Canadian Mining Hall of Fame names Class of 2016

Stewart L. BlussonStewart L. Blusson

The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame will induct mining-industry leaders Stewart L. Blusson, J. Keith Brimacombe, Robert M. Friedland, Louis Gignac and Harold (Hank) Williams at its twenty-eighth annual induction ceremony and dinner on Jan. 14, 2016, at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto.

The Northern Miner is a co-founding sponsor of the Hall of Fame, along with the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada. For more information and tickets to the event, please visit

Stewart L. Blusson
(b. 1938)

Few events in mining history have generated as much excitement or public attention as the Lac de Gras diamond discoveries in Canada’s North during the early 1990s. Stewart (Stu) Blusson was an intellectual catalyst for this transformative event, which led to the development of Ekati, Canada’s first diamond mine, and other significant discoveries. Along with fellow Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inductees Charles Fipke and Hugo Dummett, Blusson advanced the science of diamond exploration and laid the foundation for Canada to become the world’s third-largest producer (by value) of high-quality diamonds. Blusson also contributed to science and society as one of the most generous and farsighted philanthropists in Canadian history.

Born in Vancouver, Blusson earned a BSc degree from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1960, and a doctorate in geology at the University of California, Berkley, in 1964. He spent the next 16 years with the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC), leading regional mapping and research programs in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. In 1981, he left the GSC to explore for diamonds, ignoring conventional wisdom that such efforts often failed.

Financing the quest became a challenge after Falconbridge and Superior Oil withdrew initial funding. Blusson found cost-effective ways to keep searching the Northwest Territories, including flying fixed-wing planes and helicopters for sampling programs. He also studied high-altitude aerial photos and sampled areas of glacial movement. In the stream-deficient Slave craton, Blusson focused on mounds of sand and gravel caused by subglacial rivers called “eskers,” and rebuilt sample sites where esker stream tributaries came together, and where modern beaches gave access to small float planes and concentrated heavy minerals in meltwater sands a second time. He reasoned that if diamond indicator minerals were not found in a sizable esker catchment area, crews could proceed to a similar target many miles away. By using these methods, Blusson and Fipke sampled 850 km from the Mackenzie Valley eastward to Lac de Gras.

In 1985, Fipke sampled one of Blusson’s designated targets, but the contents weren’t processed until 1988, because of a lack of funds. The key sample yielded more than 10,000 diamond indicator grains, with large quantities of G10 garnets and two diamonds. The partners took their exciting results to Dummett, a BHP Minerals executive and former manager of the Falconbridge/Superior Oil diamond hunt.

BHP developed the Ekati mine, which officially opened in 1998. In 2013, Dominion Diamond Corp. acquired BHP’s   88.9% interest in Ekati and 65.3% interest in the Buffer zone surrounding the mine. Blusson holds an 11.1% stake in Ekati, while his public company Archon Minerals holds 34.7% of the Buffer zone.

As a philanthropist Blusson has made generous donations, which combined with matching government grants total $468.5 million. The beneficiaries include UBC ($250 million), Simon Fraser University ($60 million) and Quest University Canada ($100 million), Canada’s first private, secular, not-for-profit university.

Blusson was appointed as an officer of the Order of Canada in 2004. He was also awarded the Logan Medal, the Geological Association of Canada’s highest honour, and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

J. Keith Brimacombe

Major advances in metallurgical engineering and metals processing can be traced to the intellectual prowess of a few giants, and Keith Brimacombe is unquestionably one of them. As a researcher, he pioneered the application of computerized mathematical modelling to analyze and design processes to extract metals from their ores and convert them into useful products. His efforts led to metallurgical processes and processing advancements that helped the materials industry lower costs, make new products and improve productivity and quality control.

Brimacombe was a strong advocate of cooperation between universities and industry, and his vision helped make Canada a leader in value-added metals processing. As an educator and lecturer, he inspired a generation of professionals who embraced the materials revolution, and managed the technological change that sustained it.

Brimacombe was born in Nova Scotia and raised in Alberta, and earned a BASc degree in metallurgical engineering from UBC in 1966. He returned to UBC as an assistant professor in 1970, after completing his doctorate at Imperial College in London, England. He became a full professor in 1979.

At UBC, Brimacombe established a research program that combined mathematical modelling with pilot-plant measurements and testing metals and material processes in-plant, with remarkable success. Using computers and information technology, his research roamed the broad flowsheets of metal production and shed light on complex metallurgical processes spanning both ferrous and non-ferrous industries.

