Obituary: Watts, Griffis and McOuat (WGM’s) Jack McOuat (Northern Miner – August 6, 2013)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. 

John (Jack) McOuat, an icon of the Toronto mining scene and the last surviving co-founder of the independent geological and mining consulting firm Watts, Griffis and McOuat (WGM), died on July 30 at age 80 at the Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. McOuat was born and educated in Toronto, graduating with a geological engineering degree from the University of Toronto in 1956.

Oceanic Iron Ore hired McOuat out of school to work on a project in Quebec’s Ungava Bay, with his boss being, as fate would have it, geologist and iron ore expert Tom Griffis. Rio Tinto then bought Oceanic, and sent McOuat to scout out the nearby Raglan nickel property the company had optioned from entrepreneur Murray Watts.

In 1962, McOuat left the safe confines of Rio Tinto, introduced Watts and Griffis to one another, and teamed with Watts, Griffis and Ross Lawrence to form WGM, with some of the firm’s first foreign contracts being landed in Morocco and Libya, and later, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Yemen, Alaska, Ghana, Argentina, Ecuador, Indonesia. “That’s what set us apart,” McOuat told The Northern Miner last year.

“The international projects, the eclectic mix of clients, but also the ability to go out and find mines — most consultants don’t do that. They’re there for the advising, not the doing.” Some of WGM’s contributions to discoveries include Red Dog, Greens Creek and Pogo, all in Alaska, and Mary River on Baffin Island.

Merging with Buzz Neal’s consulting firm in the 1990s only served to cement WGM’s global leadership in the evaluation and development of iron ore projects. WGM celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and remains Canada’s longest running independent firm of international mining consultants.

McOuat also served on the boards of some of Canada’s biggest names in mining, including Cominco, Franco/Euro Nevada, Echo Bay Mines and Diamond Fields. He also contributed to the wider industry as an active director of the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario, the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

McOuat is survived by his wife Vodrie, his four children, and eight grandchildren. A service to celebrate McOuat’s life will be held at 11:30 am on Thurs., Aug. 8, at the Lawrence Park Community Church at 2180 Bayview Ave. in Toronto, followed by a reception at the Granite Club at 2350 Bayview Ave.

The family suggests that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in McOuat’s name to the Royal Ontario Museum or the Sunnybrook Hospital. Look for our interview with Jack McOuat and write-up on WGM’s 50th anniversary here. The feature, written by Virginia Heffernan, was nominated for a national business-writing award in the spring.

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