In conversation: Building a gold growth company from the ground up
Greg Owen is not only VP of Operations for Elemental Royalties (TSX.V:ELE), but was the gold growth company’s first hire. Greg has over 14 years’ experience of both public and private companies within the mining sector, most recently as VP Corporate Development with Altus Strategies Plc from 2011 until 2018. Of note, he was part of the management team responsible for the AIM IPO in August 2017 and the acquisition of TSX-V listed Legend Gold Corp in January 2018. In a wide-ranging interview, we talked with Greg on Gantt charts and “fire and forget.” Part 1 of 2.
You were Executive Hire No. 1 by CEO Frederick Bell and now assume the title of VP Operations. What does that role entail for a royalty company?
Greg: We launched Elemental in 2017, building it piece-by-piece from the ground up. We had little money and no senior company investment or backing. What we did have was determination and conviction for an idea— to create a different kind of emerging royalty company, built upon the growth value of quality, accretive, revenue-generating acquisitions rather than a high volume of exploration royalties that may never produce revenue.
I was the first person that Fred hired. He was running Elemental almost on his own at that point and was swamped by the number of things that needed to be done. What became very rapidly clear was the need for me to oversee all the day-to-day running of the company so Fred could focus on our strategic goals. My VP Operations role spans corporate, legal, finance, marketing, and transaction support. There is no such thing as an average day for me here. Taking Elemental from private to public is one great example. My role was execution: figuring out how long it takes, how much it costs, who does what and getting to the finish line on budget and on time. As I’m known for in our office: if it’s doesn’t go in a Gantt chart, it doesn’t exist.. I think my role aligns with the lean and efficient entrepreneurial culture that has been ingrained since Day 1 here at Elemental.
You previously served in an executive role with Altus Strategies Plc, including its IPO in 2017. Are there any analogs or lessons learned from your time at Altus that inform your viewpoint and approach to the mining industry?
Greg: One caution I give those first investing in exploration is the risk of investing in a junior exploration company with a single asset. That single asset represents a single point of failure and must succeed at any cost which is not the way it should be done. Mineral exploration should be cautious, dispassionate and, most importantly from a company and investor perspective, diversified. At Altus, we promoted diversification through a portfolio comprising multiple assets and multiple commodities located in multiple countries. We aimed to acquire mining licences in diverse jurisdictions and then undertake exploration on these projects simultaneously. Once a discovery was made, we secured funding joint venture partnerships, structured an equity position in the project and/or retained a royalty. The only downside to the project generator model is the amount of work required to oversee the operations of the portfolio projects.
The beauty of the royalty model here at Elemental is that we have created the diversification without the overhead. Once a transaction on a royalty is complete, we have no operational or financial obligations. It’s “fire and forget,” to borrow a term from missile-guidance. The deal is done, and we can move on to the next accretive opportunity, while retaining full exposure to the upside.