2013 Mining and Metals EOY: Clive Johnson

Clive Johnson, B2Gold Corp. | BCBusiness

Congratulations to Clive Johnson, president and CEO of B2Gold Corp., the 2013 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Mining and Metals.

In 1988, Clive Johnson found himself, at 31 years old, in an office with a single employee and visions of building a company. Nineteen years later that company, Bema Gold Corp., sold for $3.8 billion. At the time it had 800 employees and was operating mines in Russia and South Africa.

Not content to slip into comfortable retirement, within a few months Johnson was back at it, only this time he wasn’t alone. With the former executive team of Bema Gold, in 2007 he founded B2Gold Corp. Two years later the company had two gold-producing mines in Nicaragua, and today it has a market capitalization of $2 billion.

Johnson attributes his success to bucking the trends and going where others fear to tread. “Going into Russia in 1998 was a pretty ballsy move, and Chile in ’88 was as well,” he says, referring to two of his successes with Bema.

Today B2Gold is operating mines in Nicaragua and the Philippines, is developing a mine in Namibia and has exploration projects in Colombia and Uruguay.

It’s not that Johnson and his crew look for difficult environments—he refuses to operate in countries where corruption is common practice. Rather, he and his team scout out countries they believe are in economic and political transition. “We do a lot of due diligence on the country and the political situation, the economy, the government’s attitude toward foreign investment; all those things come into it,” he explains.

Johnson has no intention of slowing down. “I’m a pretty energetic guy and still have a lot of passion,” says the 56-year-old. “Our whole group has that and we’re just having a lot of fun right now.”

Six Questions

The people I learned the most from were too many to name.

I knew my business was a success when we poured our first gold bar in Nicaragua.

I get my best ideas when I listen.

People tell me the phrase I most overuse is “Nobody gets out of here alive.”

The most underrated traits of an entrepreneur are courage and perseverance.

If I weren’t doing this I’d be educating young people.