Sept/Oct 2011

Goodbye, not farewell

One of the industry’s brightest leaders taking her next big step

By H. Butler George

Patricia Dillon, the only female president in CIM’s history, is retiring from Teck Resources and leaving behind a legacy of work that could have easily filled a few lifetimes. But do not use the word retirement around her. “I don’t like the term,” Dillon says. “It’s not what people in the mining industry do.”

It is this tireless effort and enthusiasm that has made her an outstanding leader in the field. “My real passion is helping people understand the value of the mining industry,” she says.

After several summers working as a field geologist, Dillon began her career as a high school science teacher before joining Teck full time in 1979. She held various positions, initially in exploration, which culminated in her becoming director, employee communications and engagement. In the early 1990s, she got involved with the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) where there was a unique opportunity to serve the public through the organization’s education committee.

As a graduate in geology (1974) and education (1976) from the University of Toronto, Dillon utilized her background to usher in one of her greatest achievements, the establishment in 1997 of PDAC Mining Matters, a charitable organization that has contributed significantly to society’s awareness of the minerals industry.

Experts in education were consulted and engaged to develop the first Mining Matters Grade 6/7 earth science curriculum kit for Ontario teachers, which was introduced in 1994. The annual budget of the Mining Matters has grown from approximately $200,000 to $800,000 over the past 17 years.

Shortly after the initial classroom program was introduced, it won the Conference Board of Canada’s Partnership Focus Award for “promoting science literacy for the world of work.” Currently, the Mining Matters message has reached approximately 500,000 students and the initiative is being extended to Quebec and Canada’s eastern and western provinces.

In addition to PDAC, Dillon’s involvement with other industry organizations and initiatives has been extensive:

  • Chair of the CIM Toronto Branch 
  • Ambassador for Keep Mining in Canada (KMIC)
  • Member of the Mining Association of Canada’s (MAC) Public Relations Committee and Towards Sustainable Mining Committee
  • Chair of the Minerals and Metals Industry Sector Study Steering Committee
  • Co-chair of the CIM Mining Millennium Conference and Exhibition in 2000 (held in conjunction with PDAC) 
  • President of the Minerals and Economics Management Society

As president of CIM (2000-2001), a major project for Dillon was reworking the CIM Strategic Plan and pinning down an updated vision and mission – a decision that made CIM more relevant and understandable, both to its membership and the public. She also took a special interest in CIM’s student associations and used every opportunity to help them better prepare for interaction with the industry.

From 1998 to 2001, Dillon did a three-year secondment to the Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program at her alma mater as director, external liaison. She returned to Teck thereafter as the manager of corporate relations.

Dillon’s need to be challenged has been her compass throughout her career. “I made decisions that were right for me,” she says. “I never actively sought leadership roles, but if I was approached, I never said no. I never backed away from opportunity and always pushed myself to grow and develop new skills.”

It is this attitude that has afforded her recognition along the way: the CIM Past Presidents’ Memorial Medal (1998) for setting an example to people contemplating a career in mining; the Athena Award (2000) from the town of Oakville for her community service and mentorship of young women; the CIM Distinguished Service Award; and, most recently, the PDAC Distinguished Service Award. She attributes her success to hard work, great mentors, an infectious enthusiasm, and support from her family and company.

New challenges

Dillon leaves Teck at the end of September and shows no signs of slowing down: she will continue her involvement with Mining Matters, the Canadian Mining and Metallurgical Foundation, the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM), and with an upcoming collaboration with Royal Ontario Museum to create the travelling Canadian Mining Hall of Fame exhibit. She is also the incoming chair of the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR).

It looks like retirement is not on the agenda, but Dillon’s latest career move will involve one notable bonus: “I’m happy about not having to set the alarm for 5:50 a.m. every day,” she laughs.

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