It’s a long way from Cambridge Bay to running a copper exploration company that the stock market values at around $17 million.
But that’s what Nolan Peterson has done.
Peterson took the job as CEO of Vancouver-headquartered World Copper Ltd. on April 26.
Although his parents – Keith, a former territorial finance minister, and Sandra, a longtime GN director of finance – still reside in Cambridge Bay, his wife’s parents live in Vancouver, as does his brother, so they have family in the B.C. metropolis, too.
Nolan was already familiar with the city, having attended the University of British Columbia, where he earned a bachelor of applied science degree and a master of business administration. He said his first year of university, in 2001, was challenging, but he had achieved good marks in high school and he applied himself.
He grew up in Cambridge Bay until age 17 and there was a great deal of emphasis placed on the value of education in his household, he recalled. He would have to do 60 math questions in a minute before going out to play at age five or six. There were bookcases lined with books in the home, and trips to book stores whenever the family passed through Edmonton.
“My father said, ‘You can lose money, you can lose partnerships and relationships but nobody can ever take your education away from you,’” Nolan recounted. “He said, ‘It’s your passport to anything you want in life.’ My mother was the same way.”
He also warmly remembers days of ice fishing with his parents, climbing Uvayuq (formerly known as Mount Pelly) and visiting his uncle, who lived next door.
“It was a lot tighter with my family and friends because we just so close together in this small community, so those are the things that I look back fondly on,” he said.
He returned to Cambridge Bay for a visit in 2014 to show his wife and friends the place where he and his brother were raised.
“You kind of see it through the lens of somebody’s who’s now spent a lot more time down south,” he said of his brief return to the Kitikmeot community. “You recognize the beauty in some of the simplicity of life up in the Arctic – nobody’s as rushed or hurried, everyone’s got time for other people, and (they’re) smiling and happy … I now appreciate more that type of lifestyle and why people would embrace that and enjoy it.”
The friendly people and the peaceful tranquility of tundra may lure him back someday, he said, but for now he remains focused on his career.
One of the aspects of the World Copper opportunity that intrigued him was to be able to use his engineering education to develop the Zonia copper project in Arizona, which World Copper is in the process of acquiring.
His company has an ambitious plan to begin producing copper there in three to four years.
“In mining it’s like tomorrow, very fast,” he said, adding that he anticipates strong demand for the red metal to be sustained due to its abundant use in electric vehicles, other renewable energy resources and housing.
Prior to starting with World Copper, Peterson spent three years as operations controller with TMAC Resources and the former company’s Kitikmeot Hope Bay gold project, although he worked from Toronto. Agnico Eagle has since bought out TMAC Resources.
While working with engineering firm SNC Lavalin in the mid-2000s, Peterson helped to establish the infrastructure construction plan for Newmont and was contracted by Miramar prior to that, when those companies owned Hope Bay.
“I’ve had an extensive history with the project as well, from the early days,” he said of Hope Bay.