The 2019 PDAC is just around the corner and I was intrigued to see the call for nominations for the Young Mining Professionals of the Year Award. I had some interactions with one of the 2018 winners, Mr. Stephen de Jong, ten years ago and have been very impressed by his accomplishments since then. It left me wondering, who is in the running this year?

There are surely many good candidates for the 2019 awards, but I wanted to share my thoughts on one person that I have just recently started to get to know. I have become more and more impressed as I dig deeper into his story. Say hello to Mr. James Sykes!

We don't get into James' experience in the interview above, but there is some good material about him online. See his LinkedIn here. And see this 2016 article by Palisade Global here. Please note that I wasn't compensated by anyone to publish my interviews with James or this article. This is my opinion and any errors are my own. 

After poking around, I'd express my support for James Sykes in terms of "resilience, vision, and leadership" as follows.

Resilience -- James distinguished himself logging core for Denison 2007, rose to Project Manager for Hathor at Russell Lake in 2010, and then played a critical role in NexGen's Arrow discovery in 2014 before working as a Crew Leader for the 2016 Census. That's a long way down from the discovery of a Tier 1 uranium project to contract work on the Canadian Census, but James picked himself up and kept moving forward. He joined Appia Energy as VP-Ex in 2016 and helped change that company from an inactive shell trading at 1C through the first drill program completed at the Alces Lake project in Saskatchewan this year, returning some of the richest concentrations of rare earths in the world.

Vision -- Apparently James is touched with some unique perspective on structural geology. I don't how to measure that, but his actions in the heat of the moment at Arrow show that he is something special. When he drilled ‘Area C’ at Arrow in 2014, he broke a couple of rules by drilling deeper than he was supposed to with hole RK-14-21, the discovery hole. That hole raked and it wasn't till James disobeyed orders again with a +200 meter step-out that hole RK-14-30 hit again. Why did James call those holes in that way? His training as a geologist and experience logging core were part of it, but I think there's something intangible at play. Technical experts who engage him in detailed discussions come away with a clear sense that he is something special. That is in full display now with his careful leadership of exploration for Appia, where he has led simple, effective, and safe work programs. I think his vision for the Alces Lake project is ambitious enough to spark a "monazite rush" in Saskatchewan. There are surely many other people wondering if he can pull a rabbit from a hat again with some of the company's uranium projects, too.

Leadership -- The world is better for having James as VP-Ex for Appia than a crew leader for Census Canada. The mining industry might have lost him forever after getting benched by NexGen management in 2015, but James stuck with us as a second-generation uranium miner. Apparently he picked up some hard lessons about right and wrong growing up in Elliot Lake. He is a doer, as you can see in the comprehensive geological information available on the Appia Energy website today. James' efforts at that company are a credit to the junior mining business.

As in the Appia pitch deck, James Sykes is a "Serially successful exploration geologist James Sykes, involved with over 450 M lbs U3O8 discovered in the Athabasca Basin in the past decade." He's almost halfway to his lifetime goal of discovering a billion pounds, although I think his work advancing the Alces Lake monazite discovery is even more meaningful for Saskatchewan, Canada, and the world. 

Alces Lake may seem like a simple project with surface showings over a small area, but James' careful work with a track-mounted drill, excavator, and high-pressure water pumps exposing structural controls for surface showings of monazite may start a new wave of exploration activity in northern Saskatchewan. With the tie-in to the Saskatchewan Research Council processing facilities, I see potential for Saskatchewan to become a leader in rare earths globally. James Sykes' exploration approach is right at the heart of that swirling potential.

Find out more about James and Appia Energy on their website,