February 2009

Doff your hard hats

Four new stalwarts are inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame

By M. Kerawala

With just over 33 million people, a harsh climate and a relatively short developmental history, Canada is still one of the elite G7 economies. So what makes a cold, northerly nation so prosperous despite its smaller talent pool and fund of experience? The answer lies in our land and our people. Canada is blessed with some of the world’s richest natural resource deposits, which serve as the backbone of our economy. By the application of money, muscle and mind, the people of this industry have transmuted the grit of our land into the wealth that we enjoy as a nation.

The ingenious and industrious people of this industry have no natural affinity for the limelight, but they certainly need not remain unsung. Since 1988, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame has recognized, celebrated and memorialized the achievements of many of Canadian mining’s most valued people.

On January 15, 2009, four new members were inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame at the 21st annual induction gala and banquet, held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. This brought the total number of members to 140. Like the other stalwarts whose ranks they joined, the four new members boast weighty achievements. They are the pride of the mining industry, which itself is the pride of Canada. Doff your hard hats to these great Canadian miners.

A great teacher from the past

Born in New Brunswick in 1922, Donald Gorman completed his B.Sc. in 1947 after serving in the Canadian Navy during World War II. He studied economic geology at the Royal School of Mines in England and acquired a PhD at the University of Toronto in 1957. He then began a long teaching career.

For the next 41 years, “Digger” Gorman taught mineralogy at his alma mater with great zest and infectious enthusiasm to generations of Canadian geologists, producing scientists of the highest order, trained with rigour and imbued with a sense of adventure and passion for the subject.

Gorman also distinguished himself in the public advocacy of his science. He was famed for his preternatural ability to identify absolutely any rock specimen anyone cared to bring in at countless mineral and gem shows. His popular lectures at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Walker Mineralogical Club, on radio and on television helped popularize geology.

Gorman won the Peacock Prize for Mineralogy for 1975-76 and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Association’s award for outstanding teaching in 1978. In 1981, a newly discovered mineral was named gormanite in his honour. In 2004, Gorman was named one of the University of Toronto’s Great Teachers from the Past.

A corporate craftsman

Born in 1938 in France and educated at the prestigious Parisian École Polytechnique, Bernard Michel arrived in Canada in 1967, charged with setting up a large potash mine in Lanigan, Saskatchewan, from scratch. He later moved to Amok, displaying extraordinary technical and managerial prowess, which landed him the senior vice-president of operations position at the Canadian Energy and Mining Company (later, Cameco) in 1988.

Michel progressed up Cameco’s ranks rapidly, becoming CEO, president, board member and chairman by 1993. His wizardly leadership transformed $650 million of debts into operating surpluses, brought the company out of public ownership into the private sector, and drove its expansion and globalization.

By 1998, Cameco was producing a third of the world’s uranium, with new mines in Saskatchewan, the United States and Kazakhstan. Michel also led the acquisition of major gold interests and made Cameco one of Canada’s largest aboriginal employers. He directed the company’s participation in a U.S.-Russian governmental partnership for dismantling nuclear warheads. Cameco and its partners purchase the weapons-grade uranium and resell it to strictly regulated utility companies, reinvesting part of the proceeds in further weapons dismantling.

Over the years, Michel won many honours including the French Order of the Legion of Honour, the Queen’s Jubilee Commemorative Medal, the Saskatchewan Order of Merit and an honorary doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan.

An old-school adventurer

“Have guts, will travel” would probably be the tagline on Roman Shklanka’s business card, had he been active in the days of the Wild West. Born in Saskatchewan in 1932, he earned his master’s degree in geology in 1956 and his doctorate in 1963.

Since then, Shklanka has travelled far and wide as an intrepid geologist, discovering deposits, developing mines, conferring with governments, attracting investors and opening up frontiers in some of the remotest parts of the world, introducing the wealth of mining to some the world’s poorest countries. In 1978, he went to Australia and subsequently spent over three years seeking new projects. He helped secure the Porgera and Misima deposits in Papua New Guinea and the Kidston gold property in Australia. He also identified and negotiated the acquisition of the Omai and Bulyanhulu gold projects in Guyana and Tanzania, respectively, and helped acquire the Granny Smith and Osborne mines in Australia. As chairman of Canico Resources Corp., he secured and advanced the Onca Puma nickel deposit in Brazil, which was later sold to Vale for $941 million in 2005.

Through sheer courage, competence and boldness, Shklanka has helped many Canadian companies secure interests worldwide, enhancing Canada’s status as a centre of mining excellence.

A collier who graduated to diamonds

A coal-mining Welshman, born in 1941, came to Canada seeking his fortune in 1964. Today, the seasoned collier, Grenville Thomas, is among the country’s top mineral explorers. His unerring prospector’s instincts have helped Canada become one of the world’s leading emerging diamond producers.

Thomas’s Canadian career began with Falconbridge. In 1975, he founded Highwood Resources, which discovered the Thor Lake rare metals deposit, now developed by Avalon Ventures.

In 1980, he founded his flagship junior company, Aber Resources. Spurred by reports of a diamond discovery, in 1991 Aber boldly staked claims in the Lac de Gras, despite being cash-strapped. Aided by his geologist daughter Eira and armed with just his convictions, Thomas battled great odds, raising financing from sceptical investors. Backed by global mining giant Rio Tinto, Aber discovered four viable diamond deposits on the Diavik property by 1995. Today, Diavik is one of the world’s richest diamond mines, producing over 10 million carats a year, employing many northerners and aboriginal people. Aber is now known as Harry Winston Diamond Corporation, and Thomas is now known as a prospector par excellence. He was named PDAC’s Prospector of the Year for 1999.

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