Alumni profile: Andrew Smith

Photo of Andrew Smith in the fieldWith gems and minerals as the foundation of his successful business, Andrew Smith is what you might call a rare gem, which is why he is the 2009 recipient of the Faculty of Science Distinguished Alumni Award.

During his first-year geology course, Andrew was inspired by Dr. Alan Morgan and discovered he wanted to engage in geology as a career.

Upon graduating from Waterloo’s Earth Sciences program, Andrew moved to Quebec to work as a junior geologist for Aurizon Mines. Over the next decade, he assisted in bringing several gold mines back into operation and eventually went to Vancouver to become Aurizon Mines’ Vice-President of Exploration. In 1994, Andrew was recognized for his efforts and was named the recipient of the Mining Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Quebec Prospectors Association.

Andrew has also successfully conquered the world of entrepreneurship. In 2000, he formed True North Gems Inc., a publicly traded Canadian junior resource company focused on the exploration and development of North American gemstone projects. True North has been successful in identifying and exploring coloured stone claims, including Yukon emeralds, Baffin Island sapphires, and the company’s flagship property: the Fiskenaesset Ruby Project on the southwest coast of Greenland. While there is greater interest in Asian and European gemstones, the quality of stones in the properties controlled by True North is among the best in the world.

In 2004, Andrew also formed Canaco Resources Inc., a Canadian junior resource company focused on gold exploration in Tanzania and, in September 2009, Canaco was pleased to announce a major gold discovery in that region.

One of Andrew’s most significant accomplishments is the negotiation and signing of an agreement with Kaska Dene First Nation of the Yukon. The True North agreement has been called a major milestone and a landmark agreement in First Nation relations in Canada, marking it the first time in Canadian history that a corporation has recognized the unresolved rights of First Nations to resources from their traditional territories.

Alan Morgan, Andrew’s first-year geology professor and nominator for this award, believes Andrew is a tremendously successful Waterloo alumnus.

He has made a number of contributions to Canadian and overseas mining during the past decade, particularly with his discovery and exploitation of gemstone areas in western and northern Canada and, most recently, in Greenland,” says Alan.

Andrew also believes in giving back to his community. In each of his mining exploration activities, he has involved graduate students, many of whom have gone on to complete degrees in various aspects of their assigned work.  Through the companies Andrew has founded, he has also struck unique agreements for profit sharing with native people in Greenland and has built schools and brought clean water for local villages in the vicinity of his company’s gold mines in Africa.

Barry Warner, Chair of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences sums Andrew up best:

He is a passionate and gifted geologist. He is a wise and entrepreneurial businessman. He is a caring and unassuming individual. We are extremely proud to count him among our own.”

Read Andrew's Distinguished Alumni award acceptance speech.