The phone would ring. “Sorry I haven’t been in touch, totally fucking busy.” It was Bruce after three months of radio silence and he’d want an article written in twenty-four hours or just wanted to share a bit of graphite information under “the dome of silence”. He’d always have a filthy joke to tell and a bit of graphite gossip to relate. He was, or had been, the CEO of dozens of junior resource companies. He’d raised a lot of money. His passion and focus, when I knew him, was Canada Carbon and its ultra-pure graphite.
Bruce’s great gift was sheer stubbornness. He knew his graphite was the bomb. He knew it was so pure that it could be used as a reference sample. He knew that it could be used in nuclear reactors and he knew that, just around the corner, was the shareholder value he longed to create. He wanted to make a ton of money but he knew the only way to do that was for the market to re-rate CCB’s shares which would make his shareholders a ton of money.
Bruce was perfectly willing to go toe to toe with anyone. Bad faith “environmentalists” who simply ignored the environmental protections built right into the Miller graphite project, online naysayers who kept making fun of Bruce’s Muskoka house, companies which promised to do one thing but ended up failing to do much at all.
He was delighted to tell the stories, usually featuring R. Bruce Duncan, where deals were closed, graphite sold, possibly a marble quarry created. I was on a call with Bruce and a wonderful guy who was as “East Coast WASP investment banker, boat shoes all year round, because retired”, as you get. They spent three-quarters of an hour talking about junior hockey which Bruce had played as a kid. (WASPy guy had, inter alia, been the managing partner for the group which owned the New York Islanders in the glory days.) Turned out that “investment banker” guy had played more than a bit of hockey when he was a kid. What would have been a five minute bit of mano mano tail sniffing turned into the hot stove league on my patio. But the kid from Northern Ontario has worked on Wall Street and, apparently, done undercover work of some sort or another. Bruce knew his way around even if he played hockey rather than going to prep school. The call was brilliant.
The junior resource world is filled with characters. People who advance projects through sheer will power and a deep refusal to take no for an answer. Bruce was very much that guy.
Now, Bruce has died.
No details but Bruce was missing half a lung and had had three kidney transplants. Recently he’d had to deal with an aggressive tumour on his hand. He was up at the much-maligned Muskoka house isolating himself from the Covid. His death was sudden and not at all expected.
I sent his wife, Olga Nikitovic, CCB’s CFO, a note today, when the rumours of Bruce’s death surfaced online. She confirmed. Every call I ever had with Bruce he’d mention one or the other of his boys. As the fathers of sons we enjoyed the progress, flops and victories our boys had.
Bruce and I never actually met. There were elaborate plans for a really good steak dinner or, perhaps a beer, after a West Coast visit. But they never fell into place. Damn.
I’ll miss Bruce, I already do.
Disclaimer: I own shares in Canada Carbon and have consulted with the company from time to time.