The 27th annual induction ceremony of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame held at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in mid-January featured three eminent and serially successful geologists from Western and Eastern Canada, plus one of the most astute company builders of his generation.
For the fourteenth year, gold mogul Pierre Lassonde served as master of ceremonies for the evening’s four inductees: Peter M.D. Bradshaw, Ronald Netolitzky, Mackenzie Iles Watson and Ian Telfer.
The evening’s first inductee was Peter M.D. Bradshaw, whose many achievements in the mining industry include the discovery of the high-grade Zone VII at Porgera in Papua New Guinea. Porgera went on to become a world-class mine and produce more than 18 million oz. gold.
Bradshaw also helped form Orvana Minerals in 1987, and during his eight years at the company was responsible for exploration and related activities. It was during this time that Orvana optioned and advanced the Don Mario gold-silver-copper deposit in Bolivia. In order to finance construction, Orvana sold half of the project to a third party, which put the mine into production, and established Orvana as an exploration company.
Bradshaw later co-founded First Point Minerals, where as president he helped discover and identify the commercial importance of a new type of nickel deposit in B.C. and the Yukon (in which nickel occurs as the nickel-iron alloy, awaruite).
In 1989, he co-founded the Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU) at the University of British Columbia. MDRU — a research collaboration between industry and academia—is recognized as a centre of excellence in mineral deposit research and training.
In a video presentation before his induction, Bradshaw said he “always had a hankering to explore,” and that geology was a profession “where you’d never know everything … you’d only ever know a fraction of it — so it was something you could enjoy for the rest of your life.”
He also noted that exploration is “really something very special, and an awful lot of people don’t get a chance to do it.
“I’ve often thought: ‘Gee whiz, someone has paid me to come out here and look at this,’” he continued. “We can literally go where people virtually never go.”
Bradshaw graduated from Carleton University with a BSc in geology in 1962 and got his doctorate in economic geology at Durham University in England in 1965.
He spent the first decade of his career at Barringer Research, where he developed a global perspective on mineral exploration and the opportunity to develop and publish details of ground-breaking geochemical processes and exploration methods.
In 1979, he joined Placer Development, a predecessor of Placer Dome, where he helped advance several projects, including Porgera, which was about to be abandoned after a failed feasibility study. Bradshaw was convinced that the bulk-tonnage deposit had the potential for a high-grade zone, however, and launched a low-cost exploration program.
In the video presentation, Bradshaw recalled that “there really wasn’t much enthusiasm to do any further work” at Porgera, “but you know what happens when you work on a property: If you think it’s a mine, you focus on making that into a mine … I phoned up our two partners and said: ‘Guys, we’re putting up this program because we’re optimists — are you in or out?’”
Bradshaw’s convictions resulted in a drill hole that returned extremely high-grade assay results, and the discovery of Zone VII.
“It was super exciting,” he recalled in the video presentation, “but it was really, really tempered by: ‘How can we manage it properly?’ Once we had those results, the financial floodgates opened and everyone said: ‘Oh yeah, of course we knew that all the time. Wasn’t that fantastic!”
While Bradshaw was at Placer (1979–87), he also worked with the government of Papua New Guinea at the Misima gold mine to adopt a marine tailings disposal system instead of building a tailings dam on the seismically active island. In addition, he oversaw aspects of the final feasibility study of the Kidston gold mine in Australia and optioned Granny Smith in Australia, and Omai in Guyana, both of which became producers.
In his acceptance speech, Bradshaw joked that he wished his old headmaster was at the award ceremony, because: “this isn’t where he thought I’d end up!”
He paid tribute to his wife of 48 years and the mother of their six children, Maggie, who he described as having “by far the biggest impact on my life,” and thanked her for all the support she had given him over his career.
