Conscience of a Gold Miner – Nolan Watson Interview

Nolan Watson, CEO of Sandstorm Gold and Sandstorm Metals and Energy

We had the opportunity to sit down with one of the youngest and most successful CEO’s in the mining business today, Nolan Watson, of the Sandstorm companies. Chosen as a Canadian “Top 40 Under 40”, Nolan has created billions in shareholder wealth beginning as a 26 year old CFO at Silver Wheaton. He currently appears to be repeating the same process at Sandstorm.

(To skip to interview, click here)

While his accomplishments are profound and deserve the highest of honors—they are merely a by-product of something deeper. It was our discovery that faith and conscience developed at a young age, are at the root, and are the secret of, Nolan’s success.

It was in business school, Nolan once said, that he “Made the decision to drop out…to become a humanitarian. When I went to tell my father that…he [replied], ‘Nolan, if you want to be a humanitarian, your mother and I will support you…but you should become a business person first, that way you know how organizations run, how to raise money, and how to manage it properly…The goal shouldn’t be becoming a humanitarian,” his parents advised. “The goal should be becoming a smart humanitarian.”

Apparently that was all the advice he needed, as Nolan Watson, the billion-dollar company builder as we know today, was reborn.

“It’s amazing what a sense of purpose will do for your motivation,” he said last November. “I had this sense, that if I wasn’t giving it my all—that people would die as a result of my lack of effort, [people] that could have been saved.”

While many view building and investing in mining companies as a way to create wealth alone, they appear to serve as a vehicle to further accelerate Nolan’s long-term humanitarian ambitions, and the best way you can build those vehicles according to him, is if, “You know what you’re doing, you act with integrity…you take a long term vision…and you’re not worried about quick flips.”

“There are things and absolutes that should guide conduct, and one of those things is integrity…[it] makes a difference in business. People view you as different than other[s] if you’re willing to not make money [by] doing the wrong thing,” and by adhering to that philosophy he added, “I think the mining industry is one of those industries where you can make a lot of money.”

When discussing the mechanics of finding quality streaming deals, and building a successful company, he said, “[We] try to find assets that have really good exploration upside…with a company that hasn’t had the ability to fully exploit [it] yet, either due to the geologic nature of the deposit, or just due to lack of funds…[if] we can do a deal to finance [mine] production—that’s what we’re really looking for.”

“The goal is just to continue to do smart deals, and add value for shareholders”, he said. “I think that we are going to get large—but ‘large’ is a by-product of doing smart deals.”

It is our suspicion that Nolan plans to build the Sandstorm companies to a size in which his personal fortune allows an extraordinary investment into Nations Cry—a charity he and his wife Dana have created which focuses on sustainable education programs in developing countries.

“We don’t waste any money on salaries,” he commented when discussing Nations Cry. “There’s not one person who’s ever drawn a dollar of salary, or bonus, or compensation, or had material costs covered at Nations Cry. Every time I fly to Africa, I pay for it myself.”

We asked what type of legacy he wishes to leave behind. The 33 year old Watson said he would like to be remembered as, “A person who worked hard, tried to make a difference, and wasn’t willing to take short cuts to do it.

Without further delay, in traditional long-form style, here is our interview with Nolan Watson, CEO of the Sandstorm Companies, valued at nearly $1 billion.


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We hope to see many of you there.


About Tommy Humphreys

Tommy Humphreys is a writer, consultant, investor and speaker focused on early stage mining, oil and gas, and technology companies. He founded the Pacific Website Co. in 2006 and CEO.CA in 2012.

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  • Gonzalo Tudela

    As always Mr. Humphreys, you’re questions are outstanding. Mr. Watson’s character shows a new generation of executive leadership and I would be honored to work on a project with him.

    • http://twitter.com/tommyhump Tommy Humphreys

      From what I know of you, Gonzo, he would be lucky to work with you as well! All the best, bro

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.shaw.1291 James Shaw

    There
    isn’t a better way to learn about what’s really happening on the ground at gold
    mines than listening directly to the CEOs themselves. The junior gold sector
    has been struggling recently. Brent Cook recently said on BSN that 80% of
    juniors won’t last the next decade, which I agree with. This is also echoed in
    the former Franco-Nevada COO’s interview I just read here: http://seekingalpha.com/article/1219881-exclusive-interview-with-pershing-gold-s-stephen-alfers