Bearly scratching the surface

Brian “Griz” Testo is obsessed with the hunt for precious minerals—and he’s hoping for a golden discovery near Greenwood, B.C.

by Tanya Laing Gahr

Some people are just born to be prospectors, even when their original career path started off in a different direction. Brian “Griz” Testo, the president and CEO of Grizzly Discoveries Inc. (TSX:GSD), is one of those people.

Testo was born in Hinton, Alberta, where he developed a fondness for picking up rocks in his search for precious metals. He remembers asking his teacher if diamonds might be found among Alberta’s rich coal resources.

“Way back then, the theory was if there was coal, and Mother Nature had compressed it, it would turn into diamonds,” said Testo.

The theory was flawed, of course, but even with that understanding, Testo’s teacher said the only place in the world diamonds could be found was South Africa.

“I never believed him, I guess,” said Testo.

Not such a crazy hunch

Testo worked as a welder and pipefitter, but every moment he wasn’t working was spent panning for gold in nearby creeks and rivers. He found several small garnets in the process; these he showed to someone familiar with the South African diamond mines. That’s when Testo got the first confirmation that his hunch might be on the money.

“He said those garnets were indicators of diamonds,” said Testo. “In 1986, I staked the first diamond claim on a piece of ground in Alberta.”

Everyone in exploration knows the markets turn hot and cold, as do the investors. It soon became apparent to Testo that if he wanted to develop his property, he was going to have to do it himself—so he gave up his day job and formed Grizzly Discoveries (formerly Grizzly Diamonds). And a full-time fire for exploration was ignited.

The initial tests in 2008 were encouraging—diamondiferous kimberlites showed one micro-diamond per kilogram, meeting the industry’s rule-of-thumb threshold for a potential diamond mine.

However, even Griz is at the mercy of a bear market. Exploration companies throughout Canada took a hit in 2008 and the company was unable to raise the capital for further exploration.

In the meantime, the company had acquired property in Greenwood, British Columbia, a historical gold- and copper-mining area. Early sniffs showed interesting mineralization. So Grizzly Discoveries applied new technology to an old mining camp, using airborne geophysical surveys to pinpoint 500 targets to explore further.

“We’ve got six distinct areas that are 20 kilometres apart in the claim box, so we decided to do a drill program,” said Testo.

Testo added that the results of that drill program will determine if there is enough of a sniff to warrant further exploration at the current sites, or whether new targets will be set for the late fall of 2010.

Testo said Grizzly Discoveries is committed to the area, and he anticipates that they will be exploring for three to five years in the Greenwood district. He and his chief geologist, Michael Defresne, believe it’s only a matter of time and money before their faith in the area pays off.

The promise and the passion

When not looking for diamonds, gold and silver, Testo is also on the hunt for lucrative potash on Alberta’s eastern perimeter. The early results are so promising that a new company, Alberta Potash Corp., is being spun out of Grizzly Discoveries.

With so many potential strikes, it would be easy to assume that the returns are Testo’s main motivation—and the potential dividends are huge—but he demurred. For Griz, the chase and the discovery are the most important aspects of his career.

“It’s a passion,” he said, “an obsession. They don’t make a drug that makes you feel like that.” 

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