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Nolan Watson, 31: mining CEO with a humanitarian heart

Each year, Caldwell Partners International chooses 40 Canadians who were under 40 in the past year to honour for their outstanding achievements. Click here to learn more about the program, and find more winners in the list below.

The business world almost lost one of its success stories when Nolan Watson was determined to drop out of his commerce degree at the University of British Columbia after only one year of study.

He'd started as an undergrad following what he thought was his life-long goal: to become like his father, an accountant and company CEO.

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There was another pull on the young Mr. Watson, however.

"I'd always been a relatively contemplative person from a young age," he says. Even as a boy, "I knew that no matter where in the world we are, we are all going to die. It's what you try to do with your life between now and that day, what you do to make your life mean something."

Humanitarianism held greater sway over Mr. Watson than a business degree, but it was his father as mentor that guided him again, he recalls.

"My father convinced me, and rightfully so, that I could do more to help others if I could help them build their economies."

Ten years ago, Mr. Watson graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from UBC and went on to become a chartered accountant and a chartered financial analyst.

Today he heads a publicly traded mining finance company focused on gold, Sandstorm Resources, with a market cap of about $280-million and a second, Sandstorm Metals and Energy, focused on base metals and energy.

He hasn't let his business erode his passion for humanitarian endeavours. In 2004, he founded Nations Cry, an international organization building schools in Sierra Leone, Africa.

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"Being a success in business teaches that if you help one person you haven't done anything to create change. If you build a strong robust economy, that can provide taxes governments can use to build schools, health care, etc. Education is the foundation. It can change lives and change the lineage of an entire person for generations to come."

Mr. Watson and his wife have two young daughters.

More winners:

  • Karen Bakker, 39
  • Keith Bilous, 39
  • Leonard Brody, 39
  • Naman Budhdeo, 38
  • Michael Burns, 39
  • Craig Campbell, 34
  • Norie Campbell, 39
  • Jody Campeau, 39
  • Cody Church, 39
  • Brian Coombes, 36
  • Matthew Corrin, 29
  • Frederick Dryden, 39
  • Dominic Giroux, 35
  • Deirdre Horgan, 38
  • Kyle Jeworski, 36
  • Nicholas Johnson, 38
  • Dr. Kirsten Johnson, 39
  • Kevin Li, 39
  • Stewart Lyons, 37
  • Muhammad Mamdani, 39
  • Andy McCreath, 35, and Christian Darbyshire, 35
  • Calvin McDonald, 39
  • Duke McKenzie, 35
  • Glori Meldrum, 37
  • Michele Mosca, 39
  • Suresh Narine, 39
  • Sean O'Reilly, 36
  • John Poulos, 36
  • Andrew Reid, 34
  • Gregory Roberts, 38
  • Angela Santiago, 39
  • Bradley Schwartz, 39
  • Leerom Segal, 31
  • Som Seif, 34
  • Natasha Sharpe, 39
  • Andrew Smith, 38
  • Steve Sousa, 39
  • Marie-Pier St-Hilaire, 33
  • David Vocadlo, 37
  • Nolan Watson, 31
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