Fine a windfall for mineral research

Major benefits are predicted for B.C. industry as a result of an unusual payment to UBC's Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU).

Last month -- in a unique decision in the history of the B.C. Securities Commission -- First Marathon Securities agreed to donate $450,000 to MDRU after acknowledging it had breached provincial securities regulations.

"This is an innovative way to put something back into the industry which suffered from illegal activity," says Mike Bernard, communications manager for the securities commission.

MDRU was founded in 1989 as a joint venture between industry and UBC to increase knowledge about mineral deposits, to aid in discovery and in locating and developing new resources worldwide.

"Mineral exploration research and education was diminishing when MDRU was created," says Harlan Meade, president of Expatriate Resources Ltd., one of MDRU's industry partners. "In its short history it has helped establish excellence and technical expertise, which is restoring investor confidence. That's being recognized in this ruling of the regulatory securities commission."

The payment is part of the final settlement in the Cartaway Resources scandal, in which a penny stock listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange was controlled and promoted by First Marathon.

The payment will be made to the MDRU endowment fund, established with donations from industry, the Vancouver Stock Exchange and UBC matching funds. The target for the endowment is $3 million. It now stands at $2 million.

The member-supported MDRU performs three important functions: conducting research, educating the next generation of scientists, and continuing education through ongoing workshops and seminars.

Ian Thomson, acting director of the unit in UBC's Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences, views the payment as recognition of the MDRU's positive and proactive leadership.

"UBC graduates are working and sought after in every sector and size of company in the mineral exploration and mining industry," he says. "MDRU research has helped provide an understanding of exploration opportunities in the Yukon and northwestern B.C to name a few."

MDRU also conducts many popular short courses and workshops on specialized and technical topics as well as managing social issues, he says.

"It has exceeded our wildest dreams," says Peter Bradshaw, president of First Point Minerals Corp., co-founder of MDRU and chair of its fund-raising committee. "Our company has only seven full-time employees, but an association with the UBC research unit gives us an ability to conduct research which would otherwise be impossible."

"There is no question that MDRU has made a significant contribution to raising the quality of work and credibility of the industry and the endowment will only enhance its ability to continue to play that key role," he says.