Rock Star: Brandon Macdonald, Fireweed Zinc CEO and director

Brandon Macdonald found success at Fireweed Zinc by adapting to the twists and seizing opportunities

Brandon Macdonald is sitting on a rock with his little boy in a natural landscape of rocks along a stream.

Brandon Macdonald with his son, Soren — Photo courtesy Brandon Macdonald

Timing is everything in Brandon Macdonald's story. Those who work in the mining industry have to roll with the punches, and Macdonald, chief executive officer and director of Fireweed Zinc, has done exactly that throughout his career.

Even as early as his post-secondary education, Macdonald was adaptable. First, he studied chemistry. After a few mishaps in the lab, he switched into geology to complete his undergraduate degree in 2000. “When I graduated, there was not a huge amount of geology work available,” he said. The industry was in a bit of a downturn.

Instead of getting discouraged, Macdonald picked up odd jobs and eventually ended up in England completing his master's degree in business administration at Oxford University. Investment banking was a good place to be at the time, so that’s where he stayed for a couple years before jumping back into Canada’s mining industry—at the exact time as another downturn.

During the depths of the downturn he took any job he found.

“Start by getting a job and working hard. Over time, the rest falls into place. Waiting for the perfect opportunity is rarely a good strategy,” Macdonald said. People have two options during downturns: “You either put your pride first and risk your solvency because you can’t earn money or swallow your pride and do what you have to do to keep busy.”

A well-rounded worker

Looking back, Macdonald is grateful for taking these jobs because they grew his network in Vancouver. He became a well-rounded employee by flowing with the industry and eventually a success-driven CEO for Fireweed Zinc. Macdonald learned to live with his eyes on the future when the industry is feasting, even if it costs his free time.

“The next downturn I will get all the time for rest and hobbies that I want,” he said. “You have to put your head down and deal with it.

“I think that success is timing,” he said. “When I left banking, there was a downturn in the financial sector. It wasn’t a good time to be a banker, so I went back to mining.” Timing brought Macdonald back to Vancouver and eventually the opportunity to interview with the two initial founders of Fireweed.

Finding success at Fireweed Zinc

These unique experiences led Macdonald to Richard Hajdukiewicz and George Gorzynski, who were interested in two historical deposits near Ross River, Yukon. They were looking for someone to head their Macmillan Pass zinc-lead-silver project, so they brought Macdonald and John Robins on board, thus uniting the four founders of Fireweed Zinc.

The fortunate four found everything they wanted in the two deposits, called Tom and Jason.

“We wanted to buy something that was already good but that we thought we could make even better,” said Macdonald. “Between the two of them, there was a substantial and high-grade resource, but we were also excited about the ability to expand the resource.”

The historical records indicated resources in the Tom and Jason deposits of 6,428,000 tonnes at 6.33 per cent zinc, 5.05 per cent lead and 56.55 grams/tonne silver. They are launching the project into a positive zinc market and just completed their final drill program, which was a huge success. “The market responded very well to it because we had one hole in particular that was extremely high grade over a very good intersection,” Macdonald said.

Moving forward at Macmillan Pass

Macdonald believes that the market will be surprised by their resource update, which will be released soon, for the Macmillan Pass project.

“They think we are taking a historical resource and just modernizing it, but that it won’t change," he said. "We are anticipating that the resource will look a lot better. All signs are positive in that regards.”

Moving forward, Fireweed has completed the Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA), showing an estimated 18-year mine life with an average yearly contained-metal production of 85kt Zinc, 48kt Lead and 2M oz. Silver. Despite the remote location of the Macmillan Pass project, the size of the deposits indicated in the PEA. 

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