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.
In 1961, while prospecting for a syndicate funded by Fred Jowsey of Denison Mine fame, Walter Baker discovered a 3,000 foot long gold bearing shear west of the Williams Claim that hosted a small gold resource formerly drilled by Teck Hughes.
He would go down in mining history as the old Kirkland Lake prospector who first suggested to Donald McKinnon that claims around the CPR whistle-stop of Hemlo might be worth looking into. Mr. McKinnon did look at those claims in northwestern Ontario and they are now the site of three of Canada’s major gold mines and many in the mining industry, might consider this prospector of wide repute as the “godfather” of the Hemlo mining camp.
Born in 1904 on the east side of Lake Winnipeg in the small village of Manigotogan, Manitoba, Walter Baker began prospecting at the age of nineteen in the Rice Lake Greenstone Belt.
He joined the San Antonio Gold Mine exploration staff in his early twenty’s and prospected almost every summer for that company focusing on virtually all of the remote greenstone belts extending through northwestern Ontario and northeastern Manitoba up until 1950. That year, he accepted a prospecting position for Teck Hughes and for the next nine years worked for that company using Kirkland Lake as a base.
During his tenure with Teck, Mr. Baker discovered a large copper-rich mineral system in the Grippe Lake northeast of Lake Nipigon in 1956. This discovery sparked one of the largest staking rushes ever witnessed in northwestern Ontario. Other new discoveries were made by Mr. Baker in the Batty Lake area east of Elliot Lake, the Temagami District, Ontario and in Fancamp Township, southwest of the town of Chibougamau, Quebec.
In 1963, Mr. Baker and his brother-in-law George “Shorty” Moore, flew into Lac des Iles, 85 kms. northwest of Thunder Bay and began prospecting the ultramafic rocks for base metals. A short distance south from the lake, they discovered significant concentrations of palladium and platinum with copper and nickel credits. Over the next few seasons discovered eight large mineral-bearing zones.
The discovery would contain one of the largest open-pit, bulk mineable palladium reserves in the world. The Lac des Iles deposit, owned by North American Palladium Ltd. began open-pit mining operations in 1993. The underground mine at Lac des Iles achieved commercial production in 2006.
In March 2005, the Northwestern Ontario Prospector Association awarded Mr. Baker a Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in the discovery of both Hemlo and the Lac des Isles Pd-Pt-Cu-Ni deposit. His tremendous impact on the mining industry of northwestern Ontario has been little known outside the region.