Accent: Cobalt boom top event in Northern mining [Part 2 of 2] – by Stan Sudol (Sudbury Star – May 31, 2014)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Note: This is the second of a two-part feature on Ontario’s mining history. The first half of a top-10 list of significant events was printed in Friday edition of the Star; the countdown continues below.

For Part-one, click here:

5) Peter Munk: Canada’s King of Gold

Amazingly, Peter Munk knew little about mining as he previously developed resorts in the South Pacific and owned a high-fidelity stereo system company that went bankrupt. In 1983, with a small oil exploration company that was losing money, he decided to buy a half interest in the Renabie gold mine near Wawa and a piece of an Alaskan placer miner which together produced 3,000 ounces that year.

In 1984, he bought Camflo Mines with operations in northwestern Quebec, but more importantly, acquired an experienced mine management team that would help Barrick takeover mines in Ontario, the United States and around the world. A significant success was the Nevada Goldstrike mine in 1988 when company President Robert Smith saw its huge potential.

Munk’s greatest success was the acquisition of Placer Dome in 2006 during the foreign takeovers of some of Canada’s legendary miners that included Inco, Falconbridge and Alcan.

His possible worst was the buying copper producer Equinox Minerals in 2011, which had a subsequent writedown of $4 billion. Investors were very concerned that the copper miner would considerably dilute the company’s primary gold producer status that commands a premium in investment circles.

While the past few years have not been kind to all gold and base-metal miners, the company founder has taken a significant beating in the media for the underperformance of Barrick stock. Notwithstanding his recent financial trials Peter Munk, who has been very generous with his wealth – giving millions to establish a cardiac centre in Toronto – has created the globe’s number one gold producer, ensuring a “face-saving” Canadian presence among the largest mining companies around the world.

4) Elliot Lake: Boom, Bust, Boom, Bust and Hope

Over the past 60 years, Elliot Lake has experienced a very volatile and complicated history.

From vital military importance during the Cold War and a health care crisis of dying miners, to a pleasant retirement community and world-class mine restoration and revegetation, the uranium mining industry in Elliot Lake encapsulates the worst and the best of Ontario’s mineral industry.

After the atomic bombs were dropped Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War, uranium become one of the most sought after and strategic commodities in the world.

Two men, mining promoter/financer Joseph H. Hirshhorn and geologist Franc R. Joubin, are responsible for the discovery of the Elliot Lake uranium mines. Both became millionaires and went on to explore, and discover other mineral deposits.

The 83 mining claims that entrepreneur Stephen B. Roman purchased during the frantic staking rush of 1953, contained the world’s single largest uranium deposit and was the basis on which he built Denison Mines and its affiliate Roman Corporation.

From 1956 to 1959, Elliot Lake was the most important supplier of yellowcake (uranium) to the U.S. military from no fewer than 12 operating mines. Building one mine in an isolated wilderness – abet only 30 kilometres from the Trans-Canada Highway – would have been quite an accomplishment. Consider the logistics of 12 mines, 11 with their own mills treating 35,000 tons of ore a day.

In 1959, the United States declared that it would no longer buy uranium from Canada after 1962, creating the first of many busts and booms. During the 1970s, federal plans for CANDU reactors and Ontario Hydro’s interest in atomic energy encouraged the town to expand again. However, by the early 1990s ,depleted reserves, competition from much richer deposits in northern Saskatchewan and low prices caused the last mines in the area to close.

During the 1970s, uranium miners in Elliot Lake became alarmed about the high incidence of lung cancer and silicosis, and they went on strike over health and safety conditions. In 1976, the Ontario government appointed a Royal Commission to investigate health and safety in mines.

For the rest of this article, click here:

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