The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame held its 34th annual induction ceremony on Aug. 18 at the Palais Royale in Toronto, welcoming five new honourees.
This year’s event was historic. Not only did the CMHF induct its 200th member, but the slate of inductees was the most diverse in the history of the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame dating back to its origins in 1989. Three of the five that would be considered diverse include the first Black man to be inducted, the first openly gay person, and the sixth woman.
With attendance of about 380 people, the event was larger than last year’s ceremony, which was capped at 125 due to Covid-19 restrictions and held outdoors, but still modest compared to pre pandemic numbers of well over 1,000 guests. The celebration was co-hosted by The Northern Miner Group’s president, Anthony Vaccaro, and president and CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, Pierre Gratton. Full bios of all the inductees are available here.
Dale Corman: Impeccable timing and a drive to find big deposits
The first inductee of the night was Dale Corman, a geologist that has made many big discoveries, including the San Nicolas deposit in Mexico and the Peñasquito mine, which became the largest gold mine in Mexico.
Corman has also been a successful company builder, serving as president of seven public companies and a director of 25. His focus has been on big deposits, and “he understands what type of deposits work in any type of cycle and his timing is impeccable,” said Sam Lee, president and CEO of NorthIsle Copper and Gold in a video tribute. “He is able to identify when a project should be advanced, when a project should be sold, and when a project should just sit.”
Corman was born in southern Ontario into a farming family who had an orchard business, but decided to study geology. He spent a summer working with the Geological Survey of Canada in B.C. before spending a year studying law at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
“I learned enough law just to be dangerous. It certainly helped me through my career,” he said.
Early experience with black flies in the bush pushed him towards becoming a mining analyst rather than a field geologist. After several years in the investment industry, he joined Harbinson Mining and Oil Group, helping to manage a group of 15 junior companies, and to bring the Sturgeon Lake, Lake George and Cullaton lake mines into production.
In the late 1980s, Corman shifted his focus to large copper and precious metals deposits in Canada and Mexico, including the Carmacks deposit in the Yukon (a JV between his company Thermal Exploration and Western Copper) as well as Peñasquito and San Nicolas (a JV with Teck). Thermal and Western Copper later merged, then eventually became Western Silver and was acquired by Glamis Gold, which bought its Mexican projects for $1.3 billion in 2006.
Reflecting on his 50-year career in his acceptance speech, Corman, who didn’t retire until his mid-80s, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my 50 years in the mining business – it’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun.”
As founder and former chairman and CEO of Western Copper & Gold, Corman has been integral in advancing the company’s Casino copper-gold porphyry project in the Yukon. When he retired from Western Copper just over a year ago, the company made a generous $180,000 donation to a scholarship fund set up in his name and Casino mine to provide financial support to Yukon students pursuing degrees in engineering and science.
“It’s my hope that the scholarship fund will continue to grow over the next few years as Casino is being developed, and the individuals and companies that have benefited from the work, as I have, will consider donating to this worthy cause,” he said.
“There are a lot of very bright young adults in the Yukon who shouldn’t be deprived of a good education due to financial issues.”
Corman plans to continue supporting the mining industry in retirement.
“Over the years, I’ve travelled to many different countries. One thing that I’ve always noticed is that those places that support mining generally thrive and prosper.”
Maureen Jensen: ‘I found my perfect place’
The second inductee of the night was Winnipeg-born Maureen Jensen, a geologist who spent 20 years in the industry before going over to the regulator side, and became the first female Chair of the Ontario Securities Commission. In other words, as Franco-Nevada chair David Harquail said in a video tribute to Jensen, a trailblazer on both sides.
Jensen’s father was a mining engineer who died when she was only eight. In a video tribute, Jensen said her mother, who wanted her to become a doctor, cried for four days when Jensen told her she was going to study geology instead of becoming a doctor.
“She wanted me to have opera and restaurants,” Jensen said, not a life in the bush finding mines.
However, Jansen remarked: “I found my perfect place, I found my perfect life: a combination of science, adventure and business.”
She earned her B.Sc. in geology from the University of Toronto, and worked as a field geologist before becoming VP of exploration and then president and CEO, and later chairman of Noble Peak Resources.
From there, Jensen moved over to the regulators’ side, joining the TSX. As part of the Mining Standards Task Force, she contributed to the creation of National Instrument 43-101 and the ‘qualified person’ concept to earn back the trust of investors in the wake of the Bre-X Minerals scandal in 1997.
She was also instrumental in forming APGO – now PGO or Professional Geoscientists Ontario – a self-regulating body that has now licensed more than 2,000 geoscientists in Ontario.
Jensen joined the OSC in 2011 as executive director and chief administrative officer before being appointed chair and CEO in 2016.
In a video interview Jensen said that throughout her career, she’s picked causes or issues to work on that she thought would make business better.
