February 2011

Pioneers in Canada, and beyond

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inducts three new members

By Thom Loree


A sold-out crowd of mining’s best and brightest came to salute the hard work and dedication of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees | Photo courtesy of Keith Houghton Photography Ltd.

With strong commodity prices and keen investor interest in the resource sector, the push is on to get projects underway around the world, but despite their demanding schedules, the industry’s major players gathered in Toronto to honour the latest inductees into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame.

John Williamson, Bert Wasmund and Mike Muzylowski join the 146 other Canadian mining legends who have been inducted since 1989. All three were honoured at the Hall of Fame’s 23rd annual dinner on January 13, 2011 for their far-reaching influence, having staked out new frontiers in Canada and abroad.

Pierre Lassonde, chairman of Franco-Nevada took his place as master of ceremonies before a record crowd of 820 industry members at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Diamond king

Williamson (1907-1958), the evenings’ first inductee, discovered, built and operated the Williamson diamond mine in Tanganyika (now Tanzania). A native of Quebec, he obtained a PhD in geology from McGill University in 1933, then moved to East Africa and set his sights on what has since become a world-famous diamond producer. (His initial prospecting was carried out under the direction of Tanganyika Gold and Diamonds Ltd., although later Williamson formed his own private company.)

In 1940, he found the kimberlite pipe that would become the first significant diamond mine outside of South Africa. Between 1941 and 2008, it cranked out more than 20 million carats of diamonds and is currently valued at $3 billion. Among the many fine gems produced was a pink 54-carat rough diamond presented to Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip on their wedding day in 1947.

Bill Barclay represented the Williamson family and said the man “always remained attached to his Canadian roots” and “would have been overjoyed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Transformative Canadian

Next, the Hall of Fame saluted Bert Wasmund (b. 1939), who for more than 40 years has been a leader in metallurgical plant engineering and design, as well as a driving force in the success of consulting firm Hatch. His contributions to metallurgical excellence in Canada and abroad have boosted productivity, reduced energy consumption and ensured higher environmental standards.

Wasmund joined Hatch in 1966 and proceeded to amass an influential group of process engineers in the global metallurgical industry. Among the operations that have benefitted from Wasmund’s expertise are smelters in Canada, the Dominican Republic and South Africa.

In the 1970s, Wasmund oversaw sulphur dioxide abatement programs in the Sudbury nickel belt for nickel producers Falconbridge and Inco. He and the Hatch team also replaced blast furnaces with new technology that improved air quality and minimized acid rain. That same decade, in the Dominican Republic, Wasmund invented technology for cooling the walls of smelting furnaces. This innovation became, in Wasmund’s words, “the cornerstone of Hatch’s international custom-design furnace business.”

While at Hatch, he also contributed to major efficiencies in platinum smelting at Impala Platinum in South Africa. Wasmund remains an executive director at the consulting firm.

Manitoba’s mine finder

The dinner ended with the induction of geologist, mine-finder and financier Mike Muzylowski (b. 1934), who contributed to the discovery and development of 16 deposits that eventually became mines. All but three of these are in Manitoba, where Muzylowski grew up; the others are in Nevada and the Northwest Territories.

Muzylowski told the audience that as soon as he discovered geology, he was “captivated and enthralled.” He got his professional start with Hudson Bay Exploration & Development Co. in 1955 and eventually found himself managing the drill programs that led to the discovery of the Anderson Lake and Centennial mines.

The Swedish parent of Granges Exploration Aktiebolag, Grängesberg Aktiebolaget, hired Muzylowski in 1970 to oversee its North American programs. His efforts contributed to the discovery of the Trout Lake Mine, which continues to crank out copper and zinc after some 28 years.

In 1984, fellow financier Doug McRae arranged to buy Granges from its Swedish parent, with Muzylowski serving as president and CEO. The partners proceeded to transform Granges into a substantial and profitable producer. (The company was later acquired by Australian mining giant MIM.)

In addition to Trout Lake, Granges explored and developed the Puffy Lake and Tartan Lake gold-silver mines and spun off a subsidiary, Hycroft Resources & Development. It was Hycroft that developed the Crofoot and Lewis gold mines in Nevada, both of which have been sizable moneymakers. Muzylowski and McRae managed to raise some $400 million for Granges and Hycroft in the 1980s, paving the way for other Canadian companies to raise money in foreign jurisdictions.

A moment of recognition

Corporate sponsors of the 2011 induction dinner included Teck Resources Limited (AV and staging sponsor), Sentry Investments (reception), SNC-Lavalin (dinner wine), IBK Capital Corp. (presentations), Consolidated Thompson (head table) and Hatch (VP/inductee reception).

Representing CIM on the Hall of Fame’s board of directors are CIM executive director Jean Vavrek, as well as CIM past presidents Patricia Dillon (2000-2001), director, industry relations and employee communications, Teck Resources; and Donald J. Worth (1996-1997), retired mining specialist and senior executive of CIBC.

Douglas Horswill, senior vice-president sustainability for Teck Resources, told CIM Magazine that the company is honoured to support the Hall of Fame. “Canada’s shared history in mining is important and the achievements of the many great Canadians who are members of this esteemed organization are something to be proud of,” he said.

Kevin MacLean, vice-president and senior portfolio manager for Sentry Investments, noted that his firm as been an enduring sponsor for the event. “This industry is at the core of our investment management business,” he said. “It is highly appropriate to recognize many of the key contributors to the global reputation Canada has achieved as an international leader in mining.”

The head table was nothing if not illustrious and included The Honourable Brian Tobin, former premier of Newfoundland and currently executive chairman and acting president and CEO of Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines. Joining him were: Clinton Nauman, president and CEO, Alexco Resource Corp.; Feroz Ashraf, executive vice-president, Office of the President, SNC-Lavalin; Michael Kenyon, director and executive chairman, Detour Gold Corp.; Julie Lassonde-Gray, executive chairman and director, Shear Minerals; William Pugliese, chairman and director, IAMGOLD Corporation; Ian Telfer, chairman, Goldcorp; Kevin MacLean, vice-president and senior portfolio manager, Sentry Investments; Janet Carding, director and CEO of the Royal Ontario Museum; Howard Stockford, chairman of the board of directors of the Hall of Fame; Don Lindsay, president and CEO, Teck Resources Limited; Aaron Regent, president and CEO, Barrick Gold Corporation; Ingrid Hibbard, president and CEO, Pelangio Exploration; Sean Boyd, vice-chairman and CEO, Agnico-Eagle Mines; Tye Burt, president and CEO, Kinross Gold Corporation; Pamela Strand, president and CEO, Shear Minerals; Michael White, president, IBK Capital Corp.; and Russell Hallbauer, president and CEO, Taseko Mines. (Hallbauer’s father, Robert, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996.)

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