Sazmining Podcast Episode 24: Ron Macdonald on the Environment & Energy


On this episode of The Sazmining Podcast, Will speaks with Ron Macdonald, CEO of Zinc8 Energy Solutions. They discuss the importance of green initiatives among corporations, the relationship between mining technology and material supply chains, and more.

Will Szamosszegi (00:40):

Ron. It has been a pleasure talking with you, uh, offline, but now that we're finally live, could you just begin by talking a little bit about your journey and, uh, what brought you to what you're doing today at sync?

Ron Macdonald (00:51):

My journey has been that I've never stopped being a kid with respect to my excitement about new things. Uh, I was a weird kid. I was the kid that, uh, was the shortest in the class. I spoke more than everybody else, but when the tough guys that had, you know, had failed through grades and they were a foot taller than me, they always elected me head of the class, cuz IPO, I could, I could defend them all for me as a kid, the whole world meant something to be explored something, to be devoured something to be feel good about. Right? My aunt, we had a library in my little coal mining town of 9,000 people and was only open three days a week for four hours a day. And she used to get life magazine and national geographic and she'd call Sheron darling, cuz she was my second mom.

Ron Macdonald (01:38):

We got your, we got your magazines in. And I was allowed to read them for two days before she put them on the shelf. Right? So I was just insatiable and I was in the small little coal mining town that I loved, but it was so small and the world seemed so big at six seven, I was reading these things. I read the entire books of knowledge that some traveling salesman sold to my mom on a, uh, on a monthly payment. And by the time I think I was nine or 10, I had read them at least twice. And so I was a bit of a nerd, but it was just a Sensable search of knowledge to do things differently. And Larry King died a couple of days ago. I'd never met Larry King. Larry King played a big role in my life. I wish I had met him and could tell him that.

Ron Macdonald (02:20):

So as a kid and I think he was in journalism for 60 years, so, and I'm 65. So I have to go back. So at some point when I was between eight and 10, I used to lay at bed at night and I had a little transistor radio and you would squeal it over and squeal it back. And I could get on a New York station and Larry King had a show in the evenings and I used to sit there and try to imagine what a traffic jam was like. We lived in a town of 9,000. We didn't have a traffic light. And I was wondering, what are people doing out at 11 o'clock? They should be in bed <laugh> so I always wanted to see New York. I wanted to go there. I wanted to explore it. I wanted to be part of it. That sense of wonderment, I think has followed me all my life and life experiences changed you.

Ron Macdonald (03:01):

They Jade you, uh, they make you less trustful and stuff, but the core of me is still at. And so when there's a challenge comes up, I say, wow, wouldn't it be nice too. So why don't we do it? You know, failure is always an option cuz it happens and you have to learn from your failures. So I've been pretty lucky in my life. I I've had a few, uh, they weren't big, but big learning curves for me about myself. Yeah. So I think that that kinda, that leads me all along. And I guess the other thing is I've never thought I couldn't do anything. So I think a lot of people have a lot of self-doubt and I think that's natural. It's uh, for preservation, right? <laugh> so you don't walk through the fire. I never had that. And the, the critical thing for me was to tell me, I can't, you can't do that.

Ron Macdonald (03:42):

And I'd say, why not? Because I didn't understand class. I didn't understand wealth. Uh, for most of my life I did when I became a teenager, I didn't understand that stuff. So why can't I? So it was that challenge me and I will attempt to do it and I will give everything to it. And uh, so that led me from a coal mine's son in Cape Raton to a small business owner. After I went through university, uh, to working in parliament at 26, becoming the deputy prime minister's senior political assistant to uh, at 25 at 26, I think I was later of the government in the Senate. Then I ran the political party in Nova Scotia. I was 31 and I went and got elected. None of that should have happened.

Will Szamosszegi (04:23):

It's so crazy hearing you walk through that and hearing this whole backstory, uh, growing up in a town of 9,000 people and then all of a sudden at, at such a young age going and doing things that would be a career goal for the majority of people out there. I mean, how did you make that leap going to starting that small business and then going into, into, uh, government at that early of an age?

Ron Macdonald (04:47):

Well, I got through university and I figured I needed to spend a little time at home. I was a bit homesick and I went back and there was no work. So I created a company and uh, yeah, I think we had 18 employees by the time I sold it to my partner who was really a carpenter. I wasn't a carpenter. I'm not a carpenter <laugh> um, so sold it over to him and he made a great success of it because I had become just enthralled with politics. There had been an election two years before and I'd worked as a party youth. And I just thought, I like doing this. I was worked for somebody that was running for a provincial legislative seat. And I thought I can do that better than him <laugh> and that wasn't bravado and it wasn't, I just wanted to do it.

Ron Macdonald (05:27):

I got a job with the local MP. I went to Ottawa, said, I, I would love to work for the deputy prime minister. And seven months later he offered me a job and I took it. I don't like thinking about my past because it kind of scares me a bit that I wasn't more stable. I guess my choices were good choices, but I don't dwell on my past. I like to dwell on my present. Right? It's about being humble about the opportunities you've been given and take your learnings, hold them here and allow them to drive you forward. That's the key thing for me. I am just thrilled to death death that I'm doing what I'm doing. And we'll talk about that in a little bit. I'm thrilled to death of the last thing I did. I'm thrilled to death about the previous thing I did. Um, good life. Uh, it's not always been happy. It's not like us. It's not always successful. Um, learn, allow your learnings to be in here and allow them to guide you. Right? I said, you earlier, the biggest impediment to success and happiness. Isn't what other people say or what other people do or external circumstances. It's between here and here. Okay. It's called fear and it comes here. And once you learn to deal with that, um, I think you just have a much happier life.