“While I was tripping around the world enjoying myself, Maggie had the lion’s share of bringing up the kids — both the good and the bad and, occasionally, the ugly,” he said. “One thing I’ll say is, and many of the spouses in the room tonight will relate to this: Whenever there was a disaster, or a calamity, or something that needed to be done urgently, I was totally out of communication, and Maggie had to deal with it.”
Bradshaw also thanked three key mentors in his life:
Duncan Derry, an eminent economic geologist known internationally for his contributions to mineral exploration on nearly every continent (“He gave me an introduction to geology, a career which has suited me very well, and he was of course a giant in our industry.”);
Tony Barringer, known for his invention of an airborne electromagnetic system called the Induced Pulse Transient electromagnetic system, among other technologies, and who set up Barringer Research in 1961. (“For Tony there were no boundaries: geology, chemistry, physics, electronics, avionics, fabrication — were all just one big area with no boundaries.”);
And Joe Adie, former vice president of exploration at Placer, who put Bradshaw in charge of the company’s exploration for all of Austral-Asia (“When he told me the first project was in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, and they only gave me a one-way ticket, I was a little suspicious,” Bradshaw joked. “But Joe was a great mentor, and taught me a lot.”)
Lassonde described the next inductee, Ronald Netolitzky, as “one of the greatest geologists of his generation,” best known for his instrumental role in finding and developing the Snip and Eskay Creek properties in northwest B.C., which became two of Canada’s most high-grade precious metal mines in the early 1990s.
“I have to acknowledge all my friends and associates in this industry and my peer group who made this award to me possible,” Netolitzky said as he took to the podium. “I appreciate it and I would love to accept it on behalf of everybody who’s an exploration geologist and a dreamer.”
Looking out at the world, he said, “I believe in a certain number of things in this industry. I’m a total fatalist, and I believe in luck. It has such strength, it almost overrules common sense and science.”
Netolitzky graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc in geology in 1964 and an MSc from the University of Calgary in 1967. He gave thanks to his professors and teaching assistants at these two institutions for training him in geology and helping him get his first field job in Saskatchewan, which led to him learning how to live in the wild.
“We were very lucky. It was a down cycle and there were only five people in my class at U of A, and we had more professors than that. So we got overeducated, and they knew if we were missing … we were in the beer parlour.”
Starting out his professional life as a consultant in the Saskatchewan uranium rush, Netolitzky ventured into junior mining after uranium prices crashed. By 1985, he was president of Delaware Resources, which optioned the Snip property in northern B.C. from Cominco. The first drill program there led to a gold discovery, but difficult market conditions after 1987 led to Delaware being taken over by Murray Pezim, and renamed Prime Resources.
Netolitzky turned his attention to a nearby prospect named Eskay Creek that had been explored with little success since the 1930s. He invested in Consolidated Stikine Resources, which had rights to Eskay Creek, and teamed with shell company Calpine Resources to fund a initial $900,000 drill program with money from Prime and Pezim.
Results were spectacular, but interest was muted by the deposit’s unusual nature and weak capital markets. Pezim gained control of Calpine and half the deposit, but Stikine held out until International Corona took over Stikine at $67 per share. Netolitzky was Stikine’s technical person and one of five controlling shareholders.
Netolitzky then headed into even more remote territory above the Arctic Circle in the Yukon, as president of Loki Gold, where he transformed the Brewery Creek project into an open-pit heap-leach operation, with first gold poured in 1996. By then he had merged Loki with Baja Mining and Viceroy Gold to create a 200,000 oz. gold a year producer that went on to buy the Gualcamayo gold project in Argentina, later sold to Yamana Gold.
And that’s by no means the end of it: At Spectrum Gold, he obtained rights to the Galore Creek copper-gold-silver project in B.C. and later merged the company with NovaGold Resources; he was chairman of Brett Resources, which acquired the Hammond Reef gold project in Ontario, later sold to Osisko Mining; at Oliver Gold, he helped acquire the Segala gold deposit in Mali, now held by Endeavour Mining; and Oliver morphed into Canico Resources, which developed the Onca-Puma nickel deposit in Brazil.
