August 2008: Vincent Martin [fr]
Gentleman of the Mines
By Corinne Cécilia
Nuclear industrialist Vincent Martin is not your typical CEO. No obvious signs of affluence; no resting on his laurels for him. He likes to get in the trenches, explore unknown territories.
Previously based in southern France, close to the city of Montpellier, where he was enjoying a stable career at COGEMA, a predecessor of the AREVA Group and indulging the oh!-so-desirable Mediterranean climate, this mining engineer decided to take on a new professional challenge: he moved to Canada’s arctic Prairies in 1994 as an expatriate with Areva Resources Canada Inc., a subsidiary of the AREVA Group. He thought he’d stay there for 3-4 years and go back home. Instead, he seized new opportunities and worked his way up to become the company’s President and CEO.
Vincent had caught the travel bug earlier in his life though. After he graduated from the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris, France’s top executive engineering school (http://www.mines-paristech.eu/), he enrolled in the French army’s development co-operation program. He was an instructor at the engineering school of Bamako, Mali for two years and remembers: “Working in West Africa triggered the desire to live abroad”. Luckily, Martin’s spouse shared his vision of an international career since she had studied in Quebec herself. And so they landed in Saskatchewan in the winter of 1994, with two young children aged 2 and 4 and a high level of adaptability. Says Vincent, “The temperature was around minus 40 when we arrived. Transitioning from Southern France was quite a challenge… to say the least! But we’ve grown to love the climate here because it’s dry and sunny”. The Martins’ settled in Saskatoon like many of French newcomers who reside in the province.
Since then, Vincent has been exploring the Northern regions of Saskatchewan extensively, intensifying the company’s operations, building joint ventures and improving the image of the mining industry in the Midwest. For Martin has not only piloted Areva Resources Canada into one of the world’s leading uranium exploration, mining and milling companies. He has done so while implementing progressive environmental and safety policies. “We just spent 60 million dollars to restore a mine that we closed. We take pride in demonstrating that once we’ve completed the mining process and leave, we can return the land back into its former use; and that mining is only a transient activity”. Indeed, AREVA Resources Canada was the first North American uranium producer to meet ISO 14001 standards for environmental management.
Aware of the apprehensions locals may have about nuclear energy, Vincent Martin works tirelessly to communicate, to educate the general public, and to improve relationships with all stakeholders including government agencies, business interest groups, environmental groups and the public at large. To better understand and collaborate with First Nations, especially with some of the most northern communities in Saskatchewan, where the uranium mines are located, Vincent hired a former native Chief to help overcome cross-cultural and communications barriers.
But even this is not the final frontier for Vincent yet; as the company grows exponentially, Vincent Martin is now leading explorations in Nunavut! When asked whether he was planning to move back to Europe at some point, “ I’ve been saying I’d go back after 3-4 years.. for the last 14 years!” he said with a laugh. “It’s hard to foretell the future”.
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