Glen McKay: From Newfoundland Fishing Boat Deckhand to Mining CEO
Newfoundland’s Glen McKay has had a long and successful career in several industries, including construction, finance and mining. He incorporated his own business, MRO Supplies Ltd. In 1978 and spin off Newfoundland Hard-Rok Inc., in 1987. Newfoundland Hard Rok Inc. has had years of success in the mining, quarry and construction industries, as well as entering into long term contracts at other mines through wholly owned subsidiaries Dyno Nobel Labrador Inc, and Dyno Nobel Baffin Island Inc.
In 1987, Glen McKay provided the start up capital for Apex Construction Specialties Inc., acting as a board member and shareholder until the company’s eventual sale in 2017. In 1997, McKay co-founded junior mineral resource company, Cornerstone Capital Resources Inc. With McKay at the helm as the company’s CEO, Cornerstone Capital purchased, in 2011, the then promising but unknown and subsequently famous Cascabel gold project in Ecuador, which continues to be explored today, with recent drilling results showing a potential of a world class mineralized system at Cascabel.
We sat down with Glen McKay to talk about his businesses and his thoughts on entrepreneurship.
You started your working life as a deckhand on a Newfoundland fishing boat. How did that prepare you for the rest of the career?
Glen McKay: It certainly taught me the value of hard work. Without hard work, the best of opportunities can often disappear. I also learned about the importance of team spirit and organization. To this day, I value my employees and want them to work as a team, whenever possible. I do believe that a single employee can make a difference to an organization, but generally, teamwork creates better results. Preparation and organization go hand in hand. What many tend to call luck is really where preparation, organization and teamwork meet opportunities.
What’s the story behind your company, Newfoundland Hard-Rok?
Glen McKay: I founded my first company, MRO Supplies, in 1978, which was a distributor of specialized products for several industries, including construction and mining. I was approached by Dupont in 1985, which offered to appoint MRO Supplies as the Newfoundland & Labrador distributor for their mining and construction explosives products. At that time, the explosives business operated under the existing Newfoundland Hard-Rok division of MRO Supplies Ltd.
I saw an opportunity to specialize in this area, so I incorporated Newfoundland Hard-Rok as a separate entity, with myself and two then current MRO Employees running the new company. Carl Foss and Keith Phelan take care of the operations side, while I handle finance and administration. It’s a formula that has worked well for many years. We believe that if you value your people, they in turn will increase the value of your business. It’s a simple but very effective way to run a successful business.
What are your thoughts on the Cascabel copper-gold project in Ecuador, since you were the one who purchased it and brought it to the attention of North American investors?
Glen McKay: Cascabel is very close to my heart. At the time that I was leading the company, Cornerstone Capital Resources was looking to expand outside of Newfoundland & Labrador and we were fortunate enough to find prospective mineral properties in Ecuador and Chile.
Cascabel has been in the news because BHP Billiton and Newcrest Mining, two of the world’s largest gold and copper miners, have purchased shares in SolGold, Cornerstone’s partner in the project. SolGold now owns 85% of Cascabel and Cornerstone owns 15%. However, Cornerstone also owns shares in SolGold which give Cornerstone a total of about 24% ownership of Cascabel. As a former CEO, I’m looking forward to the day it fulfills its promise and becomes a valuable producing copper and gold mine. But I also understand the logistics of the industry. It takes significant funds to get a mine up and running, and although SolGold and Cornerstone have done plenty of exploration work at Cascabel, I don’t think it will go into production until commodities demand and prices improve. Having said that, I’m still excited about Cascabel and read every piece of news I can related to the mine. I've maintained a significant share position in Cornerstone, so the project is close to my pocket book too.
Recently the partners released an updated Alpala Mineral Resource Estimate, which doubled since the first one from December 2017.
2,050 Mt @ 0.60% CuEq (at 0.2% CuEq cut-off) in the Indicated category
900 Mt @ 0.35% CuEq (at 0.2% CuEq cut-off) in the Inferred category.
Contained metal content of 8.4 Mt Cu and 19.4 Moz Au Indicated.
Contained metal content of 2.5 Mt Cu and 3.8 Moz Au Inferred.
These numbers put Cascabel in a top tier status, which makes it one of the biggest most recent discoveries.
Do you have advice for anyone who wants to follow the entrepreneurial path, as you did?
Glen McKay: You need motivation and determination to be successful as an entrepreneur. And that’s something that comes from deep inside; it can’t really be taught, though it can be nurtured and encouraged. You also must have a strong desire to learn and you need to develop a thick skin; there are lots of critics out there.
One thing I have noticed in my career is that many people underestimate just how difficult and complex it is to run your own business. You need to know a little bit about everything, including operations, finances, marketing and communications. Your own skill set may not include all those attributes. In that case, it’s important to hire people who compliment and enhance your skill sets but most importantly also bring additional skill sets to the business.
At Newfoundland Hard-Rok, my specialty is finance and administration, I let other people take care of the rest. Not that it isn’t important, but I need to concentrate on what I do best. That’s true of any entrepreneur and something to think about during the hiring process. The people you choose to be on your team are critically important. Hire those with strengths to offset your weaknesses and empower them to do their best. If you foster a team spirit and treat them respect and dignity, everyone will be content and productive.