1982 PDAC Prospector of the Year Award Winners – David R. Bell, John P. Larche and Donald McKinnon

The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) represents the interests of the Canadian mineral exploration and development industry. The association was established in 1932 in response to a proposed government regulation that threatened the livelihood of Ontario prospectors. The William (Bill) W. Dennis Prospector of the Year Award is presented to individuals or groups who have made a significant mineral discovery, offered noteworthy contributions to the PDAC, or have been involved in some important service or technological invention or innovation that helped improve the Canadian prospecting and exploration industry. 

The world-class Hemlo deposit was the major gold discovery in Canada during the 1980s and is still responsible for a significant portion of Ontario’s gold production. The three individuals who were responsible for discovering one of the country’s richest gold camps were Don McKinnon, John Larche and David Bell.

John Larche first became involved in mining and exploration in 1943, when he worked on diamond drills and underground at the Preston East Dome Mine. In 1955, Larche became an independent prospector and mining exploration contractor. He has concentrated his prospecting in Ontario and Quebec with some work in Manitoba, Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories.

Larche has been involved in a number of staking rushes, including Mattagami in the 1950s, Kidd Township in the 1960s – he staked the Windfall claims – and Hemlo.

Until 1964, Don McKinnon had only dabbled in prospecting. That year, along with John Larche and Fred Rousseau, they staked and sold the Windfall property and he has worked in prospecting ever since.

Since then McKinnon has explored the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Maine, Gaspe, New Brunswick, Ungava, Ellesmere Island, southern Manitoba and various parts of northern Ontario. It was the studying of old exploration data, that encouraged him to stake an old drilled prospect near Hemlo, Ontario in December, 1979.

David Bell’s interest in mining and prospecting began at an early age with his father Thomas Bell, a railway agent for the Ontario Northland Railway, and prospectors such as Jack Costello and Charles Yule in the Larder Lake area. After graduating with a B.Sc. in geology from Carleton University, Bell worked as an underground miner for Falconbridge Nickel Mines Ltd., before becoming an underground geologist with the company. In 1980, Bell formed David R. Bell Geological Services and due to his expertise was engaged to explore the promise of the Hemlo area.

The discovery of the Hemlo gold camp was the highlight of their respective careers and made millionaires out of each. The three operating gold mines, David Bell, Golden Giant and Williams have created thousands of jobs and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the Ontario economy.