Will Szamosszegi (06:33):

You have such an interesting mentality surrounding taking action going after these goals that you seem to be setting for yourself and taking action and making things happen. I'm sure you have some pretty interesting stories. If there are any stories from when you're in government, that you'd be willing to share here

Ron Macdonald (06:47):

By gotta go back. I mean, my childhood is so present in my life every day. I'm 65. I think the biggest lessons I learned was as a child growing up poor, I grew up in a coal mining community. It was extremely poor. Poverty's a relative thing. If everybody around you is in the same boat, nobody's poor, nobody's wealthy. It is what it is. You know, my grandmother used to say, you know, those coal miners, they see more pay days than paychecks, cuz you didn't know when the next shift was. You didn't know if you were gonna get injured in the pitch. You didn't know if a relative or, or God forbid, you know, your dad was gonna die in the, in, in the coal mines. It happened a lot. But the relativity with the commonality of hardship in these types of resource communities, isolated means that you all have to roll together and that you always have to give something because you may need back tomorrow from somebody else.

Ron Macdonald (07:37):

Right? So there's a collective sense of responsibility. Oh yeah. Lots of this interaction for sure. But when trouble comes, everybody puts that behind and they help out. And I remember probably when I was very young, when was in a Catholic school, tough Catholic school, there was some people poorer than us and you knew them and you pointed at them and some kids made fun of them and there was a gal burn. Her name was Bernadette. She was very, very poor. Uh, I think the mother had died. The father had an addiction problem and they were on welfare and she came to school. It was the first snowfall and she came to school and she had, we call them rubbers on. So they were rubber sandals, right? Like nobody wore those. And she had, uh, she had a sweater on with one button and uh, the kids toed her all the time.

Ron Macdonald (08:25):

So I'd come home to tell my mother about it. And oh my God, the response I got from my mom, oh my God. She pulled me aside. And she said, and what did you do? Did you laugh with her? I said, no. And she gave me a tap on the side, the head leg. She said, I'm talking to you. And I said, mom, honest to goodness, I didn't do that. And she said, did you stop them from doing it? No tap on the side of the head. Well you should have. And so the lecture that my mother gave and I, I raised at my first speech in parliament. She said, I want you to learn a lesson nobody's any better than you. And you're not better than anybody else. And you've got a responsibility to look after yourself, but you've got a responsibility to look after people that can't look after themselves. And she shook me and I can feel my shoulder shaking. And she shook me. And I think that's been sort of a guiding set of principles in my life moving forward. Uh, I'm very empathetic and I hope people are towards me. I think that goes a long way to making us really human that's spiritual. Uh, but that took that's all through my life. And you know, when I get into a trouble trying to figure things out, be good, be kind, okay. Think about the other person you'll come up with the right answer,

Will Szamosszegi (09:30):

Such great principles to live by. I mean, it reminds me of a quote that I heard. You're not superior to anyone. There's always something that, that person that you're that's on the other side of the table is your superior in. And so if you go and approach those conversations, trying to learn and trying to see what you can garner from other people's experiences, you tend to have a lot more empathy to their circumstances. And uh, if everyone lives by those principles, then you have a much happier place.

Ron Macdonald (09:58):

Yeah. You do have a much happier place and it helps you through times of trouble and internal reflection and depression, whatever those things that you go through, if you lead your life, well, you can always go back and rely on, well, I did the best I in that situation did the best. So I can't be that terrible a person I say to that. Some people that I've known in my family that suffer a little bit, maybe from depression and stuff. It's not always how you interface with that. It's how you interface with other people. I think I've had an amazing set of opportunities. Parliament was the biggest one. So I had worked, I think it was 24 when I got hired by, or I think 24 by the deputy prime minister's office. Now he was okay. My God. He was, he was my mentor in life from afar.

Ron Macdonald (10:43):

I had done something weird, uh, with the NPO I was working with. I was the first one to send out personalized letters to an entire licensed fishery. And that got me the attention of the, uh, deputy prime minister, a very quiet, uh, he's Cape Retten, Scottish descent and quiet, reflective kind of a bit depressive at times, but brilliant. He took me under his wing and I never thought that he did that until after I left his wing. I always thought he was pushing me around. He was just making me tougher. He was trying to give me the stuff that he thought I lacked. And I was the only guy that would go up to him and interrupt him in the hallway and say, Mr. MCC McCain and his personal assistant from years would come running after me out. Don't you ever do that? I said, well, I, I think we're friendly.

Ron Macdonald (11:27):

He likes me. I like him. And I remember one day I said to him, I said, you know, Mr. MCC McCain, before I could call him Allen, until I got elected. And I said, Mr. MCC McCain, everybody's after, you're the second most powerful man in this country right now. And everybody that's aspiring to take your job. They're out there. How do you survive this? And he looked at me and he said, well, you wouldn't understand. You're a boy from Waterford. You guys would rather fight the need. Wow. I went okay. And he said, you never get in a fight that somebody else picks. They picked it cuz they have the weapon of choice. You wait, you're calm and you reflect when I wanna fight. It means I need to just breathe.

Will Szamosszegi (12:08):

You know, that's powerful advice from, uh, as you mentioned, one of the most powerful men in the entire country at that time,

Ron Macdonald (12:14):

There's lots of great stories with Mac McCain. Don't know that it's a Canadian audience, but uh, a deputy prime minister is an acting prime minister. When the prime minister can't many years back the prime minister of the day PI Trudo, he's the junior, he's the senior Trudo. We have another Trudo in. And uh, he was on his way to Berlin. Uh, for fi I think maybe a four minister's conference, his plane has left. There was a snowstorm in Ottawa. What I didn't know is that my, my wife was five months pregnant and the staff decided to have a baby shower cuz you know, we weren't from Ottawa. Right? I was, I wasn't elected. I was a staffer. And so I got invited down to the minister's, uh, boardroom, cuz he had just left and surprised to see my wife there, you know, will bump. And they did a little baby shower of an hour into the baby shower.

