Nolan Wat­son


BC Business Magazine - - To Do -

Afi­nan­cial cri­sis that has eq­uity mar­kets plum­met­ing isn’t ex­actly the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to raise cap­i­tal for a ven­ture in the com­modi­ties sec­tor. But that was what Nolan Wat­son faced when he founded Van­cou­ver gold min­ing fi­nancier Sandstorm Gold in 2009.

“It was the worst time in gen­er­a­tions to try to raise money,” Wat­son re­flects. “I was a 29-year-old guy walk­ing around in that en­vi­ron­ment try­ing to raise $50 mil­lion,” he adds. “The min­ing in­dus­try is a very cap­i­tal­in­ten­sive busi­ness; you have to have the mine or you have to have the money. We had nei­ther.”

Wat­son pulled it off—a re­sult he calls “kind of a mir­a­cle.” Oth­ers might call it a vote of con­fi­dence. Wat­son had al­ready proven his worth at Sil­ver Wheaton Corp. (now called Wheaton Pre­cious Met­als Corp.), where he as­sumed the role of chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer at the ten­der age of 26, be­com­ing the youngest-ever CFO of a New York Stock Ex­change–listed com­pany. At Van­cou­ver-based Sil­ver Wheaton, he helped pioneer the busi­ness model of stream trans­ac­tions in sil­ver; he ex­panded on that ap­proach when he cre­ated Sandstorm. The com­pany pro­vides fi­nanc­ing to gold mines in ex­change for a por­tion of the mine’s pro­duc­tion—a stream—or roy­al­ties. “Ef­fec­tively, what we do is we col­lect cheques from mines around the world as they mine them,” Wat­son ex­plains. To­day Sandstorm, with 19 em­ploy­ees, has US$50 mil­lion in free cash flow and is on track to dou­ble that by 2022.

Wat­son, a char­tered fi­nan­cial an­a­lyst who once con­sid­ered drop­ping out of his UBC bach­e­lor of com­merce stud­ies to be­come a hu­man­i­tar­ian, is also a com­mit­ted phi­lan­thropist. In 2005, he founded Na­tions Cry, a char­ity fo­cused on pro­vid­ing ed­u­ca­tion in Sierra Leone. Wat­son is the first to ad­mit the min­ing in­dus­try hasn’t al­ways had a stel­lar rep­u­ta­tion when it comes to hu­man rights. “I think of­ten— not al­ways—the crit­i­cism is jus­ti­fied,” he says. “One of the things that I en­joy about the in­dus­try is that if you do things right, you can make peo­ple’s lives bet­ter. You just have to make sure you do them right.” —J.W.


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