Francis Hector Clergue and the Sault’s Essar/Algoma Steel is a Glaring Omission from “Northern Ontario’s Top Ten Mining Events” – by Stan Sudol

I take my history seriously and thus owe my readers an apology for a “glaring omission” from my “Northern Ontario’s Top Ten Mining Events” column which was recently published in the Sudbury Star.

American-born entrepreneur Francis Hector Clergue, who founded Algoma Steel – now owned by Essar Steel – and created an industrial empire at Sault Ste. Marie that also included iron ore mines, a power plant, pulp and paper mill, a steam ship line and a rail road, should have been on that list.

Northern Ontario Business editor Ian Ross – who is originally from the Sault – pointed out my mistake and I am very grateful for being corrected as Clergue’s visionary legacy continues to this day.

Actually, I have just started reading the definitive book about Algoma – Steel at the Sault by Duncan McDowall – and feel horribly guilty for the omission! A more detailed column will be forthcoming.

Prospectors Ben Boyer and Jim Sayer discovered promising hematite (iron) ore in the Michipicoten area north of the Sault in 1898. Clergue bought the claims for $500.00 and built the Helen Mine – named after one of his sisters.

The first shipments of iron ore were sent to blast furnaces in Midland, but Clergue vision was to industrialize the Algoma district and incorporated the Algoma Steel Company on May 10, 1991. The project had tremendous federal and provincial government support.

At the time, industrialists where very concerned that Ontario would not be able to prosper and grow if the province could not establish a viable iron and steel manufacturing sector. The rails used in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1881 and 1885 were all imported from the United States or Britian.

The Algoma facility produced the first steel made in Ontario. The Algoma facility manufactured the first Canadian rails in the country on May 3, 1892. Hamilton-based Stelco was founded in 1910 and Dofasco incorporated in 1912.

While I have not yet decided where Clergue should be on the Top 10 List, I am leaning to the #3 spot – sorry Timmins and Elliot Lake – as the enormity and longevity of his vision is so large and ongoing, even though the iron ore mines closed down years ago.

My sincerest apologies to the ghost of Francis Hector Clergue and the people of Sault Ste. Marie!

Revised list “Northern Ontario’s Top Ten Mining Events.”

1) Cobalt Silver Boom – The Cradle of Canada’s Mining Industry
2) Sudbury Basin – Canada’s Most Important Mining City
3) Francis Hector Clergue and Essar/Algoma Steel – Visionary Industrialist at the Sault
4) Timmins – Porcupine Gold Rush Still Going Strong
5) Elliot Lake Uranium Mines – Boom, Bust, Boom, Bust and Hope
6) Peter Munk and Barrick – Canada’s King of Gold
7) Aboriginal Conflict and Involvement in Ontario Mining
8) Ontario Mine Safety – International Success
9) Kirkland Lake Gold Miner Strike – Impacted the Nation
10) Ontario’s Other Major Gold Rushes: Kirkland Lake, Red Lake, and Hemlo

Toronto Stock Exchange – International Centre of Mine Financing – Honorary Mention A
Ring of Fire Discovery – Honorary Mention B


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