Discovering Critical Minerals with Donald Bubar

Trailblazing CEO's


Minerals are the foundation of our planet. They form the Earth and the bedrock that we live on, making up all of Earth’s rocks and sediments, and are equally important components of the soil. They help us develop new technologies used in our everyday lives. Our use of rocks and minerals includes building materials, cosmetics, cars, roads, appliances, and much more. The world’s people rely on minerals. And, minerals, mineral production, and the study of new critical minerals are essential to maintaining our present and future lifestyles.

While the use and processing of minerals and metals goes back more than 4,000 years, and today critical minerals are a component of just about everything that supports modern living. Avalon Advanced Materials Inc., a Canadian mineral development company based out of Toronto, exists to discover new critical minerals resources used to create clean energy and new technologies.

Established in 1995 by President & CEO, Donald Bubar, Avalon is a leader in Canada working at establishing new critical minerals supply chains including lithium and rare earth minerals. Specializing in critical minerals with growing demand for new clean technologies, Avalon has five critical minerals projects across Canada.

Through innovative technologies and a sharp focus on sustainability, Avalon’s objective is to create opportunities for investors, providing them with exposure to Lithium, Cesium, Tantalum, Feldspars, Tin, Indium, Zirconium and Rare Earth Elements. The company’s current focus is its Separation Rapids Lithium Project near Kenora, Ontario, and its Lilypad Cesium-Tantalum-Lithium Project near Fort Hope, Ontario.

Sustainability is Key

“Avalon is a leader among junior companies in adopting best practices to reduce its environmental footprint, prevent water contamination and engage with local Indigenous communities,” states Donald. Here, sustainability is a priority and a core value. Along with implementing risk and change management, Avalon also integrates its sustainability objectives into business planning, work activities, and assessments

A leader among junior miners in adopting best practices to reduce its environmental footprint, Avalon believes in creating a sustainable operational environment that will create value for its shareholders. Not only has this proven to reduce the risk for stakeholders but has also resulted in optimizing opportunities for individual and First Nation community prosperity.

Whether it means adopting leading industry standards for the management of health, safety, and the environment; transparently engaging with local communities and stakeholders; treating all stakeholders with respect, or creating a workplace where employees are valued, engaged, and encouraged to succeed, Avalon prides itself on its integrated upliftment efforts.

As a mineral development company focused on rare metals, Don feels it is always a strategic advantage to embrace the latest ESG principles as many end-users of critical minerals audit their supply chains to confirm they were produced sustainably. This has resulted in a better alignment with existing and potential customers, as well as customers who are in the business of creating clean and sustainable technologies for the modern world.

"Respect and collaboration are key values when engaging with Avalon’s communities of interest."

The Motivated Geologist

With over 45 years of experience in mineral exploration and development in Canada, Donald Bubar is a revered Geologist in the Northern America region. He graduated from McGill University in 1977 and completed his master’s at Queen’s University in 1981. Thereafter, he worked for Aur Resources Inc. as Exploration Manager and later VP, Exploration, from 1984 to 1994.

Having been let go from his previous role, a steadfast and undeterred Don, decided to overcome adversity like a true leader. He shares, “I had been terminated by my previous employer in 1995, but having learned a lot about junior exploration companies, I decided to start my own junior exploration company then and soon became interested in lithium.”

Today, Avalon has the most advanced lithium project in Ontario, having done all the exploration drilling over 20 years ago. It is also recognized as the first junior company to produce an annual Sustainability Report. In November 2022, Avalon published its 11th annual sustainability report in accordance with the GRI guidelines.

Mr. Bubar has served as a Director of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) for nine years and Chair of its Aboriginal Affairs Committee from its creation in December 2004 until retiring from the PDAC Board in March 2013. Throughout his career, Donald has been an advocate for increased Indigenous participation in the mineral industry, first through the PDAC and later through the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines.

He also serves on the Advisory Board to the Faculty of Science of McGill University and the Board of Directors of PDAC’s Mining Matters earth science education program. In March 2018, Donald was honored with the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC)’s Distinguished Service Award at the PDAC annual convention in 2019, for his work in Indigenous Engagement, including co-founding the Aboriginal Affairs committee.

For Donald, only genuine experience makes a resolute leader. Today, he spends all day in front of the computer screen at his office, answering emails and taking phone calls from investors, but he believes that the years he has spent as an exploration geologist, have contributed to his stature, position, and success.

Determined to stay ahead of the curve, Don is a regular at various conferences and seminars where he enjoys learning about the latest developments in the industry. He also enrolls himself in short courses from time to time to stay up-to-date with new trends. “Having all the right background experience in the business you are in, will inspire others to get involved and respect your leadership,” he states.

Discovering Critical Minerals with Donald Bubar
Donald Bubar

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.

Future Prospects

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.