Netolitzky already received the Bill Dennis Prospector of the Year Award in 1990 and the E.A. Scholz Award in 1996 for his discovery and development achievements.
Netolitzky stressed that “we were fortunate when I started in this industry, it was a wide open game. We went anywhere, we never had a piece of paper, never asked anybody anything. We just walked out there anywhere, in the middle of nowhere and did our things, and explored and we had fun, and tried to find things. And, hopefully, most of us tried to be sensible in caring about what we did and the environment, and not make any messes.
“I feel sorry for the youth of this day, because of the bureaucracy and red tape that they run through, and the amount of time to do even the most basic exploration is getting extremely difficult. I hope in our industry we will go back better, or more rational times.”
Born in Howick, Que., Mackenzie Iles Watson, or simply “Mack,” earned a bachelor of science in geology from the University of New Brunswick in 1959 and decided early on to search for mines close to home.
“Many years ago, I decided there was no point running all over the world looking for a deposit when you’ve got some of the best geology in the world right in your backyard, so concentrate on eastern Canada and that’s what I did,” he said in a video presentation before his induction.
The strategy brought much success with Watson going on to play a part in many discoveries during his 50-year career, including the Holloway gold mine, near Timmins, Ont., the Black Thor and Black Label chromite deposits in Ontario’s Ring of Fire and the Strange Lake rare earth deposit in Quebec.
That success has been recognized with many industry awards, including the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada’s Bill Dennis award, which is given for prospecting success or a Canadian discovery. In fact, Watson is the first person to have ever won the Bill Dennis award twice — in 1991 for several discoveries, and again in 2009 as part of a team that found the Ring of Fire chromite deposits.
Watson’s early discoveries included the Icon Sullivan copper mine near Chibougamau, Que., the Long Lake zinc mine in Ontario, the Hebecourt massive sulphide deposit and the Ellison gold deposit in Quebec.
In the 1980s, Watson served as a technical advisor to Q-Vest, which raised $60 million to invest in junior miners. He then became president of Freewest Resources which discovered the Holloway gold mine with Hemlo Gold Mines. As Holloway neared production in the 1990s, Freewest was acquired by Hemlo,
The junior’s successor, Freewest Resources Canada, went on to make more discoveries: the Clarence Stream sediment-hosted gold deposit in New Brunswick and the Ring of Fire chromite deposits, and was itself acquired by Cliffs in 2009.
Freewest spinoff company, Quest Uranium, was responsible for yet another discovery: the Strange Lake rare earth deposit in Quebec.
An avid trout fisherman with a love of the outdoors, Watson has applied new exploration methods and geological concepts to prospects throughout his 50-year career. That spirit of openness has aided in discovery in the Ring of Fire, for example, where Freewest was the first to conduct gravity surveys.
Watson’s down-to-earth, convivial personality and the respect he’s always shown to prospectors have also been factors in his success.
“Word gets around that you are fair if you give them a good deal on their property. That word gets around, and other people will come to you — other prospectors will come to you,” he said.
He is also a big supporter of his alma mater, contributing to student scholarships and bursaries and to the purchase of lab equipment and analytical instrumentation at the University of New Brunswick.
Stepping up to the podium to accept the award to the tune of “Mack the Knife,” Watson mostly used his speech time to tell stories about colourful characters and amusing situations from his years in the business, rather than relive or reflect on his achievements. Those stories included one about the time it was too cold in a drill camp in Manitoba in the winter for the bread to rise, so the camp cook — who had not showered for three weeks — took the dough into his sleeping bag with him one night.
“The next morning, he had a nice loaf of bread,” Watson said, pausing for effect. “I didn’t try it.”
But he also took the time to thank a long list of people, including his mentors; UNB and the professors who taught him there; Don Hoy, his long-time colleague at Freewest; and his wife Rena. He also thanked the talented prospectors he’s worked with over the years, who “had that optimism and that special ingredient of making discoveries,” and his financiers over the years, because “without money, you’re dead in the water.”
