MDRU History

MDRU was established in 1989 in response to needs expressed by the mineral industry.

The concept was conceived during discussions between Peter Bradshaw (then with Orvana Minerals and now First Point Minerals) and Professor Alastair Sinclair, then Head of Dept. of Geological Sciences at UBC.  Establishment of a new applied research group was supported and implemented by the then Dean of Science Barry McBride, and by the then UBC President David Strangway who emphasized that it be uniquely established as a “Unit”.  MDRU’s initiation was supported financially with funds from the mining industry and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Past MDRU Directors and Co-Founders (left to right) John Thompson, Craig Hart, Alistair Sinclair, Ian Thomson, John McDonald, Richard Tosdal and Peter Bradshaw at MDRU’s 25th Anniversary Gala dinner at the Vancouver Aquarium in 2015.


1989-1990: Dr John McDonald (B.Sc. University of Manitoba; Ph.D., University of Wisconsin), was the initial and founding MDRU Director during its development and was supported by Esso Minerals Canada where he was Chief Geologist and Exploration Manager for Western Canada.

1991-1998: Dr John F.H. Thompson (BA Oxon, PhD Toronto) was appointed as the first MDRU Director.

1998: Dr. Ian Thomson (Ph.D., Imperial College and then of Orvana Minerals) became Interim Director.

1999-2008: Dr Richard M. Tosdal (Ph.D., BA, UCalifornia, Santa Barbara) previously with the U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park was appointed as the second MDRU Director.

2009-June 2020: Dr Craig Hart (BSc McMaster; MSc UBC, PhD UWesternAustralia) became the third MDRU Director

July-November 2020: Dr. Simon Peacock was appointed Interim Director.

November 2020-Current: Dr. Shaun Barker is the current MDRU Director.


To ensure longevity of the unit, an endowment was established in 1998 to provide support for Director’s salary. The endowment was funded by contributions from financial institutions and mineral companies and matched by contributions from UBC. This was further enhanced by a donation in 1999 from a Vancouver-based company as a result of actions by the BC Securities Commission.  The MDRU Endowment continues to provide a financial contribution to its operations.  Contributions to MDRU Operations and to the Endowment are welcome and are tax deductible.  More info here.

Industry Injections Support MDRU Programs, Northern Miner 1998

Fine a windfall for mining research, UBC Reports 1999


In 2007, MDRU was awarded the Leo Derikx Synergy Award from NSERC.  The award recognize partnerships in natural sciences and engineering research and development (R&D) between universities and Canadian industry.   This award honours the most outstanding achievements of industry–university collaborations in  the natural sciences and engineering across Canada.  On October 29th, 2007, Director Richard Tosdal attended the award ceremony in Ottawa to receive a $25,000 research grant on behalf of MDRU for their successful partnership in mineral exploration with Kennecott Canada Exploration Inc., Teck Cominco Limited, and Barrick Gold Corporation. Research relationships with with these and other companies are the track record that of effective partnerships and are the foundation of this award.

In 2008, a Special Tribute Award was presented by the Association of Mineral Exploration British Columbia. This award recognized the many years of collaborative research with the minerals industry and the training of geoscientists through graduate and Post-Doctoral research.

In 2015, MDRU celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a two-day technical event and gala.

Since its inception, MDRU has provided, supported, educated and trained more than 110 MSc students and 30 PhD students with projects, funding, expertise and research opportunities.  In addition, there have been more than 45 Post-Doctoral Fellows and Research Associates that have contributed to projects and received applied minerals research training.  MDRU students are prodigious winners of scholarships and awards.  Meet the current researchers, students and staff.

There have been more than 50 completed research projects and there are about 20 active projects.  Talk to us, we’re always looking for an opportunity for a new research opportunity. Contact us.