Ron Macdonald (13:02):

I was called out in the hall to say it's all over by his senior personal assistant. Everybody's got a clear out the plane has turned around and he's back in town. So I got, we got kicked outta my own baby shower. <laugh> I didn't know why it became really apparent. The prime minister lap P took a walk in the snow that day. Literally he decided he wasn't gonna be prime minister anymore. So he called Mr. Acken on the plane said, you gotta turn around I'm resigning today, which made our office, the acting prime minister's office. That is quite a story. And I tell it to my daughter period at that I've heard the story, but uh, you know, it was a bit of a piece of history. So suddenly we became, uh, you know, deputy prime minister, foreign ministers staff to the staff of the acting prime minister of the country in a snowstorm during my daughter's baby shower, being in parliament was amazing.

Ron Macdonald (13:52):

When I did get elected, I had a great sense of the history and Emity of the place I really did cuz I'd been there and I'd seen the great speeches of the previous six, seven years and worked with, uh, Mr. Trudo, the senior, as, as prime minister, I had a great sense of not purpose but of responsibility every day I walked in. I thank God. Uh, I'm not a religious man, but I thank God for giving me this opportunity. I gave a nod to my constituency for hiring me cuz I always thought it was a job. It was a privilege, but it was a job. And I always understood that somebody bestowed upon me something special, we had 300, uh, we had 2 82 back then 282 people in Canada that were put in that place, that solemn special place. And given the trust of those 30 million people to do the right thing, always to do the right thing. I've been retired since I've been 40, right? So I keep retiring every time that I go to Ottawa, I go in front of the, the, uh, the, uh, the flame, the eternal flame in front. And I tear up, I just tear up because of a sense of gratitude and honor.

Will Szamosszegi (14:59):

Wow. That, that is incredible. I mean, that's the type of people that I think everyone wants to follow. Those are the type of leaders that people need. The ones who are grateful and understand that they have the responsibility and are willing to put the people who are backing them before themselves. So that's, that's really great to hear that that's the mentality that you took when you were in government and uh, helping lead that country.

Ron Macdonald (15:22):

There was others. I wasn't by myself, there was a whole bunch of young guys and gals got elected. We were the new guys coming in to shake it up. And so I had, I had, I had a team there and we all had that view of what our role was.

Will Szamosszegi (15:34):

Uh, you also went on to lead many public companies, uh, and, and large organizations. And I, I believe zinc, uh, eight energy is a public company today, right?

Ron Macdonald (15:44):

It is a public company today. The last thing I did in politics, I was parliamentary secretary for international trade. And I always say it was best job I ever had in my life. I did all the nice stuff. I, you know, saw ambassadors coming in and we did trade deals and it was all really great. The hard part of that was the candy us off of lumber deal. Uh, it's been a perennial dispute since 1837 and it never ends. It just has a respite. And the prime minister appointed me to that position to implement the deal that had just been signed. And, uh, it was very tough. It was a hard job. And so I had to develop a quota system, uh, between Canada, the us biggest quota system ever developed. And I had the best staff, oh my goodness. I had the best staff over at foreign affairs.

Ron Macdonald (16:30):

And we actually, uh, against all odds, we pulled it off, but I had to issue quoted all these Canadian lumber producers and they all thought I was short changing them. They all wanted more. So they called me Mr. No, uh, I retired after that. I think it was 41 and I retired. And within three months, the biggest, uh, forest group in Canada asked me to become the president and CEO. And it was a weird thing cuz I really thought that they disliked me and I always felt bad about that because I was just trying to do my best. And so they hired me and I ran the biggest lumber group in Canada. I'm not a Forester at that time. I probably still couldn't really tell the difference between a Hemal fur and a Cedar <laugh> all, all of which were part to the industry. Um, but that wasn't it.

Ron Macdonald (17:16):

We had all those professionals, it was about understanding the value, the impact on individuals and why we had to do things better in that forest sector so that we were totally sustainable sustainability. Isn't just about what you do in the woods. It's about sustainability in your community because it all comes down and goes back to community, back to my hometown. Right. It comes back to community and all those things have an impact. Uh, so yeah, so I went in uh, uh, council, forest industries. I, um, I, I hope that we had a positive impact on that industry. It was, was worth billions and billions of dollars. Uh, I embarked on, uh, I found a Canada wood cuz they said, we gotta find somebody other in the us to buy our lumber. They keep punching us in the nose. And uh, and so I said, why not China?

Ron Macdonald (18:02):

And Nope, every said they don't buy any lumber. They don't. I said, well, we gotta teach them to build with lumber. So we launched a big program supported by federal government. And uh, I think it's been very successful. Uh, they were buying $32 million worth of lumber from Canada. Now they buy billions and billions and they actually, sometimes some quarters buy more lumber than the United States, which has always been our biggest trading partner. Um, so again, it's always about when somebody said, well, what do we do? I said, well, let's do something innovative. I go to China, don't tell me China, doesn't do it. We'll tr we we'll we'll we'll get them to wanna do it. Then we'll train them to do it. And sometimes, and like 12, 14 years later, seven years after it was gone, it was, it was the big success. Um, again, don't tell me you can't do it because we're gonna go and try it.

