“Become who you are”—a classic Zen riddle.

Starting out—like many of the fascinating people I’ve had the fortune to meet since—I wasn’t sure either who I was or what I was going to become.

Graduating high school, I thought I’d be a world traveler. I had the idea of spending several months in the exotic locale of Australia. (Little could I imagine the truly bizarre places that actually lay ahead.)

But the real world called, in the form of college. On a Sunday-afternoon whim, I chose to enroll in University of Alberta geology. I’d collected rocks as a kid. They were colorful, and didn’t require much calculus.

I spent my first two post-secondary years napping and trying not to flunk out. But in the last half of my degree, things got interesting. Archean geology—the study of the ancient building of Earth’s continents and oceans.

And ore deposits.

After spending a field season bombing through the backwoods of British Columbia looking at dismembered volcanoes and rotted head frames, I embraced my career choice. Hiking, camping, looking for gold. What wasn’t to like?

Upon graduating however, I found the markets didn’t share my enthusiasm. Gold was at $250. Base metals exploration was non-existent.

I gained a “broad” understanding of geology. Meaning I held six different jobs over the next five years. Reviewing mineral exploration reports in the Northwest Territories (I’ll never forget the fellow from Oregon who staked a mining claim on which to build his Walden Pond… only to then go slowly crazy, believing he was sitting on top of a giant deposit of both gold and diamonds). Predicting how much natural gas was left to be discovered in Alberta. Drilling hundreds of wells to sop up contaminated ground water.

Good times. But not much of them spent at home. It’s the geologist’s curse—those who love to wander never really belong anywhere.

After too many nights in small towns where the only permanent building was the liquor store, I threw in the towel. I would become something totally different. A writer—harkening back to my teenage years penning short stories and stage plays.

Earth science and writing turned out to be a decent niche. I got in with Backpacker magazine, the American Museum of Natural History and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

I also met the folks at Casey Research—one of the world’s most prolific publishers of writing on natural resource investments.

Adventure stories from the company’s namesake Doug Casey its managing editor David Galland took me back to the visions of world travel I’d had years before. The two of them globetrotted to exotic places, doing even more exotic things: Doug imported used sports cars from Italy to America, and later bought a castle in Rhodesia. David seemed to have lived almost everywhere, with each successive settlement bringing more and more fascinating tales.

With them, I re-learned natural resources—from an investment eye. Sizing up the ebbs and flows of capital through the myriad micro-companies poring over the Earth in search of that big find that could turn invested pennies into millions.

I headed up a new investment letter on oil and gas, renewable energy and uranium (during the storied yellowcake boom of 2005 to 2007). Traveled to rural China, the remote Yukon, and the only Buddhist republic in Russia. Met legendary investors and mine-finding geologists.

Then abruptly—too abruptly probably—I stopped. Worn out by stock-picking, I was getting jaded about what seemed at times like a shell game where a few deft-handed dealers made money always knowing which cup covered the red ball.

What I really loved was the business of exploration. Using good science, keen observation and common sense to come up with land prospects that had a chance—a real chance—of a major discovery.

It thrilled me that a good explorationist could spend a few thousand dollars on staking and field mapping, throw in another couple thousand in lab samples, and come up with a target that investors would pay millions for—through option agreements, or in direct equity. What other business had potential returns like that?

Never mind if you gamed the odds and come up with a major discovery, worth billions. I saw a few select people—incredible people like David Lowell—do it again and again and again.

I set out to do it too.

Whatever I had learned to that point taught me one thing: most exploration companies failed because they had no concept. Sitting in an office, selecting projects from a recycled portfolio of shopped-around standards. Or from a friend of a friend of a friend who’d been in Mali forever and knew this really great guy and…

The story was all too familiar. It still is.

But good explorationists, I felt, recognized a specific opportunity and went after it. The opening of Peru in the early 1990s. A fault-offset missing piece of the African Copperbelt. “Low-grade” unloved porphyries that suddenly became hot items when metals prices rose.

I became a student of the metals and petroleum markets. Studying every development I could, daily. You never knew what might signal an opportunity in the making. Coal shortages in India could mean a demand for easily-shippable deposits in Madagascar. The announcement of a major pipeline might turn a valueless stranded gas field into a money press overnight.

At first I simply read about the trends I saw, cobbling together all the websites, publications and databases I could get my hands on. Eventually I started writing about them in Pierce Points, first weekly then daily. In the process I met many of you, and found I wasn’t alone in having a drive to really understand the alchemy behind turning moose pasture into mega-mines.

Around this time I started traveling regularly to Asia, where the Buddhists advise: “Make friends with people who love the truth.”

I was fortunate to meet a number of such friends there. They soon became partners as we started up a gold-copper porphyry project, then a platinum project, then finally circled back to Asia for a start-up in newly-opened Myanmar.

It seems that monkish advice has borne fruit. Today, the porphyry has grown into one of the world’s largest gold deposits, and the platinum company controls one of the only primary PGM-producing districts outside of South Africa and Russia.

None of this was what I’d planned. It’s been better—more interesting—than I ever could have conceived. Sometimes things only make sense in retrospect. The exotic travel, the excellent companionship, the unparalleled intellectual challenge of trying to comprehend primal forces of nature frozen in time by geology—it’s exactly who I was, and precisely what I wanted to become.

Today with Pierce Points, I keep learning and becoming. Looking for the spring blossoms of new trends, and translating them into projects that make it.

To those of you I’ve met along the way, appreciate you walking with me.

For those I haven’t yet, welcome to the journey.

Here’s to becoming, and being,

Dave Forest

 

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