John Mason always felt Thunder Bay missed the boat in capitalizing on the economic spinoffs from the Hemlo gold discovery in the mid-1980s. As a government geologist working the north shore of Lake Superior, he witnessed that all the exploration know-how, drilling and assay work originated in Timmins, and mine-building muscle came from Sudbury.
Thunder Bay isn’t situated in the so-called “shadow of the headframe.” The nearest mine, North American Palladium’s Lac des Iles Mine, is located 85 kilometres away. Historically, the city’s economy was heavily reliant on jobs in the forestry mills and the bustle of activity surrounding its Lake Superior grain port.
The mining and exploration sector wasn’t familiar, understood, nor appreciated by locals. The handful of junior mining companies, geologists and prospectors were tucked away in an industrial park in the city’s core on streets named Alloy, Tungsten and Cobalt.
In his role with the City of Thunder Bay, Mason sees his role as being a “bridge” in keeping the resource industry front and centre in the public mind. Now retired after 36 years on the job, the retired provincial geologist was hired as the city’s first dedicated mining economic development officer in 2011.
He serves as a communicator and mining industry liaison in parlaying his expertise and contacts to educate industrial suppliers, political leaders, and the general public on the mineral development opportunities on the community’s doorstep.
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