Ron Macdonald (18:50):

We'll get it done. Um, yeah. So, I mean, that was so interesting. And, and the skill's coming from parliament or coming from, you know, growing up in a coal mining town, these are all transferable, as long as you understand what you don't know and understand what you do know, supplement good people in fact have what you don't know. Uh, but it's about transferable skills. What have you learned? How does it apply here? You know? And, and moving it forward, it all comes down to interactions. Everything I've done comes down to personal interactions, you know, and you can have adversaries, uh, and on the political side you can have adversaries or competitors on the business side. But when you sit down and I eyeball people and they, you know, you suss each other up, you'll find a way to, to do those compromises, that move everything forward in every industry I've been in, that's kind of it.

Ron Macdonald (19:39):

Right. So I get my technical guys who work that and figure out how do you get other people excited by this? Right. And it's not promotion saying, I'm really excited by this. You should be excited by this. Here's why. Um, yeah. So, so went through that. I went and ran a fishery <laugh> after that, out here and did the same thing. Um, small fishery, great fishery. Oh my gods fishery. And the fishery was called a black Cod fishery. It's one of the best fish in the world. Anybody listening go out and get some Sable fish. It's expensive. It's the best fish in the world, but they weren't getting the value for it. And they took me on to run it. And I said, we gotta cut our quota, but said, we gotta be sustainable guys. Well, how do we make money? I said, your fish is under value.

Ron Macdonald (20:25):

So we undertook, uh, with my business partner me, who's actually now my vice president here. And we come up with a program to take it to the world. It was just being bought locally. And we took it to the world. We increased the value from about $3 and 80 cents at the dock over 14 bucks in 24 months. So then I could lower. So we could then lower. It was Emirates. We went to where people like luxury stuff and it was a great product. It still is a great product, but then I could lower the fishing effort to preserve the species. Right. And everybody won. Um, and then I get into mining. I still, the mining thing has been an interesting journey. And then over to developing projects in the Canadian Arctic three years ago, uh, to running a, a high tech company today. And it's a great company.

Will Szamosszegi (21:14):

Yeah. That's actually one thing that I, I really want to dive into. And it, based on everything that I've been seeing online about, uh, zinc eight and all the work that you guys are doing, it seems like you're not only innovating in by nature of being in energy storage, but also you have innovative technology that's being used right now to help push forward this whole transition. So I guess just want to hear from you how you're, how you're viewing this industry and the work that zinc gate is doing today.

Ron Macdonald (21:45):

Storage and renewables have been around for a long time, renewables before storage. Uh, Elon must, you know, whatever you think of him. Uh, I think that he has provided an opportunity for people to get excited about new tech and doing things differently and having forging a different future, a sustainable future. Um, and you need somebody big like that to say pay attention. This is a big idea. Uh, so storage has been around hard to get investment. You know, if you go to the money markets, they know what they know, they don't take risk da. And so the renewable sector started to happen, uh, years ago, but there was hard to get economics 10 years ago at a solar and forget wind wind was so intermittent, but it provides something that can allow us to change what we do in a really positive way. The big problem with renewables was their cost.

Ron Macdonald (22:42):

If I look at wind power and wind turbine and wind farms are all over the world, they are, they operate probably. I don't know. I mean, somebody's gonna send in say that's a high, I think probably 25% efficiency. So that means for the capital investment, 75% of your power, you never get monetized. It's crazy. 25 per it's crazy, but 25% has gotta carry the load. Right? So, but why are you encouraging this? Why was gov? Because they wanted to, they understood that if we kept going with the carbon based economy, we're all tanked. So let's figure out how to do it's all of those earlier ones feed and tariff all heavily subsidized. Same as solar. They became really more efficient in the last, uh, maybe, maybe 10 years, but the big thing was, you're always gonna produce power and nobody wants it. So what do you do?

Ron Macdonald (23:31):

Well, never gets monetized. It doesn't make good economic sense. Storage come in, lithium batteries come in. And so people share, oh, well you can store this, but there's limitations with lithium there's problems with lithium. Uh, but, but it owns 98% of the storage market. So they've done something right? And they're showing that renewables that you can integrate more renewables into your grid, through the use of storage, their four hour storage. There's a whole bunch of technology reasons why they work really well in vehicles, but people are concerned now because high energy densification not gonna get into that. If a lithium battery catches fire, you can't put it out. Uh, it is basically a fire bomb and you just gotta let it burn out. It is a real issue, particularly putting them in as storage solutions to try to improve renewable economics or lower power cost, uh, commercially, um, uh, because of that, because of that hazard.

Ron Macdonald (24:26):

So, you know, containment, higher insurance rates. So the whole world was saying, okay, like this thing is moving, but it's, you know, moving slowly, every estimate of electrification of vehicles missed its mark, everyone not missing 'em anymore. Things catch up. So what caught up, it caught up that the, that the technologies wind and solar became way more efficient. So what's the last piece storage to maximize the integration economically, if those electrons into your grid and let them go where they're needed and when they're needed. So there's a long, there's a bunch of, uh, like flow batteries do that. Well, they're still expensive. There's a lot of problems with cost. And mostly under eight hour duration. I lucked into this company, you know, I, my whole life has been, you know, taken a risk. And, um, this company had been around for almost 12 years. Nobody knew it existed.

Ron Macdonald (25:25):

And I was in the business. I was a developer for renewable energy and, uh, storage projects using lithium batteries in the Canadian north, working solely with indigenous communities spent five, the last five, five, the last seven years of my life did that to get benefit to the community, right? Give something back here, clean their air. They're they're getting more pollution from must down south and they'll ever produce on their own. In a hundred years. I knew that there was, I knew what technology just wrote there. I knew the cost of them. We were always pricing batteries. And, uh, zinc was always the promise. It never happened because it had a huge set of technological challenges. I knew that. And somebody called me, I was in Mexico city at a conference and said, a friend of mine, what do you know about zinc care? I said, Dave, you're not, don't invest anything in a zinc battery.