Brimacombe became a world leader in the field of continuous casting. His innovative research, initiated in the early 1970s, improved the design and energy-efficiency of continuous-casting machines and the quality of metal produced. His work has been applied in steel plants in North America and abroad. In 1975, he collaborated on developing a process for roasting molybdenite to produce molybdenum oxide, used as an alloy for steel.

Brimacombe developed methods to enhance the productivity and lower the operating costs of Pierce-Smith convertors used worldwide to convert copper/iron sulphide to copper. Other achievements include improvements to reducing metal oxides from slags to recover metal values such as zinc, optimizing the operation of rotary kilns used globally for many purposes and developing remedial measures for direct-chill casting zinc, which improved cast quality.

Brimacombe’s dream of building a world-class research facility came true when the $21-million Advanced Materials and Process Engineering Laboratory opened at UBC in 1995. In 1997, he became the founding CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which funds Canadian science and engineering research. He also advanced industry knowledge by publishing research papers, lecturing in Canada and around the world and taking part in numerous industry associations.

Brimacombe received global recognition for his pioneering efforts and achievements, which, in addition to serving as an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, included the Canada Gold Medal in Science and Engineering.

Robert M. Friedland
(b. 1950)

Robert Friedland has been a dynamic, transformative force in the Canadian and international mining industries for more than 25 years. The entrepreneur, financier and company-maker is one of the most recognized mining personalities and achievers in the world.

With his leadership, executives a
nd companies affiliated with his Ivanhoe Capital Corp. have raised more than US$10 billion on world capital markets to advance natural resource exploration and development projects and leading-edge exploration and communications technologies in more than 30 nations.

In Canada, Friedland cofounded Diamond Fields Resources in 1992 and became co-chairman in 1994, handling financing after a hunt for diamonds and base metals by contracted geologists discovered nickel and copper at Voisey’s Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Encouraged by Friedland’s “stake-to-the-horizon” mantra, and his capacity to secure investment commitments, Diamond Fields’ intensive exploration left little for the rush of latecomers. Inco won the big-league bidding orchestrated by Friedland, paid $4.3 billion for the Voisey’s Bay discoveries in 1996 and began production in 2005.

Chicago-born Friedland graduated with a political science degree from Reed College, Ore., in 1974. Flashlight inspection of an abandoned drift at the inactive Warner gold mine on Oregon timberland from an investment partnership with college pal (and Apple cofounder) Steve Jobs provided the first glint of Friedland’s mining destiny in 1978. He found only fool’s gold (pyrite), but it sparked an innate curiosity and lifelong desire to understand earth’s mineral riches.

Distinguished B.C. geologist and mine-finder Victor Hollister became his first mining mentor when Friedland entered Vancouver’s frenetic junior mining scene in 1980.

Warner was a founding asset in Galactic Resources, with an early 1980s listing debut on the VSE and TSX. Galactic’s ill-fated and regretted Summitville gold mine in Colorado imprinted Friedland with respect for fulfilling environmental obligations, and, he adds, made him wary of tactics by governmental agencies.

Friedland founded and financed Fairbanks Gold, whose Fort Knox discovery was sold to Amax Gold (now Kinross) for US$152 million in 1992, and remains Alaska’s largest gold mine.

Holding U.S. and Canadian citizenships, Friedland made Singapore home base for Ivanhoe Capital and assembled Asia Pacific projects in Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines, a flagship launched in Toronto in 1996.

Ivanhoe Mines explored its Oyu Tolgoi prospect in Mongolia in 2000, which revealed a 12 km chain of copper-gold-silver deposits that today ranks among the world’s biggest mineral discoveries. Rio Tinto acquired majority control of Oyu Tolgoi in 2012 and began open-pit production in 2013 — and plans a giant underground mine.

Also in 2000, Friedland’s African Minerals explored Sub-Saharan Africa, adopting the name “Ivanhoe Mines” in 2013. In 2014, construction began for a mechanized, underground mine on the site of a major discovery of platinum-group elements, nickel, copper and gold on South Africa’s Platreef. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivanhoe’s 2009 Kamoa copper discovery — the DRC’s largest in a century — is recognized as the world’s largest undeveloped high-grade copper deposit.

Friedland’s industry recognitions include Canada’s Developer of the Year (1996) and Northern  Miner Mining Person of the Year (2006); Australia’s Dealmaker of the Year (2011); and Hong Kong’s inaugural Mining Personality of the Year (2012).

Louis Gignac
(b. 1950)

Louis Gignac contributed to the stature of Canada’s mining industry during his exemplary career as a company builder, mine operator and developer, and advocate of the industry’s best practices. He is known for building Quebec-based Cambior into an intermediate gold producer and mentoring a new generation of mining talent. Louis Gignac has developed and operated more than 20 domestic and international mines since the 1980s, and applies his expertise to mine development projects managed by his independent consulting firm, G Mining Services Inc.

