Dec '13/Jan '14

Torchbearer

Tom Rannelli will be remembered for his mentorship, friendship and hard work

By Dinah Zeldin

For Tom Rannelli, mining was more than a day job. The third-generation miner, who succumbed to brain cancer October 23 at the age of 55, devoted much of his time to supporting the industry through his work with CIM and by mentoring young professionals.

CIM was very close to Rannelli’s heart, says his wife Linda: “One of the things Tom and I enjoyed was coffee in our front room every weekend. A lot of the conversation those mornings was around CIM and his passion for it.”

Rannelli co-chaired both the 2009 and 2013 CIM Conventions in Toronto, and his work at last year’s event helped make it an unprecedented success. “Tom brought a really high standard to CIM programming,” says Jean Vavrek, executive director of CIM. “He was relentless in ensuring that the content of the technical program was relevant and valuable to our audience.”

“He brought everything he had to that conference,” says his son, Thomas, a mining engineer with Cementation Canada. “He always said mining had been good to our family, and the convention gave him an opportunity to give back by using his vast experience to select the best papers and handpick the plenary speakers.”

One of Rannelli’s proud contributions to the industry was the creation of Management and Finance Day during his chairing of the 2009 CIM Convention in Toronto. The day-long workshop, which has become one of the convention’s most popular events, was put together by CIM’s Management and Economics Society. According to Marty Dregischan, vice-chair of the CIM Toronto Branch, the workshop helps bridge a gap in the industry: “Because of his experience working at BMO Capital Markets, he was able to help foster the creation a cross-disciplinary event that brings together mining and finance people.”

Coaching young professionals was also high on Rannelli’s list of priorities and his contributions to the industry will continue to inspire the next generation. “He had a strong belief in mentorship,” says Thomas, who followed his father into the mining sector. “He was all about trying to give people the experience and the chance to excel. He mentored many people and set them on the path to successful careers.”

During the two years that Rannelli was chair of the CIM Toronto Branch, he took Dregischan under his wing. “He was my mentor and became a great friend,” he says. “Tom saw the generation gap in the industry as a challenge, and was very active in supporting knowledge transfer from his generation to the next.”

Professionally, Rannelli was respected and well-loved by colleagues. According to Stephen Kelly, who worked alongside Rannelli at BMO Capital Markets for five years, he did his job very well because he had a wealth of experience, strong technical skills and was a great communicator. Rannelli was part of a team responsible for assessing risks associated with projects seeking financing from the bank; he managed the technical side, while Kelly and others took care of the numbers.

“What he was doing was not just a mining job,” Kelly says. “Tom had to connect with technical people and translate the information into a short memo that a layperson could understand. That is not something most people can do.” Kelly adds that Rannelli’s sense of humour helped him build strong working relationships: “He was always the first one to come out with a joke when there was tension and the situation required it.”

Vavrek, who worked closely with Rannelli on many CIM projects, agrees that personality played a big role in the man’s success. “Few people could put aside business and fall right into a very strong friendship like Tom could,” he says.


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