Ron Macdonald (26:11):

They're 15 years out. Right? <laugh> because I thought I knew everything obviously. And uh, so Dave said, no, no I'm going. So he sent me some stuff. I gave it to my junior engineer. She came back two weeks later. She said, oh my God, they've made some major breakthroughs, gave it to my senior engineer. He says, you should consider talking to these guys. I talked, I was convinced. Uh, and the reason that nobody knew what they were doing, I get this every day on investor presentations is because they were working for a public company in the mining sector, tech resources, second largest zinc producer in the world who bought patents from a, a fail company in California from 15 years ago. And that was going to develop a zinc pattern. They said, wow, let's fund a group to do this. This will be a huge market for zinc.

Ron Macdonald (26:57):

Five years later when they actually had a look at it, my team here, mostly my team, that's still here had said, you gotta look at this a different way. And they, they, they looked at everything a different way. Nothing was a truism. And they developed a series of technologies that blew my mind. Couple of things. Number one, they decoupled energy and power. Nobody really knows what that is really about. Otherwise to know. Uh, I'll give a, I'll give a plug to progressive insurance if that's okay. I have no stock in it. Okay. So, you know, you try to explain to people how this works and they say, you only pay for what you use, right? Yeah. That's why I say, okay, you look at a battery, there's a power stack and there's a storage stack. They're usually combined. You need more storage. You gotta buy more power.

Ron Macdonald (27:44):

Even though you don't need more power right. In our system, we've decoupled it. If you want three times the storage, we just build your more storage. We don't build your more power stack, which is the most expensive part of the system. So they've developed the system that the larger the system, the cheaper it gets like substantially and will outpace anybody in the marketplace by, you know, multiple quantums no question. The second thing is, look at this. So this solution, and we can go to a hundred, 200, 400 hours of storage, whatever you want. It's non combustible. It's, non-toxic, it's zinc. Zinc is everywhere. One of the cheapest materials you can use and it's potash, right? It's potash, it's a fertilizer. It doesn't blow up. And the really interesting thing is not only have they decoupled and you get the cost down, so it can do big storage and take a huge amount of renewables into the grid for this massive scale up of, of, uh, electrification.

Ron Macdonald (28:42):

We don't consume anything. So we are here to help get away from the consumption of fossil fuels, which is killing the earth and our solution, which is part of, you know, many solutions that have to come together. We don't consume anything. So somebody over at tech, Iowa would assume said, one day when they were looking at their annual expenditures for various projects said, you did read that report a that the team have developed a technology that they don't consume zinc. Well, that's not possible, but we grow zinc particles. And then we go through a process that I'm sure if anybody's interest, go to the website and have a look. I think it's easily explained, and it's a closed loop system. So we don't use any of the, uh, uh, the, uh, the, uh, potash that that's in an electrolyte. We release an oxygen atom. At one end, we collect it at the other.

Ron Macdonald (29:33):

It is a total net zero system. So we charge up the battery once with whatever the zinc is that we need. It's a long duration battery. It can last 15 to 20 years and 15 to 20 years later, it's the same zinc. So I just, that blew my mind. That's incredible to have an energy solution that took away from that type of consumption. That's killing us and doesn't consume anything. So the, you know, the 200 kilograms of zinc I put in day one. And if I decommission in day and year 15, I get the same out of it. So I just said, wow, what an opportunity for me to be a part of bringing that to market? And it's a gift I, I, every day I get up and you know, it's hard run a company every day. That's a gift and I've got the best team.

Ron Macdonald (30:19):

I've always had great. I got the best team ever, and they're playing. They're gonna play their efforts. And they take ownership in this will make a difference in some sort in moving to a green, uh, uh, not just a green economy, but a clean economy, cleaner air, a different economy. And these guys working behind the curtain on the lab for 12 years. So I'm taking them public. We're now a public company. And I, I put my team out there and, uh, we're being recognized, uh, globally. We're we want every award that we, every competition we applied for last year, every one we won global competition, state competitions, a national. So we know that we've got a long way to go. Uh, we know that we've gotta be totally focused on what we're doing, and we gotta understand we've got shareholders, right? And I say to the guys all the time, remember we're no longer a lab.

Ron Macdonald (31:10):

We are supported by shareholders. They put their trust in us, and we have got to deliver what we said and, you know, whatever that takes, we're all gonna do it. It's interesting that never thought I'd end up here, but it is empowering. Pardon? The pun <laugh>. It is totally empowering to see smart people be able to solve our problems. We got, there was a competition it's called a third derivative. It's out of the Rocky mountain Institute. It's a global incubator. Everybody in the business knows that, uh, they put together a global team called the third derivative to identify the major initiatives that need to be taken to market sooner, to help decarbonize the planet. They examined 670 companies globally, seven continents, six continents, maybe six on six continents. And they selected 40. We were one of the 40 humbling when you start looking at some of the technologies, mostly with a lot of really young people.

Ron Macdonald (32:11):

And so it gives me a lot of, I mean, first of all, I feel a tremendous weight on my shoulders to perform with these, with these giants. It gives me a lot of confidence. You know, that we're gonna get there. We're not all gonna choke on smog. We got the best and the brightest with our young people that are out there, we just need to finance them. We need to understand it's not just a monetary payback. There is an intrinsic payback in that we don't all get lung disease and that we're not killing our fish and that we're not getting rid of species because we can't look after one thing, get rid of carbon emissions. That's all we gotta do. There's other things too. One thing, focus on it, fund it, get it to market, support it, make your consumer decisions based on what companies do. And that's how we're gonna change it. But it's gonna change quick.

