Lawson takes Firefly from basket-case to takeover target

IT was never part of Simon Lawson’s plan to run an exploration company (reports MiningNews).
16th July 2021
Resources Rising Stars

A geologist by training, he describes himself as an "operations guy" who loves to get his hands dirty.

After getting his geology degree from the University of Auckland, Lawson started out his career with Jubilee Mines/Xstrata Nickel before working for Silver Lake Resources at Daisy Milano.

He then joined Northern Star Resources around the same time it had acquired the Paulsens gold mine, initially being Paulsens' geology manager before working his way up to principal geologist for the company.

When Northern Star decided to sell the Plutonic gold mine to Superior Gold, Lawson joined Superior as chief geologist.

He left Superior in late 2017 and was looking for another role as an exploration manager.

Recruiter Rowley Pennock suggested he go for a managing director role, which is how he ended up joining Marindi Metals as MD in April 2018.

The company had been in the public eye in 2017 due to its highly public dispute with Kidman Resources over the world-class Earl Grey lithium deposit (now owned by Wesfarmers and SQM) - a battle it lost.

The court case was costly for Marindi from both a financial and reputational perspective and when Lawson arrived, things seemed pretty bleak.

"We don't have any resources," he told a February 2019 conference.

"Without being narcissistic, the asset we have is me."

Lawson said the early days at Marindi were tough.

"I was hamstrung from the start," he told MNN this week.

He spent a while "cleaning the house" by reducing the company's cash burn, refocusing it as a gold explorer and eventually recapitalising and changing its name to Firefly Resources.

Even still, in the first half of 2020, the company had a market capitalisation of just $3 million.

"I was kind of brought up in the house of struggle," Lawson said.

"You don't make or break until your feet are in the fire.

"I love being told ‘you're in the deep end' - everything I've been involved in has been like that."

The turning point for Firefly was when it acquired the Yalgoo gold project in July 2020 for $2.9 million in shares.

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