Courtesy of Andrée St-Germain

Growing up in Gatineau, Quebec, Integra Resources CFO Andrée St-Germain relished her uncle’s stories about his life as a geologist in the Val d’Or camp, but did not consider a career in mining herself until she started work as an investment banker a decade ago.

After earning a bachelor in business administration from the Université du Québec (TÉLUQ) remotely from Whistler, B.C., it would have been natural for St-Germain to return to her home province to continue her studies. But with a budding interest in investment, she wanted to be close to the deal making on Bay Street. Dundee Capital Markets hired her as a junior member of its investment banking team after she graduated with an International MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business in 2009.

“For the first few months, I was placed in a pool where I had the chance to work in several different industries. I had little interest in sectors such as biotech or IT, but I found mining – the idea that we’ve been finding and extracting metals and minerals from the ground for hundreds of years – fascinating,” said St-Germain, 39, recipient of the 2018 Eira Thomas Young Mining Professional Award. “Now, the industry is facing great challenges and taking concrete action to address them. It’s exciting to be part of that change whether it be gender diversity, new initiatives to attract, retain and develop talent, or new technologies that not only introduce efficiencies but reduce our environmental footprint.”

St-Germain found the 90-plus hour workweeks required at Dundee (she once went six months without a day off) demanding but exhilarating. After spending a few years learning about mining capital markets, advising companies on mergers and acquisitions, and assisting with financings, she was ready to make the leap to her favourite sector. In 2013, at the age of 33, she joined Vancouver-based Golden Queen

Mining as CFO, where she helped finance development and construction of the company’s Soledad Mountain gold-silver mine in California.

Armed with mine-building experience and fluency in two languages, St-Germain joined Vancouver-based Integra Gold as CFO in 2017 as the company was gearing up to develop the Lamaque gold project in Quebec’s Abitibi region, then helped facilitate Integra’s sale to Eldorado Gold.

Once the $590 million acquisition was complete, the former management group – including St-Germain and president and CEO George Salamis – formed Integra Resources and purchased the DeLamar gold-silver project in Idaho from Kinross Gold.

Late last year, in the midst of a tough financing environment (there was a 60 per cent year-over-year drop in the value of bought-deal financings for junior explorers in 2018, according to the PDAC), Integra raised $17 million through an oversubscribed bought-deal financing and a non-brokered private placement. The junior is currently using the money to develop DeLamar and expand its land package in Idaho.

St-Germain is also a director at Barkerville Gold Mines and Ascot Resources Ltd. She attributes her rapid rise through the ranks to a strong work ethic, willingness to take risks, financial acumen, problem-solving skills, initiative and language fluency. “You have to see the opportunities, take those chances and then deliver,” she advised young professionals starting out in mining.

St-Germain said she thinks the industry is on the cusp of great change despite a tendency to cling to the status quo, and therein lies opportunity for graduates with a wide range of skills, from geologists and engineers who can explore for and develop ore deposits to social workers who can manage community relations.

“We sell an undifferentiated product. We don’t set the price and we don’t need to publicize. And that may be why mining companies have been so resistant to change and innovation – because we sell the same product we were selling a hundred years ago, “she told CIM Magazine during the PDAC

Convention in March. “But it’s a great time to be joining the space. People are recognizing the need to change, to innovate, and to be more diverse.”

Related: How universities are trying to reinvent mining education to meet tomorrow's needs

St-Germain was born in Haiti, where her father – a professor in the faculty of education at the University of Ottawa – was overseeing and training the Ministry of Education’s team managing the planning of educational projects across the country. Although she moved to Canada as a toddler, she retains ties with the Caribbean country. She sponsors six children from two villages there and spent a month helping to rebuild one of the villages after Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, devastating the country’s infrastructure and causing thousands of deaths.

Despite her hectic schedule, one activity St-Germain always makes time for is exercise. She runs or bikes to work and aims to complete one or two half Ironman competitions (involving a 1.9 km swim, 90 km bike ride, and a 21.1 km run) per year. She and her partner, a fellow mining CFO, motivate themselves to train by riding their stationary bikes while taking in the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

She suggests all young professionals build exercise into their routine to maintain mental and physical health and energy levels. She also advises gathering a circle of people, both inside and outside the organization, who can provide counsel when problems crop up. As for working in an industry where the quality of projects and management can vary widely, she recommends doing some research to find companies with management teams and projects robust enough to withstand an inevitable downturn.

“If you’re passionate and you work hard, companies will want to keep you,” said St-Germain. “You’ll become, in a way, a hot commodity.”

This article is part of our Future Prospects series, brought to you by Stantec. Running throughout 2019, this series will feature articles on how the mining workplace is changing and the strategies young professionals will need to build themselves a career in the digital mining industry.