Will Szamosszegi (32:56):

It is just so fascinating to hear you talk through, uh, what it is you guys are doing and the technology where it's at today. I mean, in terms of timelines, cuz I'm, I'm approaching this and thinking about it and how is this going to change the energy sector? How is this going to change the way that grids operate once this type of technology actually begins to scale and, and really go global as, as zinc gate continues to grow. So with where you see the company today, what are some of those next major milestones that you guys are looking at in terms of bringing this product, uh, to market and scaling it?

Ron Macdonald (33:32):

I mean, there's a number. Number one is always, uh, revenue. I heard 15 people here in COVID. I double my staff and I'm gonna double it again. Somebody said, where you get the money. I say, well worry about that later. Right? And I do worry about dollar time, but the later always happens for us. The biggest impediment is getting to the, the money markets to believe that these investments are required and indeed are good for their shareholders. Nothing happens for, without funds. You have to have money policy, public policy drives this. Now the us, uh, under the previous administration withdrew from, from the Paris Accords, uh, I think which was just so bad, but the states picked it up. The individual us states picked it up and they said, no, we believe in that we're gonna have our own targets. We've got a, a variety of states that by 2040, 35 are gonna go a hundred percent renewable.

Ron Macdonald (34:22):

You know, New York says by 2040, there will be no more generation from fossil fuels. So they're going to generate all of these electrons, uh, that are currently being generated by other sources, by coal, not by coal, but by gas plants and things like that and that the electrification of vehicles. So let me go back. Uh, and I I'm, I'm, I'm not being a part of saying here, but the new administration's in injecting $3 trillion in the next, in the first term in supporting renewable industry, okay's huge. The public huge, the public supports that. And what I've seen in my life is when the, when the government comes forward, uh, large companies, because they need a social license will support that going forward. So the 3 trillion will become 9 trillion. Right? Probably. Um, the second thing is, is one of the, what I understand is one of the five priority, uh, in the now democratic Senate, because they got those two elections.

Ron Macdonald (35:21):

There's five of them. One of them deals with the green economy, which is great, but the other one deals with eliminating all internal combustion engines from all of the roads in the United States, I think by 2035. So have I already talked about electrification and everybody going greener on the electrical generation, think of what you just, what I just said, think of the additional capacity that that's gonna put and strain on, uh, all of the public utilities. It's huge. So it means that all the, with all the green targets to get rid of, uh, carbon based generation, whatever that number is. And I do have it, it's too big. Uh, they have to do that times plus 65 to 70%. So their hard think about how do we do this. It's called laying copper and improvements to transmission distribution. They need to do better. So what they thought they would have to do in 40 years, they gotta, they're gonna have to do in 15, maybe 12.

Ron Macdonald (36:22):

So storage then becomes a real key consideration, long duration storage. We can grab those electrons, hold them until you need them, move them where you need them, hold them again, and then let them off. Um, so story is now taking a major role in improving the economics of these renewable energy, uh, uh, generations, but also on assisting the utilities and grid operators in getting their targets done sooner and with less expense. So I see, uh, this was intractable. The us is now trying to lead again, which I think, uh, is brilliant, but other countries are Europe, Canada, um, uh, you know, uh, great Britain. You're seeing all of this movement and it is intractable. We're not going back. So I think I'm very lucky to be, uh, um, at the beginning of, I think a, a different type of industrial revolution and it will be global and, uh, we will SMI play a small part, right? Cuz it's a big problem. And we would be honored to be able to play a small part as we go forward. We're gonna be into commercialization, uh, uh, by late 2022, um, probably 40, 80 megawatts of production, four or 500 jobs. That's our initial production. And so it's, uh, it's, it's, it's a tough target, but it's one that we know that we've gotta meet and we will meet it.

Will Szamosszegi (37:49):

When you just think about it from the perspective perspective of these different utilities, these other energy companies in the renewable space, it really seems like a no brainer to start implementing these types of solutions or trying to improve the, the economics of your system. If, if you're only able to operate 25% of the year and or 25% of the time you're really operating. And then 75% is just going out the window, then that's a, that's a huge inefficiency in the business model. And it seems like storage. There, there are a lot of benefits to implementing some sort of storage type system to try and prove your own business if you're an energy company.

Ron Macdonald (38:29):

Oh yeah. And you know, like, uh, we're not alone. Um, and you always like to, you know, promote your brand and, uh, it's a great brand. It's a great technology. Um, the burden is too big for one technology.

Will Szamosszegi (38:42):

What are some of those other technologies that you're seeing as another viable solution for solving that problem of, of wasted energy,

Ron Macdonald (38:50):

Uh, compressed air, uh, they need to get, uh, find a way to get not so geographically, uh, localized pump hydro, these are already existing technologies. There's some newer technologies, uh, coming in, um, for large scale energy storage there. Some of the problems will be on security supply. I did a mining show last mining podcast a couple of weeks ago. <laugh> and uh, and you know, one of the issues is these things take material, right? So for us at zinc, it's everywhere. We're totally recyclable, easy we're zinc and plastic and potash and some other stuff too. Um, but nothing, nothing data. So a lot of the technologies are gonna have to grapple as they grow. Um, with security supply, we've been in a 15 year rut with basic ex uh, exploration and development in the materials in the, in the mining sector. You know, I was over in that sector and I tell you from the time you kick a rock over till you're one of the 50 that make it it's 15 years.

