August 2014

Canada loses a pioneer

Gerald Hatch built one of the world’s most successful mining and metallurgical engineering firms

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

Gerald Hatch, one of Canada’s most innovative metallurgical engineers and business leaders, died on June 9, 2014, one month shy of his 92nd birthday. Although his death seems to have fallen under the radar of most mainstream media, it marks a great loss to Canada and its mining industry. Hatch, according to all who knew him, was a giant in his professional career, while remaining a modest, gentle and remarkable human being.

“Gerry had the depth of character to reach great heights in his personal and business life,” said Kurt Strobele, current chairman of the Hatch Group of Companies, the 59-year-old engineering consulting firm founded by Gerry Hatch that today has more than 11,000 employees in 65 offices on six continents.

“He set the stage for a lot of engineering developments in Canada, particularly in relation to metallurgy,” said Gord Irons, director of the Steel Research Centre at McMaster University. Working with Falcondo in the Dominican Rep­ublic in the 1970s, Hatch de­signed an innovative commercial plant that revolutionized the productivity of ferronickel production. He co-patented two de­sign features of the electric smelting furnaces that have since been incorporated into Hatch’s successful furnace technology business, along with num­erous other innovations.

Hatch also contributed to sustainability in the mining and metals industry through his leadership of the Sulphur Dioxide Abatement programs for Inco and Falconbridge in Sudbury, Ontario, and Noranda Mines in Noranda, Quebec. Hatch’s design enabled sulphur dioxide collection and conversion to saleable sulphuric acid. These projects significantly reduced acid rain caused by metals refining in Eastern Canada.

Although Hatch retired as the company’s president in 1988 and its chairman in 1990, the structure he created for Hatch to this day continues to positively impact its employees while playing an integral role in its ongoing success. With the clarity of an engineer’s mind in combination with his passion for fairness and ethics, Gerry Hatch developed a 100 per cent employee-owned and managed business model. “He set it up so that when employees retired, they had to divest themselves of all their stock. When he retired, he did so as well,” said Irons. “The people who run the company are the people who are most involved with it so he really set up an extraordinary legacy for those wanting to participate in the enterprise. The company has been profitable almost all the time, but during recessions when there had to be layoffs, he tried to reduce the impact on employees. They would work a three- or four-day week, or take people back when things picked up, but he always tried to do the best for his people. He knew the engineering side, the business side and the people side.”

Strobele describes it this way: “Gerry built a company with strong foundations that were based on a culture of innovation, excellence and integrity that brought success to its employees and benefits to our clients and society at large.”

Hatch, a CIM member, was a committed philanthropist, supporting research and innovation at such universities as McGill and McMaster. He also donated to the Princess Margaret ­Hospital and Trillium Hospital, among others. Hatch held a life-long commitment to mentorship and the development of the next generation of engineers at Hatch Ltd. and through membership in such advisory councils as the Dean’s Advisory Councils for McGill University, McMaster University, Queen’s University and the University of Toronto. He established Gerry Hatch scholarships, awarded to 12 students annually in the regions where Hatch operates: Australasia, the Americas, Africa, and Europe.

“We all know that Gerry had a very sharp and analytical mind and would challenge everybody to do their homework, know the facts and articulate them well,” said Strobele at Hatch’s funeral. “Gerry was also an attentive listener. He would not only respond to what he heard but he would respond to the concerns, fears or excitement that he sensed in the individual. He was a great mentor and role model.”

Career highlights

1958 Hatch became president of W.S. Atkins & Associates Ltd. in Toronto. With just five employees, he developed projects with Stelco, QIT, Falconbridge and Noranda, and tunnelling work for the Toronto Transit Commission.

1964 He purchased the company, set up employee ownership and renamed it Hatch Ltd.

1988 Retired as company president.

1990 Retired as company chairman.

1997 Hatch worked with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and helped establish the G.G. Hatch Stable Isotope Laboratory at the University of Ottawa.

1997 Became a member of the Order of Canada.

1998 Inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

2011 Inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

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