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Northwest lithium pioneer Don Bubar has died

A champion of Indigenous involvement in mining, Bubar founded Avalon Ventures and established the Separation Rapids deposit
Don Bubar hosting a Separation Rapids site tour in October 2013 (Avalon photo)

Don Bubar, the long-time president and CEO of Avalon Advanced Materials, died at home on July 30. He was 68.

His obituary from Dixon-Garland Funeral Home in Markham listed the cause of death as the rapid progress of neurodegenerative diseases. 

Bubar relinquished his titles earlier this year and stepped down from the board of directors in June.

He is described in his obituary as a “pioneer and visionary” for his foresight in developing and promoting, what’s now called, critical mineral supply chains. 

Born in 1955 in Ormstown, Que. a young Bubar moved with his family to Truro, Nova Scotia where he developed an interest in rocks while fossil hunting on the beach.

Trained in geology at McGill University and mineral exploration at Queen’s University, Bubar spent the early years of his career as a field geologist on projects across Canada, including asbestos exploration for Minorex, with Getty Mines and Texasgulf. He was part of the team that discovered the Gondor zinc-silver-lead-copper massive sulphide deposit.

Bubar joined Aur Resources in 1984 as the regional exploration manager based in Val d’Or, Que. He was a part of the team that discovered the Louvicourt copper-zinc deposit in 1989, then regarded as the largest deposit of its kind since the Kidd Creek discovery outside Timmins.

Bubar founded Avalon Ventures in 1994 and focused the company on rare metals and non-traditional commodities, starting with his cornerstone Separation Rapids lithium pegmatite property, north of Kenora, which Avalon acquired in early 1997. Today, it is one of northwestern Ontario and Canada’s most promising lithium deposits under development.

He was also a staunch advocate and champion for greater Indigenous participation in the mining industry. 

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Avalon signed a 1998 memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Wabaseemoong Independent Nations for community development and economic participation at Separation Rapids. 

Avalon also advanced the the Nechalacho rare-earth elements project in Northwest Territories through permitting and agreements with local First Nations. An arrangement with Vital Metals, saw Nechalacho become Canada’s first rare earth elements mine in 2021 and the first mine in Canada to be entirely operated by a local First Nation-owned company.

What’s considered Bubar’s landmark achievement was the signing of a MOU between Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) and the Assembly of First Nations in 2008, paving the way for greater First Nations involvement in the Canadian mining sector as business leaders and partners.

Bubar is survived by his wife of 38 years, Marcia Mazurski; his two children Andrew Bubar (Ingrid Ng) of Guelph, and Peter Bubar, currently residing in Toronto; one sister, Carol Bubar (Richard Brown), of Red Deer, Alberta, and two grandchildren Maria and Charles.

A celebration of Bubar’s life will take place at PJ O’Brien Irish Pub & Restaurant on 39 Colborne Street in Toronto on Oct. 5 from 3-6 pm. Donations in Don’s memory can be made to Mining Matters or the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Avalon tweeted that Bubar “positioned Avalon at the forefront of green energy. We owe much to his leadership/vision and send our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.”