Born in Sherbrooke, Que., Gignac holds a degree in mining engineering from Laval University (1973), a master’s degree in mineral engineering from the University of Minnesota (1974) and a doctor of engineering degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla (1979).

In 1986, Gignac was appointed CEO of Cambior with a mandate to privatize mining assets held by SOQUEM, a Quebec government corporation. He led Cambior through a $157.5-million initial public offering and the acquisition of SOQUEM’s mining assets.

Next, Gignac focused on building an operating company. The 1987 acquisitions of Aiguebelle Resources and Sullivan Mines marked the start of a journey that saw Cambior’s gold production grow from 52,000 oz. to 694,100 oz. in 2004. Cambior produced 9.2 million oz. gold over 20 years period while reliably making niobium for the steel industry.

In 1992, Cambior developed the Omai mine in Guyana, a partnership with Golden Star Resources. Omai became one of South America’s largest gold mines, with 3.8 million oz. produced in 12 years. In 1995, a tailings spill forced Omai’s closure. Gignac flew to the site to implement corrective measures that helped Omai reopen with a tailings pond half a year later. His competence and accountability during this time helped Cambior keep its reputation as a reliable and responsible operator.

In 1999, Cambior came under pressure caused by declining gold prices and the inability to renew forward sales commitments. In response, Gignac sold base metal assets, restructured its balance sheet and refocused its operating plan. Cambior pushed ahead with building the $100-million Rosebel gold mine in Suriname in late 2002, and initiated commercial production 15 months later. Rosebel has produced 3.9 million oz. gold.

After 20 years, Cambior merged with Iamgold in 2006. The transaction valued Cambior at US$1.3 billion, and the merged entity at US$3 billion.

Louis Gignac has been a teacher and a mentor throughout his career. He is committed to give learning opportunities to individuals through job challenges. Many former Cambior employees pursued careers in senior positions in Canada and internationally, in a testament to Gignac’s ability to develop minds, as well as mines.

Among other honours, Louis Gignac received the Viola MacMillan Award for Mine Development in 1992, was named The Northern Miner’s “Mining Man of the Year” in 1994 and received a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Université de Montréal in 1998.

Harold (Hank) Williams

The island of Newfoundland inspired Harold (Hank) Williams during his fruitful years with the GSC and prolific career at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s. A GSC mapping program on the island led to his seminal 1964 paper, The Appalachians in Northeastern Newfoundland: A Two-Sided Symmetrical System, which advanced the ground-breaking concept of plate tectonics for the first time. His landmark paper and 1967 geological compilation map of Newfoundland represented the first on-land syntheses of an orogenic belt in a tectonic framework.

Williams continued his work at Memorial to international acclaim. One of his greatest achievements was synthesizing the Appalachian mountain chain from Alabama to Newfoundland, which interpreted terrane divisions across the Atlantic. The implications for mineral exploration were exciting, and plate tectonics, once hotly debated, became widely accepted around the world.

Born and raised on the Rock, Williams was in the right place for his life’s work, with the island considered to have some of the best preserved tectonic elements than
any other part of the Appalachian chain. He was a stellar student at Memorial University, where he obtained a diploma in engineering and a BSc in geology in 1956, followed by a MSc degree in 1958. Williams joined the Appalachian section of the GSC after earning his PhD from the University of Toronto in 1961. He became known as an expert decoder of complex geology and as a meticulous mapmaker, with a prodigious ability to integrate and synthesize data. He was also a visionary thinker, as reflected in his influential paper published by the American Journal of Science in 1964. This much cited paper and his 1967 Newfoundland map were keystones to J. Tuzo Wilson’s recognition of the concept of an opening and closing proto-Atlantic (Iapetus) Ocean.

Williams returned to Memorial as an associate professor in 1968, and became a professor in 1971. In 1978, he produced a tectonic map of the entire North American Appalachian chain entitled “Tectonic lithofacies map of the Appalachian orogen.” It was a gargantuan feat and a best seller, with 10,000 copies sold worldwide. The map provided a regional framework for geologists to focus their search for specific types of deposits, which led to discoveries such as the Duck Pond mine in central Newfoundland. It was also used to understand the relationships between various terranes in the Appalachians and their equivalents across the Atlantic Ocean.

Williams helped establish plate tectonics as a unifying theory for the drift of continents, the evolution of mountain belts and the formation of related mineral deposit types. He also inspired a generation of geologists and helped establish Memorial as a leader in earth science research.

Williams became one of the youngest fellows of the Royal Society of Canada in 1972, and received many other awards, including the Logan Medal of the Geological Association of Canada.



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