XL: Let's start at the beginning. Can you tell us a bit about your background, education, and why you got into mining?
Ron: Sure. I got a degree in geology from the University of Alberta in 1964. As part of that, I started working in the bush in northern Saskatchewan on government surveys. I found that was a lot better than working on the railroad as a section hand, so I became a geologist.
XL: So... you'd been working on the railroad?
Golden Band Resources (V.GBN) just poured its first gold ore bar at their 100%-owned La Ronge gold project in northern Saskatchewan. The refurbished Jolu Mill is now operational, processing 400 tons of ore per day. Management estimates they’ll produce 45,000 ounces of gold the first year from the current resource of 485,077 ounces. Congratulation to Ron and team – it’s never easy to put a gold mine into production.
Virginia Energy Resources (V.VAE) announced a positive Preliminary Economic Assessment on its Coles Hill uranium project in Virginia. The initial operation would produce about two million pounds of yellowcake per year, and life-of-mine would be an impressive 35 years. Overall economics are favorable; based on a long-term uranium price of US$65 per pound, the internal rate of return would be 36.3%, at a 7% discount rate. The company's next step is to advance the project through the pre-feasibility stage.
Golden Band Resources (V.GBN) received initial assay results from recent drilling on the Bingo gold deposit in northern Saskatchewan. Grades are very high, ranging from 5.05 grams per tonne to as high as 315.5 g/t (10.1 ounces).
By the way, looking for a mining job? Check out all the hiring GBN is doing here.
Ron Netolitzky has spent his career turning tough situations into gold. Literally.
His propensity for success in the face of the most daunting conditions became apparent almost immediately after his graduation from the Masters geology program at the University of Calgary in 1967. At that time, the mining industry was mired in one of its cyclical lows, and Ron came out of school to find that companies weren't exactly beating down his door with job offers.
But rather than flee the sector, Ron took his career by the horns and set up shop as an independent consultant. Although he jokingly refers to the title as "another word for unemployed", he was anything but jobless during this time. In fact, he soon became a key player in one of the industry's most exciting events: the Saskatchewan uranium rush.
Strategically staking over a million acres of land in and around the Athabasca Basin, Ron and his associates put together a property package that they eventually sold for enough cash to, as he puts it, "go from starving to death to being fairly prosperous." Then disaster struck: an accident at the Three Mile Island atomic power plant turned public opinion against nuclear energy. The uranium price went into a nosedive.
It took Ron all of a week to recover from this catastrophe. Seizing the opportunity to do something different, he began staking land in Saskatchewan's LaRonge gold belt, under the auspices of Golden Rule Resources. His timing was impeccable: the gold price was rising at a torrid pace, and hit $850 in January of 1980. His properties looked more and more attractive with each passing month.
Around the same time, Ron ventured into the highly prospective hills of British Columbia with another venture, Delaware Resources. Success here came quickly, with the discovery and development of the Snip gold mine-a high-grade find that eventually yielded over a million ounces.
Then, another major setback. This time, the stock market crash of 1987-Black Friday. Overnight, Delaware went from a $7 stock to being completely broke. And owing $2 million in debts.
Again undaunted, Ron combed his already extensive list of contacts and found a group willing to refinance his company. The investors were soon glad they signed on-within a year, Delaware was up to $28 per share.
It was then that Ron came across what would become one of his greatest successes: the Eskay Creek gold-silver deposit. When the property came to him, via an acquaintance, it already had 50 years of exploration history. As he puts it, "Everyone and the kitchen sink had taken a shot." Ron and his crew hit the discovery hole on their first drill program. The mine is now the world's fifth-largest silver producer.
His work in B.C. was then disrupted by another market crash in 1990 (did we mention he's faced some tough times?). This time, he headed overseas to seek his fortune, making stops in Indonesia, Australia and West Africa. Under a company called Trillium, he had just finished assembling a portfolio of gold mines in Zimbabwe-holding over 1 million ounces-when the corrupt government of Robert Mugabe seized the assets.
Fleeing the country with next to nothing, Ron and his coworkers managed to keep themselves afloat by selling the one property they had left: a nickel project in the Ivory Coast. The transaction brought in $3 million, which they promptly used to create Viceroy Explorations-a name very familiar to today's investors.
While Viceroy headed to seek gold in Argentina, Ron also turned back to Saskatchewan's LaRonge gold belt, the area he had worked decades previous, a project that he looked at as "unfinished business." Today, his Golden Band is the largest land holder in the area and is consolidating historical resources, as well as discovering new ore, in a bid to mobilize the considerable potential of this rich region.
At the same time, he remains active in Ecuador with Skeena Resources. He's also pursuing uranium, coal, platinum-group metals, diamonds and even coal-bed methane with Santoy Resources.
This sounds like a considerable challenge: running three companies on two separate continents, going after everything from energy to precious metals. But, having seen Ron's history in handling difficult situations, it appears likely that such a large undertaking will inevitably lead to equally big successes.