True North Gems
In 1998, emeralds were discovered at Tsa da Glisza in the southeast Yukon. By 2001, True North Gems had begun to strip, sample, and map the occurrence which led to the discovery of a new emerald-bearing zone. Andrew Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, founded True North Gems on the strength of the 100 per cent owned 21 square kilometre Tsa da Glisza Emerald property. The business has since shifted its focus to a high-grade ruby deposit near Fiskenaesset, southwest Greenland and developed into a unique enterprise with one of the most interesting stories out there.
The appeal of gemstones
True North started at a time when commodity prices were low and expectations for diamonds were high. According to Smith, in the early ‘00s it was hard to get people interested in base metal prospects, so turning them on to gemstones was a good business venture. At the time of True North’s inception, Smith had partners – geologists – working in gemstones but they had no idea how to start and run a company, which is where Smith came in. In 2002, the company successfully went public, and the general response from the public “was really great” says Smith. True North was able to get the appropriate financing they needed even during difficult economic times, and the same will go during the current recession.
“Financing is difficult, but base metal prices aren’t good so it makes it easier in current conditions to showcase our value – we tend not to be painted with the same brush,” Smith explains. Luckily for True North, they also have a near-to-production story with the Greenland ruby project, which Smith assures can attract investment. The 100 per cent owned Greenland ruby discovery has been dubbed one of the most important gemstone finds in the northern hemisphere. Both high-quality gem, ruby, and pink sapphires are found on this property, and more than 30 individual occurrences have already been discovered on this large 823 square kilometre property.
Sustainability – part of the business plan
Smith says that both socially and economically sustainable operations are a key objective and mandate for True North. “It’s part and parcel with our business plan. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s essential to the financial success of True North,” he reasons. “The trends that are developing in the jewellery and gem industry are all about ethical sourcing and socially viable, sustainable development,” Smith continues. “Those trends are coming our way. There is significant demand for a new ruby source and ours is the most sustainable ruby project with the potential for a consistent long-term source of gem rubies for the jewellery trade. If we are the leaders in terms of ethical sourcing, we’re essentially meeting the needs of the consumer. Ultimately, if you’re going to wear that mantle of ethically sourced, socially viable, that attitude has to work its way back to your operations.”
True North has another advantage in its industry – gemstone deposits in and of themselves are ideal scenarios. Gemstone deposits, by their nature, have less critical sustainability issues, especially regarding potential hazards to the environment. These gem deposits are smaller, and less invasive when compared to typically larger base metal and gold mines. Smith says that although this is a benefit for True North, the company still wants to reduce the environmental risk even further: “We really want to carry the standard even higher than it is now”.
True North works closely with their engineering consultants to make sure they anticipate all environmental issues. In fact, the company wants to “go above and beyond,” says Smith, and enforce “if possible, a zero discharge policy for our gem mining sites – which is currently not required but would be beneficial and provide comfort to the local communities”.
Smith adds: “In Greenland, we will evaluate the economic feasibility of establishing alternative energy sources such as a micro run-of-river hydro grid within the operation which is currently powered by fossil fuels”. According to Smith, “it’s not lip-service. This is the way we think things should be going. We look at it as being an interesting opportunities and ideas towards a more environmentally-friendly site”.
Health, safety, and people at True North
True North is a leader in site health and safety. The company looks to adopt environmental policies that ultimately reduce the risk to workers’ health and safety. There are fewer risks in gemstone mines, because gemstone mines typically use less fewer chemicals in their recovery and extraction process. However, Smith says that True North is “dedicated to its workers” because, quite simply, it’s the people at True North that make the company successful. “We have an amazing team. Being in this business, the gemstone business, means employees have to have a specialized skill set. But even at the board level we’ve got people working here with a great deal of experience in the industry. Essentially, you need a really unique skill set to bring to bear on a really unique mining target – from the boardroom to the field,” Smith says. He adds that the way True North attracts high quality staff is by conducting business professionally and sustainably, in ways that potential employers can see. “If we do things that are beneficial for our local and the larger community, it’s visible. We want to be a place where people can take satisfaction in what they do, and what we’re doing,” Smith concludes.
In any case, the True North story is a positive one, and the True North team has no intention of sitting on their hands – despite current market conditions. For more information about True North, including other projects, visit www.truenorthgems.com.