Recently CEO analyst Travis McPherson and I had the opportunity to attend the Sprott Natural Resource Symposium at the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. The conference gave us the opportunity to hear from and rub shoulders with some of the best names in mining. From Robert Friedland’s keynote address, to Ross Beaty’s keen insights and Rick Rule’s humorous interrogations, the conference afforded us the opportunity to learn from the best of the best.

For myself, few of these opportunities could compete with hearing from Casey Research’s NexTen. The NexTen is the Casey Group’s picks for the future of the exploration industry; the “young guns” and the ones to watch. The Friedlands, Beatys and Lundins of the next generation.

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Ten picks, all under 40, already making a name for themselves and the projects they’re running. This year’s class of NexTen consisted of:

  1. Greg Smith – Anthem United
  2. Nolan Watson – Sandstorm Gold Ltd.
  3. Ari Sussman – Continental Gold Ltd.
  4. Amir Adnani – Uranium Energy Corp.
  5. Pat DiCapo – PowerOne Capital Markets
  6. Marcel de Groot – Pathway Capital
  7. Matt Lennox-King – Pilot Gold
  8. Tim Young – Independent Prospector
  9. Dan Betts – Hummingbird Resources
  10. Kevin Campbell – Haywood Securities

The Sprott conference panel was also joined by two well-known NexTen alumni:

  • Rob McLeod – IDM Mining
  • Govind Friedland – GoviEx Uranium

The panel was moderated by Casey’s own Marin Katusa – who kept the “10” on their toes and whose questions and conversation kept the session lively and informative.

The session gave us the chance to get to know the “10” and gain valuable insight into their projects, mindsets and strategies. And while we could easily fill a post with what we learned from any one of these gentlemen, I wanted to focus on what they had in common.

What sets them apart? What can we learn from them? And what differentiates them as The NexTen?

Following are 5 lessons to be learned from the NexTen:

1. To be the best you need to learn from the best. One thing each of the “10” had in common was an excellent mentor. Whether it was Govind learning from his father Robert Friedland or Nolan Watson apprenticing under Ian Telfer, these gentlemen were able to learn the tricks of the trade from the best in the industry. So while it might be easy to see many of the young men as self-made or lucky, most all of them attributed at least part of their success to an outstanding mentor.

2. You’re only as good as the company you keep. Entrepreneur Jim Rohn is famous for saying: you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. So it should be of no surprise that these guys rub shoulders with some of the most highly successful people in the industry – most notably each other. In fact, at least 3 of them share office space. When you spend time with peers devoted to success, the good habits rub off.

3. Devotion to the cause. It turns out there is more to the mining business then booze, exotic locales and spending money (who knew?). If you want to be at the top, you also have to work hard. Common amongst the NexTen is that they are all serious, hard-working professionals across the board. You won’t find these guys out drinking and flashing cash five days a week – you’ll find them behind their desk, in the field or in boardrooms devoted to their projects and shareholders, 24/7.

4. Play to your strengths. Choose the projects where you have the advantage – and leverage it. Rob McLeod shared one of the most interesting stories of the session. After initial successes, he found himself spread thin among as many as 12 projects all over the globe; often in regions and geological environments he knew little about, competing against local experts. When the market went south, so did his involvement in many of those projects. Today he’s devoted to his IDM Mining’s Red Mountain Project, near his hometown of Stewart, B.C. Now he has the advantage, and with a share price that’s nearly tripled in recent months, it is clearly working to his advantage.

The corollary to that – when you’re out of your comfort zone or in a new region partner with the experts – came from Amir Adnani. When Amir began working in Brazil as the co-founder of Brazil Resources, he partnered with the most successful private equity fund in the country: Brasil Invest, a merchant bank that had the connections and experience throughout Brazil’s highest levels of industry, finance and government. Not only that, the company sold Brazil Invest 10% of shares, aligning their money with some of the best in the region.

5. Put your money where your mouth is. The majority of these young miners’ finances are wrapped up in the companies they’re running. There are few things that incentivizes a business person, or fills investors with more confidence, than having skin in the game. These gentlemen believe in what they’re doing and are putting it all on the line – tying their success to the companies they’re running.

And what about the money they don’t invest in their own business? Interestingly enough, they’re invested with each other. Almost everyone at the table had invested heavily with another young miner at the table. This is probably not a coincidence (see point #2).

In an industry where so much is attributed to luck (or the lack thereof), it’s telling how much in common this group of young entrepreneurs has. In the mining business it’s often the jockey, not the horse, that wins the long race. All things considered, these are 10 excellent jockeys.