Exploration executive Mark O’Dea digs in to two new projects.
There is no mistaking that Mark O’Dea, recipient of the Association for Mining Exploration in British Columbia’s Murray Pezim Award for perseverance and success in financing mineral exploration, got what he deserved.
O’Dea created Aurora Energy in 2006 and engineered the sale of its Labrador uranium assets to Paladin Energy for $260 million in 2010. He led his first junior explorer, Fronteer Gold, from inception in 2001 to its final sale to Newmont Mining Corporation for a $2.3 billion cash payout last year.
“It isn’t until you look back at steps along the way that you realize how far you’ve come,” said the 44-year-old Newfoundland-born company builder who has a straightforward attitude toward success.
The biggest caveat he’d give to the industry is falling in love with projects that aren’t working out, he said.
“There is a strong human tendency to want to be proven right, and knowing when to walk away from a project is critical,” said O’Dea. “It’s important to recognize when it is time to look elsewhere.”
He is now focused on two current projects: chairman and founder of Pilot Gold, and founder, chairman and CEO of Blue Gold Mining, a newly branded company with $25 million in blind-pool financing now casting nets for gold and copper-gold deposits in secure jurisdictions. The company’s executive team is comprised of key members of the team behind Fronteer, which stayed together after the takeover to head into new horizons.
Over the past decade, O’Dea and his group have raised $400 million in equity financing, another $300 million in individual project sales and an additional $50 million through investments in early-stage public companies.
The group has also worked on over 70 joint ventures, been involved in more than 100 individual projects around the world, orchestrated three friendly takeovers of public companies and created three new companies: Aurora Energy, Pilot Gold and Blue Gold Mining.
“We extracted key projects out of Fronteer to populate Pilot’s portfolio,” said O’Dea. “Newmont is the company’s largest shareholder. Blue Gold Mining is financed with the objective of developing high-quality projects in good, safe jurisdictions.”
People and projects are the industry’s largest challenges, said O’Dea.
“Finding the right people and attracting the right talent to get the skills in-house to go out and execute,” he said when asked about stumbling blocks to success. “We’ve been able to attract and retain an amazing group of people—the best in the business with a terrific track record of finding and advancing the right projects.”
His high point was the ultimate buy-out of Fronteer.
“It was a wonderful conclusion to a decade of work,” O’Dea said. “It was a love affair with the company. Growing it and having the value we’ve created validated through the takeover was an amazing feeling.”
O’Dea and his team haven’t slowed down. The momentum is still carrying them to a bright horizon with deep involvement with the two new companies.
“We are ready to try and hit it out of the park again,” said O’Dea.