“I have chosen to get involved in areas where I thought there was a problem that could only be solved by putting smart people together, dissecting the problem, and fixing it piece by piece.”
Jensen, while noting that she doesn’t believe women should be appointed to boards just because they’re women – but that the industry should have “smart, experienced directors who happen to be women” – is also a passionate advocate for diversity in the industry.
“Tonight, I would just like to say one thing and that’s to talk about diversity. We all know that mining has lost a great number of people to other businesses, not just due to the market turndowns, but also not fitting into the mining culture,” she told the audience.
“Women. . . diverse people and anyone who’s different or comes from a different background continue to be noticeably absent from the mining business. Today we are in a war for talent, and it is truly a war, and mining company culture needs to change to include very people-focused leadership, investments in training, active mentorship and sponsorship, and full respect at work policies if we are to attract the brightest and the best.”
Phillip Mackey: Invention and innovation to fuel progress
Phillip John Mackey, an Australian-born metallurgical engineer who moved to Canada as a young man to work at the Noranda Research Centre in Montreal, was the night’s third inductee.
Mackey was instrumental in the development of two copper smelting technologies that have changed the global industry. He co-developed the Noranda Reactor Process, first commercialized at the Horne smelter in the early 1970s; and co-invented the Noranda Converting Process, which was installed at the Horne smelter in the late 1990s and improved its environmental performance.
Both processes transformed how copper is produced worldwide.
According to Michael King, retired senior director of metallurgical technology at Noranda/Falconbridge, the Noranda process was the first continuous process for smelting and converting copper from concentrates. “This uniquely Canadian invention remains today one of the main technologies used by the copper industry around the world.”
In his acceptance speech, Mackey, who after retiring from Xstrata in 2010 formed a company with his wife Angele (P.J. Mackey Technology Inc.) said he wanted to share the honour with her, “recognizing her love and unconditional support throughout our wonderful years together.”
He also acknowledged the role his parents played in encouraging him to choose metallurgy as an area of study and then as a career.
“My father would say the world needs metals,” Mackey said. “I think he was right – and even moreso today with the energy transition.
“A word about the mining industry: We all know that climate change and the need for clean energy and clean air will force us to rethink our ways of doing things. The minerals and metals industry is absolutely crucial for the global energy transition. The Canadian mining industry will see increasing demand for all our products. This is good news for everyone here tonight. But it will require major changes in mining, milling and materials technology for metals to play that vital role.”
Mackey noted that the industry is facing the most challenging times of his entire career — but expressed faith that the industry would rise to the challenge.
“This great country, Canada, a resource rich country, now has the opportunity to be a renewable energy superpower. With the skilled people such as [are] here tonight… and the entire mining industry in Canada, we can achieve new heights in global metals. We have to; we will; we must.”
Peter Risby: An extraordinary life built on small details
Successful Yukon prospector Peter Risby, who optioned more than 80 projects to majors over his career and mentored countless prospectors and geologists, was the night’s only posthumous inductee.
Risby was born in Kansas, but his family fled from Kansas to settle in a Cree community in northern Alberta (Sandy Lake) to avoid harassment — or worse — by the Ku Klux Klan. His father, who worked as a railway porter, was Black and his mother — a white immigrant from Germany – was studying nursing when the two met.
The family’s new community welcomed them, and Risby learned how to hunt, fish, and navigate the bush. Those skills came in handy when he was taken away to residential school at the age of seven. Risby escaped the school in the middle of the night and made his way back home within two days.
Risby was injured serving in the Korean War, but after six months of recovery in a military hospital in Japan, he was discharged and came home. He worked at a mine as a heavy equipment operator and he roomed with a geology student who taught him about rocks and minerals, sparking his interest in prospecting, which he began to do in the late 1950s.
Risby had no formal education; his grandmother and mother taught him how to read (but not write), and he learned to speak Cree fluently, which allowed him to work as a translator for the RCMP as a teenager. However, he was a tenacious explorer, driven to find and discover things.
He worked in South America, the U.S. and northern Canada, optioning dozens of prospects to majors, and forming Welcome North Mines with CMHF inductee Al Kulan, John Brock and Irene Wilson. He was also the first to recognize the placer potential of the Indian River in Yukon, developing a mine there in the early 1980s.
Having grown up in an Indigenous community, Risby wished for greater participation in and inclusion of Indigenous people in the mineral industry. As such he hired and mentored Indigenous people in prospecting and mineral identification and was one of the first to hire women for exploration programs.
While he died in 2011, there are many still working in the industry who had the great fortune to learn from and work with Risby. Mentees and colleagues say he looked for things that nobody else saw, and described him as approachable, kind, and passionate.
He has also received previous recognition for his accomplishments, including being inducted into the Yukon Mining Hall of Fame in the 1990s.
Accepting the award on his behalf, his daughter Tara Risby, who is a director of 7606 Yukon Ltd., which her father started, noted that he saw the importance of small details.
