. “And I immediately saw that my desire to help people and the mining industry were completely aligned.”
Watson said that mining company leaders, who often work far from the mines that their firms operate, must remember that their decisions have a powerful impact. “If you spend a lot of time at the mines, you can see the impact, whether it’s positive or negative,” he said. “But when you’re in an air conditioned boardroom in a city, you sometimes forget that. You forget that every day you’re making decisions that impact peoples’ lives around the world. That is a humbling and powerful thing to remember.”
Young Mining Professionals is an association of mining professionals with chapters in Vancouver and Toronto. In addition to the Peter Munk Award, the organization also presented the Eira Thomas Award, named after the iconic mining executive, to Alicia Woods, founder of Covergalls, a company that specializes in women’s work wear.