Ron Macdonald (39:53):

So if you've had a dearth of 10 years of no investment, and this thing is galloping ahead, people need to pay attention. Right? Wait, now, where is my material supply coming from? There's geopolitical considerations with supply? Is it coming from a country that could cut our supply off, you know, and in the us has already stated, you know, China is an issue for them. Yeah. And so, so I think there's a whole bunch of that stuff. Uh, but it will be driven by a, a consensus by global, uh, by countries with global leaders that we have to find a solution. And the solution always comes from investment and support from the investment community to take these technologies and products to market. Um, we're gonna get there. You know, somebody said to me, one day I was doing something with, with somebody in London, England, and I was on my balcony.

Ron Macdonald (40:43):

It was early in COVID. I was on my balcony in Toronto and, uh, you know, everybody was kind of on lockdown. So I could only go down to a couple of parks that were ravines, got to know a lot of birds that I never looked at before. Right. Cause you do things, you know, you have different attention spans and, and they said, what do you think about this? Like everybody's scared. And I was like, you know, and I, I was looking, I looked down to the west end and I went, you know what, I'm just looking. I've been here for four years. There's buildings on the horizon to the west. I've never seen them before. And then I looked over to the east, oh God, way over in the horizon there's buildings because the air was clean. The, the vehicular traffic was down by 85%.

Ron Macdonald (41:28):

Right. I could taste food better. So I started talking to my neighbors on my walk, socially distant, and I said, people are not willingly gonna go back to the way it was. And so I think that, uh, you know, I think there is a general desire by the public, particularly coming outta COVID where people really have gotta think what, what matters, right? Uh, that there is gonna be broad public support, which means political support, which means corporate support, uh, to build this new industry. And, uh, and it has to be through the whole part of the industry. Can't just be the end product. So I think you're gonna see a whole different, uh, investment strategies by some of the big companies coming out. Uh, a lot of the big mining companies, five, six years ago, started to go green. You know, one of my big, biggest product markets going forward is gonna be mines where we take the diesel out from the top, we put renewables in, we store it, we release it when they need it.

Ron Macdonald (42:25):

The carbon footprint goes way down and they can do electrification if it's an underground mine. Right. And they, then they save tens of millions probably. And all the extra ventilation, they gotta build into a new mine to take all of that dirty air and put new air in. So like when I look around, I see opportunities everywhere. Right? Yeah. <laugh> and, uh, I'm like that kid back in Nova Scotia, I see opportunities. And you say, why don't we do that? My biggest problem is keeping I'm focused, but I see other things that, you know, that could be done. And somebody on my board said, so you're never gonna stop. Right. <laugh> well, at some point, be honest,

Will Szamosszegi (43:02):

I don't necessarily personally see you stopping at any time soon. <laugh>

Ron Macdonald (43:06):

Well, you know, the, the stress of the job, the stress of the job, and very few times it has been, it's outweighed the, the, the upside and, uh, we're on an upside right now. And, you know, the management of people is heard, uh, the management of, uh, interface with, with financeers is hard. Uh, but if you're true, number one, tell the truth, right? A lie always gets found out. You cannot lie. It'll always be uncovered. Uh, so just tell the truth. And if you tell the truth and people think you're a truth teller, they, they wanna support you. They wanna go down your path with you and help when you need leak to help you lead you too. Right. So, yeah, I am, uh, today I'm happy. I'm happy, happy, happy. I'm tired, tired, tired, but I'm super happy that I'm seeing all these changes. I turn on the TV, you know, I, I read the various, uh, blogs and I, and I go onto news sites outside this terrible, terrible plague on Newman, Cal COVID. There is light. We will get through this because of technology cuz those brilliant people making vaccines, but it's a different world that we're gonna go into. And uh, I just hope I'm around long enough to really, you know, see the brightness that, uh, that that's gonna shine on us.

Will Szamosszegi (44:21):

The world before COVID is different than the world is today. And it's, it's gonna be a different world after. So it's gonna be interesting to see what the, the innovators and all the people, um, today, globally, how we come together and work towards building that society, that's going to be sustainable and is also gonna be able to, to face the challenges that have been presented with this virus and, uh, any future challenges that end up coming, whether it be climate change or, uh, any of the other major things that are being tackled right now.

Ron Macdonald (44:53):

Yeah. And I think that, um, you know, there's, there is plenty of reasons for despair in this world today, but there's plenty of reasons for hope. Uh, and you know, I sometimes wonder if I, you know, was born with a genetic deformity and thinking that everything's possible. Right. And, uh, and I think, you know, the one thing, uh, speaking to a school a while back and when you could have school and somebody said, well, you know, what's your message. And I didn't think I had a message. And I said, don't be afraid to explore things that make you nervous. Don't be afraid to take on a new challenge if I had a stayed in politics. Well, first of all, I had a stayed in politics. I'd never have gone into the lumber industry. Hadn't been in the lumber industry. I wouldn't have been introduced to the fishery industry.

Ron Macdonald (45:50):

Hadn't been in the fisheries industry. I wouldn't have been somebody that it was worked for me in fisheries, was invested in mining. Wouldn't have got into the green energy, didn't get into green energy. I wouldn't be running this company. Right. So I guess my advice is don't be stupid, but now don't be afraid when your gut, when your gut says, I think we could do that. Go try it. Because every one of those paths that you don't take is an adventure that you're not gonna have. And some will be good. Some will be bad, but every one of them is learnings that grow you for the next one. When you get that fork in the road. And I think I said something, I said, in the words of the immortal Yogi Barra, uh, when you come to a fork in the road, take it. And somebody said, well, that doesn't make sense. I said exactly. But what it means is don't be so, so a fork means you can't go forward, you gotta make a choice, right. Other than the status quo. Um, and I think when I look towards young people and I see how they're not vested forever to a job for a pension, we finally broke through that. I think we finally broken through that and people see life and career paths as something to explore, uh, learn from and take and take chances. Take chances you grow from them.

