Few modern-era geologists have experienced a more productive quest for mineral wealth than Alexander (Alex) Davidson. From 1993 to 2009, he contributed to the remarkable success of Barrick Gold as it evolved from its North American base into the world’s leading gold producer. As Executive Vice President of exploration and [later] corporate development, Davidson helped expand Barrick’s gold resources through a series of world-class discoveries and strategic mergers and acquisitions. Most notably he led the discovery team at the Pascua Lama gold-silver deposit in the Andes, recognized the exploration upside of the Pierina prospect in Peru, led the team for the grassroots discovery of Lagunas Norte in Peru and evaluated and recommended the acquisition of the Bulyanhulu project in Tanzania. He also maximized the value of assets acquired through takeovers of senior producers such as Lac Minerals, Homestake Mining and Placer Dome.
Born in Montreal, Davidson graduated from McGill University in 1976 with a M.Sc. degree in Economic Geology. Soon after he led an exploration program for a predecessor of Cameco and drilled the discovery hole at the McArthur Lake uranium deposit in Saskatchewan.
In 1980 he joined Falconbridge Copper in Ontario, where he contributed to the discovery of the high-grade Winston Lake zinc deposit, which produced from 1988 to 1999. He also played a role in the discovery and development of the Samatosum silver-lead-zinc mine near Adams Lake, BC.
Davidson joined Barrick in 1993 and became part of a top-tier team led by Peter Munk and Robert Smith (both CMHF inductees). He expanded the company’s exploration efforts outside of North America and devised a system to identify quality projects and share knowledge and talent within the global group. His vision and team leadership skills helped Barrick meet the challenge of expanding total resources while continually replacing mined ounces on an annual basis.
In 1994, Barrick acquired Lac Minerals and began exploring its South American assets. A year later, Davidson’s team discovered the Pascua deposit in Chile, which led to ground acquisition and exploration across the border at the Lama project in Argentina. Subsequent drilling at Pascua Lama defined reserves of 18 million ounces of gold and 600 million ounces of silver. During this period a joint venture with Argentina Gold led to the discovery of the nearby Valadero mine.
In 1996, Davidson championed the US$800-million acquisition of Arequipa Resources, based on nine holes at its Pierina discovery. Pierina opened two years later with eight million ounces of reserves and produced for 18 years as one of the world’s lowest cost mines. He also urged Barrick to acquire Sutton Resources and its Bulyanhulu gold deposit and led exploration that quadrupled reserves to 15 million ounces. As part of the deal Barrick gained a dominant position in the Lake Victoria greenstone belt and acquired nearby projects later developed into mines. Davidson continued to make discoveries, including Lagunas Norte in the Alto Chicama district of Peru. In 2005 he spearheaded the US$9.2-billion acquisition of Placer Dome, which gave Barrick a dozen new mines around the world and importantly, consolidated the Cortez Trend which resulted in the Cortez, Goldrush and Fourmile deposits in Nevada. Davidson’s achievements helped elevate the stature of Canadian mining at home and overseas and earned him industry honours including the PDAC’s Prospector of the Year Award (2003), the CIM’s A.O. Dufresne Award (2005) and the SME’s Charles F. Rand Gold Medal (2019).