Norman B. Keevil: A lifetime of achievement at Teck – by Anthony Vaccaro (Northern Miner – May 19, 2015)

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

In 1979 The Northern Miner named Norman B. Keevil its Mining Man of the Year, citing the impressive string of mine constructions he presided over in the 1970s. Since winning that award Dr. Keevil went on to ensure Teck was part of some of the biggest mining projects over the next 30 years, such as Hemlo, Voisey’s Bay and Antamina.

At the same time Dr. Keevil and his team were building Teck into one of the world’s largest producers of metallurgical coal. For this unparalleled track record and for his unchallenged reputation for honesty, fair dealing and supportiveness, on the occasion of its 100th anniversary, the Miner can find no person more deserving than Dr. Norman B. Keevil to be the recipient of its Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 1939, scientists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt after three German scientists in Berlin split the atom.

The experiment put the Nazis on a path to building the atomic bomb, and knowing this, Einstein and Szilard compelled Roosevelt to counterpunch — with the Manhattan Project.

The point man for the project was to be Harold Urey, the leading scientist on isotope separation. One of Urey’s first tasks was to assemble a team of leading scientists to help beat the Germans in the race for the atomic bomb.

No one knew much about uranium back then,” Teck Resources chairman Dr. Norman B. Keevil Jr. says. “But my father knew something, because he worked on radioactive dating.”

And so the Manhattan Project, which aimed to end a World War, would also shape Canadian mining history.

Urey asked a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one Norman Keevil Sr., to join the Manhattan Project. Dr. Keevil agreed — until it became clear that being Canadian meant it would take a year to get security clearance. Rather than wait, Keevil turned down the offer and came back to Canada.

Norman Keevil Sr. was 38 years old when he returned to his homeland to teach at the University of Toronto, and his son, Norman B. Keevil, Jr., was just six months old.

The call of Temagami

Norman B. Keevil’s first exposure to geology came a decade later, while spending time with his father on the waters in and around Lake Temagami near North Bay, Ont.

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