The fourth inductee of the evening — mining entrepreneur and financier Ian Telfer — requires little introduction. But Lassonde couldn’t resist the chance to deliver a few more punchlines before the evening’s awards drew to a close.
“I would like tonight to talk about a man who enjoys the success of others, a man who doesn’t have an enemy in the world, a man who has
never said an unkind word about anyone,” Lassonde deadpanned. “It would be so much easier for me tonight if we were celebrating a man like that.
“Failing such a man, we have our own George Clooney of the mining business. Now the word ‘legend’ has been used a lot, so might as well call Ian a legend. It’s not particularly true, but he likes it!”
Born in 1946 in Oxford, England, Telfer was raised in Canada, where he received a BA from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from the University of Ottawa.
In the video presentation, Telfer said of his admission to the MBA program that “it was pretty clear I was the last person accepted into the class and that was the biggest break I ever got in my life.”
Telfer went on to create a scholarship at the school, but insisted that it go to the last student in the class, not the top No. 1 or No. 2, Charles [Chuck] Jeannes, president and CEO of Goldcorp, noted in the video. “Ian felt that’s the person who probably needed it the most.”
Telfer would go on to support the University of Ottawa in 2007 with a $25-million endowment, the largest private donation ever given to a business school in Canadian history.
After a brief stint working as an accountant at Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting, Telfer became a founding partner of TVX Gold in 1983. From there he went on to found a series of companies through acquisitions and mergers. Of the companies he either founded or led, Vengold, Wheaton River Minerals (later merged with Goldcorp), Silver Wheaton, Terrane Minerals and Uranium One were among the most famous.
One of Telfer’s biggest accomplishments was recognizing in 2001 that low gold prices presented a tremendous opportunity to buy gold mines at bargain prices, which he did after acquiring Wheaton River Minerals, a shell company with a dormant mine and just $20 million in cash.
Wheaton River “had nothing else except cash, so we took control of it, put money into it, changed the board and started looking to acquire gold mines,” mining entrepreneur Frank Guistra recalled of those early days at Wheaton River.
“Dealmaking is hard, especially on acquisitions … it’s a tricky, tricky business, and it takes a lot of strategic thinking, and [Ian] had all of that, plus he had the ability to manage the process and manage the businesses, as we grew the company,” Guistra explained in the presentation. “This would absolutely never have happened without Ian.”
Telfer added that when Wheaton River acquired assets, “we were having to pay a premium over what everyone else thought the price of gold was going to be, and convincing people that we weren’t overpaying for assets was the biggest challenge.”
Telfer’s ability to craft deals that opposing sides were happy with was a key attribute, and a big factor in his success.
“I get along with people in the industry,” Telfer said. “It’s a small industry, so you are always aware that any transaction you do, you’re probably going to run into this person in another deal down the road, so you’ll want to keep the terms as fair as possible.”
In 2005 Wheaton River merged with Goldcorp in a friendly $2.4-billion transaction.
As CEO of Goldcorp, Telfer acquired Glamis Gold and the Canadian assets of Placer Dome to become Canada’s second-largest gold producer in terms of market capitalization and later, the world’s largest gold-mining company in terms of market cap.
“I think an important part of Ian’s make-up is that he’s extremely curious and he’s just constantly seeking to know more and to experience more, and I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been so successful,” Jeannes summed up.
Among his other awards, Telfer received AME BC’s Murray Pezim Award for perseverance and success in financing mineral exploration, and Ernst & Young’s 2007 Western Canada Entrepreneur of the year.
A full transcript of Telfer’s acceptance speech can be found at www.northernminer.com and in the Feb. 2–8/15 edition (Vol. 100, No. 51) of our weekly edition.
The Northern Miner is one of four member organizations of the Canadian Mining 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.
To review all the inductees’ biographies, visit www.mininghalloffame.ca.