Uplifting Communities and Saving the Environment
As a proactive environment upliftment measure, Donald helps monitor the environmental impact of all of Avalon’s activities at its project sites and other corporate locations. The company engages in meaningful and transparent consultation with communities of interest, informs them of its project activities, and adapts its plans where appropriate.
Furthermore, before any project, the team performs multiple detailed environmental assessments, against which Don and his partners assess and manage potential environmental impacts and risks as well as utilize and evaluate future environmental performance. This has resulted in an increased focus on saving the environment while looking for critical minerals.
On November 22, 2016, Avalon received the Best Use of Renewables for Mine Exploration award at the Energy and Mines’ Renewables in Mining Awards event, part of the World Congress of Energy and Mines conference. The award was given to Avalon “to recognize innovation and leadership in the use of renewables for mine exploration, prospecting or early mine development.”
On a community front, the company prioritizes local hiring and procurement at each project location. Here, Don and his team educate the general public, and government agencies about the risks and opportunities associated with its projects as well as the necessity of critical materials for new technologies. “Respect and collaboration are key values when engaging with Avalon’s communities of interest, which include (but are not limited to) Aboriginal and local communities, government, NGOs, employees, and suppliers,” says Don.
Academic and Industrial Outreach
Avalon encourages innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit among students to create cutting-edge technologies that leverage critical minerals resources. An initiative that has always been close to Donald, in 2011, Avalon established the University Student Outreach Initiative program to champion the development and future availability of trained and experienced employees to explore for, finance, design, build and operate critical materials mines and facilities. He also continues to encourage further earth science education for young people by supporting PDAC’s Mining Matters education program and serving on its Board of Directors.
By introducing rare metal-related subjects into course curricula, and identifying and mentoring an international network of research, development, and operational capabilities, Avalon has been able to connect with the next generation of geologists and mineral workers. Senior Avalon representatives often deliver lectures to undergraduate chemistry, metallurgy, mining, and geology students at the local universities. “Avalon has also sponsored students to participate in industry conferences, and provided relevant co-op terms and research initiatives,” shares Don.
Additionally, Avalon has also played a leading role in collaboratively working with prospective rare earth producers, universities, commercial labs, consultants, and the Canadian Federal Government. The company helped launch the Canadian Critical Minerals and Materials Alliance (C2M2A), a non-profit, independent organization that endeavours to grow the Canadian economy through critical mineral supply chains. Under the C2M2A banner, Donald has broadened and strengthened Avalon’s relationships in the global sector, gaining access to technical knowledge and solutions, while creating learning and employment opportunities for the public.
Looking into the future, Donald and his company are poised to get its lithium project into production and take the lead in Ontario, in starting a new lithium battery materials supply chain in Canada. He believes that constant innovation and the adoption of new technologies will be the key driver to starting new supplies of non-traditional commodities such as lithium and rare earths.
Apart from establishing a lithium supply chain, Donald is also committed to expanding production into other critical minerals such as Cesium and Tantalum. He has already been responsible for discovering several new critical minerals resources along the way. “Hopefully, we can also show how closed mine sites must be seen now as opportunities to extract value from the wastes (critical minerals) and fully remediate the long-term environmental liability,” he shares.
Don’s advice to other aspiring leaders in the rare earth industry is that every geologist must first understand how the production of non-traditional commodities like lithium and rare earths is different compared to traditional mining of bulk exchange-traded commodities in that it is all about designing an appropriate process to produce the derivative product that will meet the requirements of the end-users, then scaling the operation based on product demand, not simply tons and grade! When this distinction is understood, one can successfully progress in the critical minerals market.