March/April 2010

What engineers do best

Peter Tiley raises award for hoisting innovations

By R. Pillo


Tiley adjusting a Lilly controller

Peter Tiley has spent most of his 30-year career making plants run more safely and efficiently. Ever since he joined his father’s company G.L. Tiley and Associates in 1977, Tiley has been working hard to increase productivity, reduce energy consumption and provide greater safety to mining companies. For this, he has earned CIM’s 2009 McParland Memorial Award, which honours innovators in engineering and design in plant management, improvements and maintenance.

Born to a mine hoisting engineer, Tiley spent part of his childhood moving from one South African town to another and overcame the challenges faced when relocating. “You learn to be more social because you’re always making new friends,” he says.

In 1955, at the age of seven, Tiley and his family emigrated to Canada. The oppression of South Africa’s apartheid regime was disheartening, more so to his mother, who had emigrated from Scotland when she married and could not abide the government’s policies. “It wasn’t long after arriving, that my mother knew she wasn’t going to stay,” he explains.

Four years after their move to Canada, the Tileys finally settled into the home they built in the small township of Greensville, Ontario. “I remained in the same place from grade six through university,” Tiley says. “It was more stable, I had a lot more friends and I was able to forge lasting relationships.”

Tiley didn’t plan to follow in his father’s footsteps. As a high school student, he intended to become a nuclear reactor engineer. “I was always interested in physics and science,” he recalls. “Nuclear energy was the most cutting-edge technology of the time.”

He graduated from McMaster University with a degree in engineering physics, and received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Bristol University in the United Kingdom by way of an Athlone Fellowship. He returned to Canada in 1972 to begin his dream career at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River facility.

Four years later, a rapid decline in technology and research development at the facility made him take a second look at his career opportunities. Tiley switched gears and accepted an offer at G.L. Tiley and Associates, a basement-run consulting firm his father founded with two former colleagues in 1972. It was a move he has never regretted. “Mining has given me the opportunity to do what engineers do best — build things and watch them operate,” Tiley says. “Many nuclear reactor designs I worked on were never built.”

Throughout his 30-year career, Tiley has worked on several hundred hoists worldwide and has led the commissioning, upgrading and installation of over 50 hoisting plants. From his background in nuclear plant modelling to the brake pad materials found on the motorcycles he rode as a teenager, Tiley has used his past experiences to jump-start his innovative solutions. “You apply what you know and have learned,” he explains. A life lesson learned early in his career led Tiley to improve the health and safety standards within his own company. Flying into a mine site 5,000 metres above sea level in Peru one time, he never gave his body the chance to properly acclimatize to the new altitude. Suffering from severe headaches and nausea, coupled with the effects of sleeping pills prescribed by the mine site physician, Tiley went into shock and he spent the following week recovering at the local hospital. He made sure no one else in his company would suffer the same fate.

Over the years, G.L. Tiley and Associates has grown to over 30 consultants and support staff, offering a complete range of mine hoisting systems solutions. In 1991, Tiley became president of the company. “I first joined the firm so that I could keep this knowledge and ability from dwindling. As president, I wanted to ensure its sustainability by passing it on to future generations,” he explains.

Although he retired in 2008, Tiley stayed on board for occasional support to his former team. “The company is in good hands,” he says. Today, Tiley has returned to the industry he once left behind. Chair of the technical team for the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, Tiley reviews the designs of the mine hoisting plant for an underground nuclear repository at the Bruce Power Station near Kincardine, Ontario.

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