Silver Standard CEO looks for Seabee Mine growth in Saskatchewan
- 5 Nov 2016
- Regina Leader-Post
- This interview has been edited and condensed.
Silver Standard CEO looks for Seabee Mine growth
Five months after the $450-million acquisition of Claude Resources, Saskatchewan’s only gold-mining company, Vancouver-based Silver Standard Resources, is planning for its future. Paul Benson, president and CEO since 2015, spoke with Alex MacPherson about
Q What is it that attracted Silver Standard to Claude Resources and, by extension, to Saskatchewan?
A The driver for us was a quality mine, increasing margins with (an) exploration upside. In any situation like this, you don’t start by saying, ‘Let’s look for a mine in Saskatchewan or Canada.’ You sort of look at the universe of opportunities and then evaluate it with that context in mind. Once we became aware of (the opportunity), then we go back and say, ‘This mine is in Saskatchewan in Canada — that’s a real positive.’ That’s the order that you do it in.
Q What’s your longer-term plan for the Seabee operation?
A A recurring theme (in our company) is what we call operational excellence. It’s our internal continuous improvement program and we apply it everywhere we go. You look at each component of your process and say, ‘What is the limiting capacity? What can I do, preferably without spending money?’ Sometimes it’s just the organization and doing things smarter or it might be taking things out of the process that aren’t really required. And we’re going through that review of the mine plan now.
Q Since the takeover, Silver Standard has also launched a large exploration program in Saskatchewan. What does that mean for the company’s operation here?
A One of the things that attracted us to the mine was the prospective geology. We’re spending money to find additional resources around the current resources, and also to convert resources to reserves. That will help extend the mine life. In addition to that … we’re looking further out in the greenstone belt to look for (geological) repetitions … that aren’t yet known. And that, obviously, is where you can get the big potential prize if you’re able to find another Santoy Gap (deposit). We’re committed to spending over a number of years in that greenstone belt, which we believe is under-explored.
Q What kind of changes have you made since completing the takeover in May?
A The reality, the way the economy works, is you’re continuously looking for reducing costs and increasing margin — getting a return on capital. Obviously one of the synergies for us was we were able to reduce the size of the head office (in Saskatoon) and take some positions out of there. And that impacts individuals. That means that we’re better able to leverage our head office here. But we haven’t made any sort of major changes at all at the site. It’s the same people running it on a day-to-day basis as they were before.
Q Claude Resources was founded and headquartered in Saskatoon. What is your response to concerns about a company from outside the province coming in and making big changes?
A We’re sensitive to going into a totally different environment, a different province. Although we’re new to Saskatchewan … there’s definitely Canadian heritage (in the company), and we understand how to do business here. And I think the cultures that we have as a company, we’re very similar to Claude: We’re focused on safe mining and respecting our workforce. It wasn’t as though we were going with two totally opposed cultures, and that obviously makes it a lot easier.