When I graduated from high school, I did not have enough money to go to university. I needed to make a lot of bucks pretty fast and wanted a bit of an adventure, too. So I became a miner. My first job was at a Falconbridge open-pit copper mine near Ignace, in the wilds of Northwestern Ontario.
The second was at an underground Inco nickel mine in Thompson, Man. It was dangerous work, and, over a year, I made what seemed like a fortune to me, enough to pay for a degree from the University of Western Ontario. I graduated largely debt-free.
In that sense, I credit Falconbridge and Inco for getting me through school and have a soft spot for both companies (despite their nasty environmental records back then). The two would come back into my life 25 years later, when they tried to merge with one another to try to repel a hostile takeover offer for Falconbridge from Xstrata, then 40-per-cent owned by Switzerland’s Glencore. Covering that battle for The Globe and Mail kept me busy for months.
Then – poof! – they were gone. Inco was bought by Brazil’s Vale and Falconbridge went to Xstrata, now absorbed into Glencore. The century-old Inco and Falconbridge names disappeared, along with their Toronto head offices and the jobs that went with them. They became branch plants.
For the rest of this column: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/commentary/article-tecks-strategic-errors-helped-make-it-prey-not-predator/