Sept/Oct 2010

CIM says farewell to a past leader

Walter Riva dies at age 88

By Andrea Nichiporuk

Walter RivaIn 1984, a year when the world saw Brian Mulroney become Canada’s 18th Prime Minister, Marc Garneau become the first Canadian in space and the Edmonton Oilers win their first Stanley Cup, a third-generation coal miner named Walter Joseph Riva took on the presidency of CIM.

Walter Riva was not one to sit back and let the life pass him by. By the time he graduated (with Distinction) in mining engineering from the University of Alberta at age 27, he had already worked in a mine, served as a navigator with the Royal Canadian Air Force in WW II, gotten married and had three children.

A natural born leader, Riva rose through the ranks to become executive vice-president and CEO of The Canmore Mines Ltd., the company at which he began his career. He later moved on to Denison Mines Ltd. as vice-president (1972) and then Kaiser Resources Ltd. (1973), where he became president of the company’s coal division (1979), followed by president and CEO (1980), and finally chairman and CEO (1981). He also served as the president of the Coal Association of Canada (1980-1981) and was the 77th president of CIM (1984-1985), which he became a member of in 1950.

A man concerned with safety, productivity and the environment, Riva accumulated a long list of accomplishments during his illustrious career: he forged new ground by selling Canadian coal to Asian markets; was part of a team that successfully reclaimed and revegetated mined-out areas in Western Canada; introduced new technologies and procedures; took part in industry governance; invented/patented form-coke processing and was the co-inventor of a pelletizing process; and was a founding member of the Canadian Carbonization Research Association, to name but a few.

Riva was active within CIM, first as chairman of the Coal Division from 1963 to 1965, then as a councillor from 1965 to 1967 and as a CIM Distinguished Lecturer in 1970, and finally as vice-president of District 5 in 1973. Recognized for his achievements, CIM awarded Riva the Selwyn G. Blaylock Medal in 1973 for “his distinguished service to Canada through exceptional achievement in the field of mining, metallurgy or geology.” He also received the Coal Award in 1991, established to “honour CIM members who have made outstanding contributions to the coal industry of Canada and who have also been long-standing, active participants in the Coal and Oil Sands Division of CIM.”

Riva strongly believed in giving back to one’s community, his being Canmore, British Columbia. Calling upon his honed leadership skills, he led the construction of a Catholic Church and rectory, with 100 per cent of the project’s labour being volunteered and served as choir director at the Church for approximately 20 years. He led a volunteer labour project to install artificial ice in the hockey arena, was involved in obtaining land and seeing the construction through to completion on a new community golf course and was a minor hockey league coach. In Sparwood, British Columbia, he led company efforts to assist the community in obtaining a recreation centre, swimming pool and golf course.

In the few years leading up to his retirement in 1986, Riva “retired” from management and served as vice-chairman of Westar Mining and chairman of B.C. Resources. More recently, he was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame in 2004 and published a book on the history of mining in the Bow Valley in 2008.

Walter Riva was a family man, industry leader and role model. He passed away peacefully on May 15, 2010.

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