Will Szamosszegi (47:04):

Yeah. Yeah. Well, definitely taking chances, uh, has worked out, um, in, in your journey. And I think that it's something that, uh, everyone listened to this podcast is from that same mentality, you gotta take the risks if you, uh, if you want to go and achieve your goals. Uh, I'm curious, what is your favorite book that you've ever read?

Ron Macdonald (47:23):

Uh, uh, secret life of trees. Um, and I I've read it three times and it's a weird thing to, to read. Yeah. Secret life of trees. And I did write down, uh, the author's name, which I'll get to in a minute. It isn't a major, it was a major thing for me to read it. Uh, it's not that big a book. Uh, it's by, uh, a Forester that looked after a private wood lot in Germany and his, his observations. He was so observant about the trees, about the forest, about the symbiotic relationships, about how plants communicate, how they are alive. And, and, and that just because we don't see them move doesn't mean that they don't move they're in a different timeframe. But what it talks about is that all of this is connected. You know, the fact that the roots of the tree send signals out slowly to other trees.

Ron Macdonald (48:18):

There's a bug on my leaf. So you better put this PHMO out is amazing. The fact that they send, if there's a whole network happening in every forest and every everything that you look at, there's a, there is a big life form down there. And what that tells me is we are, sometimes you don't see it. We're so busy with just what our pace is that we miss all that trees are important. I used to cut 'em down, but I, I also replanted them when I was running fors. We had a real good, sustainable practice. Be aware of your part in the world, around you. And that book makes you do that. And, and there's no sense every time you get a chapter. Wow. I didn't even think about that. So it gets you to think about how, what role we play globally in all of that life form.

Ron Macdonald (49:06):

Right. And I would encourage anybody to read it. Uh, it just, it changes your view. I walk over sometimes from the sky train here, uh, a couple of blocks to my office and there's, uh, Grover trees. And there's a lot of exposed roots and I don't walk on them. Wow. I would've before read that book, I don't walk on them. Cuz I understand this is a somewhat sentient life form. That's got a community, you know, it has family, it communicates, it supports, it helps the, the, and so I become this weird guy in this back alley, you know, a walkaway guy said, don't walk down the tree, don't walk on the tree roots. They go, wow, he's outta there. But I think it's a great book for anybody to just sort of refocus in this busy life and connect with things that are around you. That we're part of. And I would encourage soon as I find, where am I at? Oh, it's Peter walled. W O H L L E B E N. It is an amazing book. It was one of those things that changed my view of me in this world with all of this around me. And uh, every day I come from sky train. I have to remember it cuz I don't walk on those roots. Yeah. There's somebody's

Will Szamosszegi (50:19):

Feet. Yeah. It's, it's so fascinating. There was this one time I was going on a, um, on a tour where they're telling you all about the different plants and the different types of trees around, uh, on the side of the path. And there's this one tree that when we got to it, if there wasn't a tour guide there, I would've just blown by it. Just think it looks like any other type of tree. And I look at it and it's a little different in the sense that it grew. It had a, a main route that kind of went up. Um, it's like the main trunk went up and then it had a smaller, uh, a smaller branch that came down and was also planted into the ground. And the person who was giving the tour explained that it had begun to die and it was falling over. And so then to recover, it actually went and created this, uh, this branch that goes, that went down and supported it over time. And yeah, it grew into a, a very large tree and it, uh, it was just incredible because I never would've thought of, uh,

Ron Macdonald (51:19):


Will Szamosszegi (51:19):

Would've thought never would've thought that it had that level of intelligence, just because it's not the same type of intelligence that you and I or any other human has. It's, it's a different form and it, it is a living it's in, it's a living organism.

Ron Macdonald (51:33):

Well, it's an organism that I think the cuz we call them a couple of, if you look at, if you go into a forest where there's been a cut, uh, and you will find a lot of the trees are decking and I'm getting into my days of coffee, but these are called nurseries, right? So as they're at the end of their life and they're harvest it, a seed will fall in it. And that before it's fully dead, it will take that seed and it'll grow up to it. And it's, and it, it puts its veins that are connected to the soil where it gets the nutrients to that seed. It's called a nurse tree and it grows a new tree, right? So it's, it's that whole cycle of, and when you kinda look at it, uh, not to get too weird, but when you look at it, it just means you gotta pay more attention to things around, you gotta understand our role when we really do crack, like we've been doing for a long time, just ain't us, we're killing mm-hmm right. We're killing other things that have been around maybe longer than Newman have. So just be conscious or only one piece of that life form. And we need to consider that as to go forward. That's why I'm so happy to be running this company actually, is that it will make some small contribution to that.

Will Szamosszegi (52:44):

Yeah. Well man, Ron, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you about, uh, your entire journey and also about the stuff you guys are doing at zinc gate. Everyone who's watching should definitely go and check out what you guys are doing. Check out the website. Is there any particular place online, uh, or uh, that you or the company, is that anyone who's listening can come and connect with with you

Ron Macdonald (53:07):

Guys? Oh yeah. You know, the last, this weird somebody said, I, I gave the wrong email address on the last podcast. I'd been it's, uh, zinc eight Ewan. It's a, it's a good webpage. And uh, you know, if you're interested in some of these, you know, these, uh, breakthroughs, uh it's and I think it's done for, for the layman. That's not a bioche, that's not an electro chemist to understand. Uh, but if you've got an interest, there's lots of other, I'm not promoting my competitors, but look around. There's a lot of pretty interesting stuff that's happening that will hopefully get you to be optimistic about a greener future. Well, thanks again. Okay. My pleasure.

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