“Small things can have a big impact. It is this notion that helps capture Pete’s incredible life and career,” she told the audience. “He was the little guy. A man from humble beginnings with no formal education. An ordinary man who saw the value in small details,” such as reading every issue of The Northern Miner.
“The mining industry opened Pete up to the world,” she continued. “This small, biracial Black boy, who was hidden in a chicken coop for the first years of his life, travelled the globe doing what he absolutely loved. He lived and breathed the minerals industry.”
Tara Risby, who recalled that her father was negotiating mining agreements in the hospital up until the day he died, noted that his methodologies were instrumental in creating guidelines for the Income Tax Act for placer miners.
Risby also acknowledged the importance of her father being the CMHF’s first Black inductee.
“We are excited to see the impact that this wonderful gesture has on increasing diversity in the mining industry over days to come — something Pete believed in greatly and would be proud of helping to create.”
Robert Quartermain: Mining needs a ‘much larger tent’
Robert Quartermain, a geologist and company builder who built up Silver Standard Resources into a major silver-focused producer and most recently Pretium Resources, was the final inductee of the night. The first openly gay inductee into the CMHF, Quartermain was also the 200th inductee.
Born in St. Stephen, N.B., Quartermain was studying computer science at the University of New Brunswick when an elective in geology changed his path. In his third year, he changed his major to geology. A summer job spent working for the Geological Survey of Canada, 100 km east of Baker Lake in what is now Nunavut, clinched his decision.
After also earning an M.Sc. in geology from Queen’s University, in 1981, he made the “pivotal” career decision to accept a job at Teck as a project geologist. He managed exploration in the Hemlo area of Ontario, drilling off the deposit that would become the first mine in the camp, the David Bell mine.
In 1985, Quartermain was transferred to Vancouver to run Silver Standard Resources.
“At the time it had one other employee, a market cap of $1.8 million, I knew nothing about running public companies — I was a bush geologist — but Teck said they would support me and so they allowed me to flourish at Silver Standard,” Quartermain said in a video presentation.
Quartermain built the company up to be a major silver producer with a $2.5 billion market cap. (Today, the company is SSR Mining with a market cap of $4 billion.)
Quartermain planned to retire in 2010 from Silver Standard, but instead, ended up raising money to buy the Brucejack high-grade gold project in B.C. from the company, forming Pretium Resources. He put together a team that took the project from initial resource in 2012 to commercial production in 2017. Australian miner Newcrest purchased Pretium in March 2022 for $3.4 billion.
Through a video tribute, Ross Beaty — another CMHF inductee and a long-time friend and colleague of Quartermain — said that he has a great reputation: “He works hard, he does what he says he’s going to do, and then gets lucky.”
He also developed an eye for quality assets.
For his part, Quartermain attributes his success to “thousands” of people he’s worked with and learned from in the industry.
“As a geoscientist, the Brucejack mine discovery and development into a long-life legacy asset in B.C. will be the highlight of my career.”
In a video presentation, Quartermain, an advocate for diversity in the sector and particularly Indigenous inclusion, said that he’s strived to create “safe and respectful places for people to come to work.”
In his speech, he also thanked Teck and its chairman emeritus Norman Keevil — then president and CEO — for giving him his big break.
“In 1985, Dr. Keevil transferred me from North Bay to Vancouver to run Silver Standard…. I am forever grateful to you and Teck for that opportunity,” he said to Keevil, who was in the audience.
Quartermain said he was very fortunate to be given that chance “based on my professional competencies,” noting, “that allowed me to manage my destiny.
“At that time in ‘85, one could be terminated from employment for being gay. It was in 1992, Canada changed its human rights laws prohibiting discrimination on sexual orientation. The same year, the World Health Organization determined that sexual orientation was not a mental health disorder. We are fortunate in Canada that we embrace, support and protect diversity.”
Quartermain, who is a founding trustee of the ARC Foundation, which supports and fosters inclusiveness in education, including for students of different sexual and gender orientations, also noted that those rights are not shared in many countries where Canadian mining companies operate.
He ended by calling on the industry to create a “larger tent,” and become more welcoming and inclusive to all:
“To attract the talent that we require to discover and mine the sustainable resources for the world, that will require a much larger tent…to create an inclusive environment where everyone is invited to work and they are respected, valued and empowered as I have been.”
An industry all Canadians can be a part of
In his closing remarks at the end of the evening, co-MC Gratton underlined that the message of diversity and inclusion was one that was heard throughout the evening.
“Tonight’s inductees set a new standard for diversity for the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, one we will hopefully continue to strive for. But to do that, we need as Bob says, to make the industry more diverse,” Gratton said.
“I know it’s a priority to so many of you here tonight and the companies that you work for. If we are to meet the challenges of this century, we have to become an industry that all Canadians feel they can be a part of.”