Since 1915, the Northern Miner weekly newspaper has chronicled Canada’s globally significant mining sector.
The fact that 45-year old C. Henry Brehaut, new president of Dome Mines chose to do laboring jobs underground following graduation as a mining engineer, was somehow characteristic of the enthusiasm and drive that years later would make him the man most responsible for bring into production Canada’s newest and biggest gold mine.
This new mine, of course, is Detour Lake in Northeastern Ontario, which under Mr. Brehaut’s over-all guidance and direction as vice-president operations for the Dome Group, was brought on stream a full two months ahead of schedule and $8 million below the $139 million budgeted for that huge and very impressive project. This is precisely why we have chosen him our MINING MAN OF THE YEAR.
For partners Campbell Red Lake Mines, the operator and of which Mr. Brehaut is also the new president, and Amoco Canada Petroleum Co., the Detour Mine is expected to turn out 100,000 oz. gold per year for the next two to three years, rising to 200,000 oz. per year by 1988. Ore reserves currently stand at 30.6 million tons, grading 0.113 oz. gold to a depth of 1,800 ft., but Mr. Brehaut is confident this figure could double in future years, with the greatest additional reserve potential coming from continuation of the orebody at depth.
Also indicative of the kind of gung-ho, well organized spirit that impels the new Dome president is the fact, too, that while Detour has been stealing the spotlight in Dome Group activities in recent months, another big multi-million Dome project has also been forging ahead at a rapid pace, again under his direction.
This is the $92,000,000 expansion program at the company’s famous “Big Dome” mine at Timmins, which has quietly but surely been establishing its own kind of construction record. Originally intended to have been completed by December of next year (and it includes such major undertakings as a new 5,550-ft. shaft) the entire Dome mine program will now be completed by next May, a remarkable seven months ahead of schedule.
Detour Lake project manager Ken Hill, who has worked closely with Mr. Brehaut on that job pretty well right from the start, offers a clue to one the new president’s major talents for getting things done:
“He has great ability to talk to and communicate with people at all levels, whether they be construction men, consultants, suppliers or government people. He can sense a problem, solve it, and keep things running on an even keel”
A tall, slim man with an easy smile, Mr. Brehaut would nevertheless be first and the most vehement to disclaim sole responsibility for the Detour and Dome accomplishments. He put it very succinctly while attending the official opening in mid-November at the Detour lake mine: “Everybody worked,” he said, recognizing with that phrase that the Detour project, like the Dome expansion, is the product of many minds and many hands, all working together.
As the old phrase has it, Mr. Brehaut comes honestly by his interest and professionalism in mining. Born at Copper Mountain, B.C. where his father Cecil was a mining engineer, the younger Brehaut spent most of his early years in mining camps, all the way from Copper Mountain to a gold mine in Nova Scotia and an asbestos mine in Quebec. An uncle, too (his father’s brother) was also a mining engineer and a long-time employee at Sherritt Gordon Mines.
Henry Brehaut took his engineering degree at Queen’s University, alumnus of many another distinguished mining man in Canada, but instead of going directly and immediately into a professional slot within the industry, he joined the Geco mine at Manitouwadge as a general laborer. He did this he says, because he wanted to get a kind of grass roots feel for, and experience in the industry. Nor was it just a token gesture, because he stayed on, underground, for about a year, and followed that up with another year at the same mine working as a junior planning engineer.
Then, with an eye on the main chance of broadening his skills to fit management needs down the line, he took an MBA course at the University of British Columbia, which he completed in 1963.
From there, it was a steady progression of work experience for Mr. Brehaut, at some of Canada’s biggest and most progressive mining organizations.
Just before joining Dome Mines in 1978, for instance, he was manager, mine evaluation and development at Noranda Mines, and during three years with Noranda directed preparation of feasibility studies leading to development of two new producing mines – Les Mines Gallena, a small zinc producer (now shutdown), and the Goldstream copper mine at Revelstoke, B. C., just now coming into production.
He was also with Falconbridge Limited for about eight years prior to joining Noranda, and in that time was very much involved in such major projects as the massive new ferronickel complex of Falconbridge Dominicana C. por A., in the Dominican Republic.
As assistant from 1971 to 1975 to Falconbridge’s then-president, Marsh A. Cooper, Mr. Brehaut as he says enjoyed a view from the top which added considerably to his store of knowledge and practical experience in virtually all areas of a major mining organization.
Now, in his new position, he will preside over a company that next year expects to produce over 434,000 oz. gold (from the Group companies and from Detour Lake) and that he believes will remain the country’s No. 1 gold producer for some time to come. He says in fact that being No.1 is not a status the he is particularly worried about maintaining, acknowledging that the emergence of the big Hemlo gold camp could certainly change such equations.
Mr. Brehaut emphasizes that Dome has been around for just short of 75 years, and that it’s been a long and profitable history. He looks forward to celebrating 1984 as the year of the company’s 75th anniversary. It’s a landmark that will be principally heralded by ceremonies at Dome Mines also marking completion in that year if the mine’s big expansion program.
Dome in any case doesn’t intend to rest on it laurels. Next year, for instance, the company plans to spend approximately $10 million on exploration, of which about 50% will be focused on Ontario. “And there’ll be a high percentage of that budget gong into exploration work in Quebec,” Mr. Brehaut says.
Also in 1984, he adds, $5.5 million underground program has been approved for the Musselwhite gold project at Opapimiskan Lake in Northwestern Ontario. Dome, as operator, has 35% interest in this project, (Lacana Mining, 17%, and Inco Limited and Imperial Oil 24% each). It has drill indicated reserves of around 3.2 million tons at a cut grade of 0.169 oz.
Commenting on the prospect of Dome diversifying down the road from its long-standing love affair with gold, Mr. Brehaut sys the prime focus of the company will likely stay that way.
“Definitely the projects we understand best are in gold,” he says, “but nevertheless we’ll be looking further afield for other metals, and in fact we’ll be possibly looking for other kinds of profitable opportunities.
Meantime, the Dome president remains “very definitely” bullish on gold despite its current price slide. “We’re exposed on the down side in the short term,” he says, “but in the long term we do expect to see higher gold price.”
He sees very few clouds on Dome’s horizon. Especially with the completion of the Dome mine expansion in mid-1984, the company will be in “very good shape to weather future storms.”
All is not work and no play for Mr. Brehaut. He and his wife have two teen-age boys both of whom keep their father active at west-end Toronto hockey rinks and soccer pitches. He coached hockey teams himself, for a time.
It’s not too surprising that in 1982, Mr. Brehaut was the recipient of the Past President’s Award of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, citing “recognition of the stature he gained in the mining industry at an early age, and for contribution to the work of the metal mining divisions of the Institute.”