Gerald Heffernan, who died in Toronto on July 28 at the age of 104, was an innovative engineer who pioneered steel mini-mills, first in Alberta at the start of the oil boom, then in Ontario. He was as much a scientist as a businessman and was recognized around the world as a leader in creating smaller, less-polluting steel mills.
A mini-mill can make specialized steel products more cheaply than a giant smelter, and it uses scrap metal, making it a form of recycling. “He figured out a way of not having these giant mills but smaller ones that were more efficient and could be placed in different places,” said Alan Bernstein, the past president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) a group Mr. Heffernan helped found and worked with for a great part of his life.
“He was one of those rare Canadian businessmen who appreciated the value of science for their business and was a real risk-taker. He was really a rare animal for Canada.” Mini-mills now produce a third of the steel in the world.
Gerald Heffernan was born in Edmonton on July 12, 1919. His father, William Heffernan, had moved there from Guelph, Ont., before the First World War. An entrepreneur, like his son would become, he ran a sawmill and cement plant. He then served overseas during the First World War and his businesses failed while he was away.
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