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Steve Holmes

First Majestic Silver Corp.


Geoscience:  The Foundation of Mining

A prominent CEO in the mining industry once told me “Exploration geologists create value.  Everyone else involved in mining is a value detractor.”  While this statement sounds catchy, the fact is that it takes a village of expertise to profitably extract minerals and metals in the mining industry, and exploration and geoscientists play a crucial role in this.

As a mining engineer with a business background, I have seen firsthand on many applications, from North and South America, Australia, Indonesia, and Eastern Europe what can happen when the geoscience work is not done well.  Understanding the macro and local geology through mapping, sampling, surveys and ultimately drilling, leads to the R&R models mine planners and mining engineers depend on to optimize mine designs, capacity, layouts, methods, production, and costs.  Understanding the geometallurgy and the minerals and ores can have enormous impacts on the processing selection and design, and ultimately the large-scale, long-term investments companies, and investors, must make in successfully developing and managing mining businesses.  This includes final closure and reclamation, which is an essential part of the modern mining business cycle.

Good geoscience, applied correctly, gives engineers the right information to make good decisions on mining operations and drives the final success or failure of a mining venture.  It’s like charting a long journey from exploration to production and economic success in the minerals industry.  If you get the start of the trip mostly right, you usually end up in a good place, delivering on the results you promised to your stakeholders.  But if the geoscience is poorly understood and presented, mistakes will be compounded dramatically, enough so to potentially ruin the project, and in some cases destroy the company.

In the world of mining, strong geoscience builds the foundation from which engineers and smart business leaders can drive value for everyone invested in the success of the mine.  In this presentation I present some classic examples of excellence in geoscience and the resulting business benefits and include some failures which had dramatically negative results for those involved.


Steve Holmes is the Chief Operating Officer of First Majestic Silver Corp, a mid-tier silver and gold producer based out of Vancouver, BC, Canada, with operating mines in Mexico and Nevada, USA.  Previously, he worked with Barrick Gold as the Vice President of Global Joint Venture Operations, representing Barrick’s interests in global JV’s throughout the world.  Mr. Holmes also served as the COO for KGHM International, a primary copper and molybdenum producer with mines in Canada, the US and Chile.  He also helped to build and start the +$4 billion greenfield Sierra Gorda copper-moly project in northern Chile and has worked in multiple management and technical roles throughout his career with Asarco, Freeport McMoRan, and originally for Phelps Dodge.  Steve has travelled to and conducted business in 36 countries during his 40-year career in mining focusing mostly on copper and base metals, and more recently on precious metals production and business management.  Mr. Holmes has a BSc degree in Mining Engineering from the University of Arizona and an advanced MBA with honors from Western New Mexico University.  He has been an active member of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration for over 40 years serving as a member of the Board, President of the SME Foundation, and founder of the Gila Valley Section of SME.  Steve is a second-generation mining engineer who grew up in the copper mines in Bisbee, Arizona and is recognized for his business-focused leadership in successfully applying advanced mine technology and organizational theory, including change management, within the mining industry.

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