J.C. Sproule Northern Exploration Award

For excellence in Northern exploration and development

Origins & Conditions


When he was a child living on a farm near Grande Prairie, Alberta, John Campbell Sproule (born May 13, 1905) occupied himself by exploring nature, either through hunting, trapping or prospecting. His love of nature lead him to pursue a career in geology, and he left home to get his bachelor’s degree at the University of Alberta and later his master’s and PhD at the University of Toronto.

In 1931, Sproule worked as a field assistant on the Fort McMurray oil sands. There, he wrote one of his more influential papers, “Origin of the McMurray Oil Sands, Alberta,” which claimed that the oil in the sands originated from the underlying paleozoic rock – an unpopular deduction at the time that began to be accepted later on.

Sproule eventually joined Imperial Oil, where he worked his way up to chief advisory geologist for International Petroleum Company, then an Imperial subsidiary. He served as CIM president from 1959 to 1960.

On May 21, 1970, Sproule suffered a heart attack while delivering a lecture on the geology of the Canadian Arctic. He died a short while after. The J.C. Sproule Northern Exploration Award was established in 1974.

  1. The J.C. Sproule Northern Exploration Award is to be presented to an individual or a team in recognition of eminent achievement or distinguished contributions to the exploration and development of Canada’s mineral resources in the northern regions. The contribution or achievement to be recognized may be made by innovation, research, project management, education or any form of outstanding personal achievement contributing to the extension or understanding of Canada’s northern mineral resources. The term "northern" is to be interpreted broadly and includes the mid and Arctic regions of Canada.
  2. The award may be presented from time to time as circumstances warrant, but not more than one award shall be made in any given year.
  3. Nominations for the award shall be made over the signatures of at least ten (10) CIM national members.
  4. All nominations shall be accompanied by an authenticated description of the personal achievement of the nominee.
  5. When reasonably possible, the recipient shall be expected to receive the award in person during the course of the CIM Convention Awards Gala following the announcement of the award.
  6. All nominations properly presented shall remain in good standing for a period of three (3) years unless formally withdrawn over the signatures of a majority of members responsible for the nomination.
  7. Nominees should be CIM National Members.



Malcolm Robb

Malcolm Robb’s introduction to the geology of Northern Canada was as a student in the summer of 1979 working with Falconbridge in northern Manitoba in the Snow Lake and Leaf Rapids areas. After graduating from the Royal School of Mines in 1980, he returned to Northern Manitoba to work for three years and became fully immersed in the North. From Snow Lake he moved farther north to take up the role of mine geologist at the Salmita gold mine, 250 km north of Yellowknife for five years.  

Following a brief period in the jungle of Guyana in South America, Robb returned to Canada working in Northern Ontario for four years in the Timmins and Kirkland Lake areas before returning to the Northwest Territories (NWT) in 1994. Making his home there, he has spent the last 25 years working for both industry and government in various roles related to mining and exploration in the NWT.


Chantal Lavoie

Chantal Lavoie is a mining engineer with over 30 years of experience in open pit and underground mining including permitting, construction, operation and senior management. His experience includes manager - underground division at Barrick Goldstrike, COO for De Beers' Canadian mining operations, CEO for Crocodile Gold, COO for Dominion Diamond Corporation and now COO with Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC). Originally from Chicoutimi in Northern Quebec, he has worked in Quebec, Nevada, Australia, Northwest Territories and now in Labrador/Newfoundland.  He has a deep understanding of remote, northern operating conditions and their inherent physical and social challenges. He was involved in the construction of the Louvicourt Mine, Snap Lake and Victor diamond Mines including the early permitting stage of the Gahcho Kue Mine and, the expansion of the Meikle Mine and Ekati Mine. He is a professional mining engineer, holding a bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering from Université Laval, Quebec.