February 2010

Seven who made a difference

Canadian Mining Hall of Fame welcomes new inductees

By G. Woodford

This year’s Canadian Mining Hall of Fame ceremony honoured a century of work developing this country’s industry. The field of inductees ranged from prospectors to financiers. Working in different times with different tools, they all staked out new frontiers in mining.

The big three

The ceremony paid tribute to the 100th anniversary of the discovery of gold in Timmins, Ontario. To mark the event, the three men who found those first spectacular gold showings and launched what would become the Porcupine Gold Rush — Jack Wilson (1872-1948), Benny Hollinger (1885-1919) and Sandy McIntyre (1869-1943) — were inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The great late bloomer

Victor C. Wansbrough (1901-1994), a British-born former schoolteacher and university chum of future Prime Minister Lester Pearson, came to the world of mining late in his career. When he was appointed, to everyone’s surprise, the Canadian Metal Mining Association’s (CMMA) first dedicated managing director in 1947, he knew very little about the industry. Canadian mining was then in a bit of a mess. The war had just ended and there was a serious manpower shortage. But Wansbrough had an idea. Europe was ravaged and millions were displaced, with no homes let alone jobs. Wansbrough arranged for 6,000 skilled workers to come to Canada to work in the mining industry.

Wansbrough’s other major coup as CMMA head was to negotiate government subsidies for the gold mining industry, beleaguered by years of price-fixing by the Americans. The Emergency Gold Mining Assistance Act, passed in 1948, kept the industry afloat for 25 years even though it was only meant to last three years. Wansbrough was awarded CIM’s Distinguished Service Medal in 1980.

A life cut short

The Canadian mining industry mourned the untimely death of Hugo T. Dummett (1940-2002), killed in a car accident in his native South Africa. The respected economic geologist was perhaps best known for his role in founding EKATI, Canada’s first ever diamond mine. Working for BHP Minerals at the time — he would go on to become BHP’s vice-president, minerals discovery — Dummett convinced the company of the enormous potential of the find. He was right; the discovery spurred a diamond rush in the Northwest Territories, leading to even more strikes in the area.

Dummett was also an authority on porphyry copper deposits. While executive vice-president, project development for Ivanhoe Mines, he helped discover and develop their huge porphyry copper-gold deposit in Mongolia. Ivanhoe named the project the Hugo Mine in Dummet’s honour.

The popular geologist was heaped with awards before his death, including the Daniel C. Jackling Award (2000) of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and the American Mining Hall of Fame’s Medal of Merit (1997). He was serving as president of the Society of Economic Geologists at the time of his death. In 2005, the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia established the Hugo Dummett Diamond Exploration Award, of which Dummett was its first recipient.

Hometown proud

Timmins, Ontario, native Graham Farquharson (born 1940) was delighted to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the same time as the Timmins prospectors. “It was a remarkable coincidence to be inducted on the same night Timmins’ 100th anniversary was honoured,” he says. His father worked as a mining engineer at Hollinger. Farquharson followed in his dad’s footsteps, studying mining engineering at the University of Alberta.

In 1974, he co-founded the consulting firm Strathcona Mineral Services Limited, which he still helps run today. Farquharson is best known for helping to develop the Nanisivik lead-zinc mine, the first mine in Canada’s Far North. Before that, no one thought it was possible to operate a mine in such a remote area. Farquharson thought otherwise, and helped establish the mine and the mining town that grew up around it, the last of its kind in Canada, in 1976. Nanisivik operated profitably for 22 years.

The famously scrupulous Farquharson went on to uncover the great Bre-X debacle of the 1990s. Calgary-based minerals company Bre-X claimed to have found the largest gold deposits in the history of the world in Busang, Indonesia. Before Farquharson’s investigation exposed the claims as a fraud, Bre-X had managed to bilk its unfortunate investors of billions of dollars.

Money man

Peter M. Brown (born 1941), co-founder of the Canadian investment dealer Canaccord Financial, built his career on the belief that small- and medium-sized companies deserved a fair shake when it came to accessing capital investment. Since Canaccord was started in 1968, Brown — who stepped down as CEO in 2007 — has helped countless mining companies acquire the risk capital needed to get their projects off the ground. His Canadian successes include Corona, the Hemlo discoveries, Eskay Creek and Dia Met Minerals (responsible for discovering the diamond deposits in the Northwest Territories). Abroad, Canaccord has helped Breakwater, Arequipa, Aurelian and Wheaton River secure both Canadian expertise and financing.

Born and raised in British Columbia, Brown was conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the University of British Columbia in 2005 — despite what he calls his “rather dismal” career as a UBC undergraduate. He serves on UBC’s Board of Governors and, among other positions, as a director at the Fraser Institute and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. He has been made a member of the Order of British Columbia and awarded the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for his public service.

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