Here’s a short interview with James Walker, Presiudent and CEO of Ares Strategic Mining
Q: Anyone who gets the chance to speak with you will notice that you have a decidedly un-Vancouver accent. Can you tell us a little about your background?
James Walker: I can. I was born in South Africa, and grew up in Cyprus and England. When leaving school I trained as an accountant until I decided it wasn’t for me, so I completed a year of a mathematics degree after work to qualify for a place on a Bachelor’s degree program in Mechanical Engineering. When I finished the degree I undertook an MSc in Mining Engineering, as it seemed a great way to utilize the applied math skill set and see the world. However during that MSc I joined the British Army as an infantry reservist, and once the masters was completed i decided to stay in the UK and work as an engineer so I could continue soldiering. I took a job with the UK Ministry of Defence as a mechanical engineer and was posted to the nuclear weapons division, and later the nuclear submarines division. During this time I was selected by the MoD to be trained as a nuclear engineer and was sent on another MSc in Nuclear Physics and Engineering. When I finished this second masters, I was seconded to Rolls Royce where i worked in reactor design and nuclear physics, designing nuclear reactors. After these roles i returned to the MoD where I was appointed the Senior Project Engineer for constructing a nuclear fuel reclamation facility. I also became the UK Subject Matter Expert for the UK Nuclear Material Recovery Capabilities, and was also a technical project manager for constructing the UK reactor core manufacturing facilities. After several years in these roles I decided to leave the army, which freed me to work anywhere I wanted. I decided to move to Canada and start over in a mining role. I was initially planning an engineering project manager role within a large operating company, but that role was dissolved before I managed to arrive. So I moved to Vancouver to start doing project work for juniors, from there it was a gradual shift into my current role; arriving us at the present.
Q: The advent of the global Covid pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of doing business. How has it affected running Ares Strategic Mining?
James Walker: It was a nightmare. I couldn’t get drillers over the border, I couldn’t put them up in hotels, my VP of exploration was barred from the country for repeatedly trying to get into the US. A lot of my engineers have had to work as best they can remotely without being able to visit the site. I couldn’t get mapping done, or geophysics; and it went on like that. Even now there are backed up ports, container shortages, closed ports, and travel restrictions. I’m in the US as I write this, and I needed two different types of vaccine passports, two negative Covid tests (there and back), attestation forms, an app to complete, company authorization letters, and a work exemption barcode to get here and back. We’ve always worked around all the restrictions and found ways to make progress despite all these impediments, but it’s been frustrating, and likely incredibly damaging for any business trying to operate within this forever changing framework. Despite that we got a lot of work done, designed our flotation plant, bought another plant, arranged rail and utilities, found a lot more fluorspar, bought a couple more great projects, completed the metallurgical work, expanded our claim package, brokered agreements with multinationals, and cultivated some strong government support within the US.
Q: In your opinion, what was your most significant achievement of 2021 regarding Ares Strategic Mining?
James Walker: 2021 was a very bureaucratic year for us, where a lot of our plans had to take a backseat to bureaucracy. We started 2021 with a lot of momentum, but then spent several months not being permitted to proceed with a plant purchase. Eventually we called a shareholder vote to push this purchase through and that was great to put to bed. We were then about to launch a drill program and radiological survey as part of mine design, but we were then ordered to produce an updated 43-101, so all real work got relegated. At this point I was contemplating reviving the old military skills and launching a military coup, but instead we opted to finish the report, move to a disclosure based Exchange, and beat on with project building. Amongst this bureaucratic year we found some great new projects and got some really good technical work done.
Q: What can shareholders of Ares Strategic Mining expect in 2022?
James Walker: We’ve bought, constructed and shipped the first of our two plants, so the second plant order and construction can be expected this year. We hope to announce some impressive government support, some great business arrangements and company alliances, as well as mine designs and construction. We are anticipating producing metallurgical lumps for the steel industry, and we have even found buyers for our waste product which can be used in cement. I’ve got big hopes for this year, and if we can fend of the global issues and bureaucracies then we should develop quickly in the US. I also have some great plans for other projects, but production and cashflow is the priority.
Ares Strategic Mining owns the only permitted and producing fluorspar mine in the U.S. The Company is in the process of ramping up production through new equipment, new plant, adit construction, and new strategic partners, and has already established a global customer base. Ares is designing new mining plans to optimize output, and improve the mine’s infrastructure, so it can meet the demands of a large US market which currently imports all its fluorspar from abroad. The Company is focusing on near-term production and cash flow, as well as continuous expansion, so that it can become one of the world’s largest fluorspar suppliers.
For more information, please visit their website at https://www.aresmining.com or call 604 345 1576.