Jeff Pontius hunts for treasure in North America
The winner of the 2011 Colin Spence Award
After 35 years in the mining industry, Jeff Pontius knows treasure hunters have to expect plenty of disappointment.
“To make discoveries, we have to go down a lot of dead end roads,” he said.
Fortunately for him, during his years as a geologist he has had enough eureka moments to balance those inevitable disappointments. Pontius has made four gold discoveries that are now mines, or soon will be, and is on the brink of his fifth.
“I know the terrific euphoria of discovery,” said Pontius. “It’s the coolest thing I do and something I could never give up.”
Pontius is currently CEO of Corvus Gold, a Canadian gold exploration company with properties in Nevada and Alaska. The company’s key project is the North Bullfrog deposit in Nevada, which is in the process of moving to the next phase of mine evaluation.
“It was discovered in 2010 and posted an initial resource of 1.6 million ounces late last year,” said Pontius. “We are embarking on a drilling campaign to assess the expansion potential of the deposit and explore a newly-discovered high-grade feeder zone. The information developed to date looks like it could be a fast-track development project with multimillion ounce potential.”
Until last year Pontuis was president and CEO of International Tower Hill Mines. He has also served as the U.S. and North American exploration manager for AngloGold Ashanti. He holds a masters degree from the University of Idaho in economic geology.
Pontius and the International Tower Hill Mines exploration team were recently awarded the 2011 Colin Spence Award for excellence in global mineral exploration by the Association for Mineral Exploration of British Columbia.
The award was in recognition of Livengood, a 20-million-ounce gold discovery near Fairbanks, Alaska, that was advanced from a geochemical anomaly into a multimillion-ounce, bulk-minable gold deposit between 2006 and 2011.
“There was an opportunity during the evolution of AngloGold Ashanti where they were looking at divesting assets and I was able to acquire them,” said Pontius.
He did so with a junior company he founded called International Tower Hill Mines Ltd., and proceeded to collect five other properties in Alaska. He was also involved with the 25-million-ounce Cresson Deposit discovery at Cripple Creek in Colorado.
A key component of success in the mining business is discovery, which has the potential to add dramatic value, said Pontius.
“I have focused my entire career on discovery and bringing a culture of discovery to companies I’ve worked with,” he said. “I have found the most fertile ground in the junior sector, as it operates with far less bureaucracy and fixed corporate structure and cultivates a flat communication structure.”
Pontius believes It is important to find each person’s “sweet spot,” meaning the skills he or she excels at, and maximize it.
“You have to assemble the pieces of the team and don’t ask people to do things they don’t do well,” he said. “With ITH, I retired in May of last year and spun out Corvus Gold, because my sweet spot is going out and looking for new deposits.”
The past 35 years have seen fewer quality projects, Pontius opines, particularly in jurisdictions where companies feel secure to invest the large amounts of time and money it takes to advance a discovery to a producing mine.
“It is a huge challenge we are faced with today, and we in the industry need to make sure we are comfortable with the places we operate, so those projects we invest in can develop on a timely basis,” said Pontius. “North America is our focus, because I believe it is the best group of jurisdictions for both geologic potential and timely development of a discovery. I am sure there are others, but North America is my sweet spot and where I can truly add value.”
“I’m going to explore,” Pontius said. “And I love working in the junior sector. It is a sector where I feel comfortable and can add significant value. The thrill of exploration and discovery is fantastic for me and I feel privileged to get to do it as my job.”