[Bill James] Former Falconbridge CEO was ‘a miner’s miner’ – by Niall McGee (Globe and Mail – October 19, 2018)

In 1982, Mr. James joined Falconbridge Ltd. as CEO at a time when the great
nickel company was in deep trouble….Not surprisingly, the layoffs garnered
resentment from some quarters.

According to Sudbury native Stan Sudol, owner and editor of RepublicOfMining.com,
a joke making rounds at the time was,  “Bill James dies and goes to hell, but the
devil kicked him out, because he kept shutting down his furnaces.” But eventually it
was Mr. James who had the last laugh – by 1984, Falconbridge was back in the black.


Canadian mining company Falconbridge Inc. had a big problem in the early 1980s. Its operations in war-torn Zimbabwe were in chaos. Rebels opposing leader Robert Mugabe were firing at Falconbridge’s Blanket gold mine security force with rocket-propelled grenades. Workers there were also getting hungry, with food provisions running low due to blockades. Thirteen-thousand kilometres away in Toronto, Falconbridge’s chief executive didn’t mess around. Bill James flew 24 hours to Zimbabwe and went straight to the dictator’s office.

“Bill wasn’t a wallflower. He’d barge into anyone’s office,” said Bill McNamara, a longtime friend of Mr. James and a lawyer with Torys LLP. Mr. James’s demands, delivered in his signature loud, gravelly baritone, were simple: He wanted food for his employees and assault rifles for their protection.

“Mugabe’s looking like someone’s hit him on the head with a two-by-four,” Mr. McNamara said. “[Thinking,] ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ ” But here’s the thing. Mr. Mugabe knew that without that mine in operation, Zimbabwe would suffer economically. The next morning, five truckloads of maize showed up at the mine, along with a dozen AK-47s.

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Canadian mining industry says goodbye to ‘turnaround man’ Bill James – by Robin de Angelis (CBC News Sudbury – September 17, 2018)


The man credited with making mining company Falconbridge Ltd. a success in the 1980s has passed away. William “Bill” James died on September 4, at the age of 89.

James took the helm of Falconbridge at a time when the company was losing millions of dollars each week due to flagging metal prices. He cut jobs and corporate spending, eventually making the company an attractive target for a takeover for Noranda.

Ed Thompson, a board member with the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, remembers working with James for almost 50 years. “He was a very forthright, honest man,” Thompson recalled.

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1978-79 Steelworkers strike subject of Mick Lowe’s new novel – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – May 3, 2017)


Local author has completed trilogy about city’s mining history

Given it’s a part of the city’s recent history, most Sudburians remember Steelworkers Local 6500’s nearly year-long 2009-2010 strike against Vale. More distant in the community’s collective memory is the arguably even more bitter labour dispute that happened a generation earlier.

Steelworkers Local 6500 went on strike against Vale’s predecessor, Inco, for 10 and a half months from Sept. 15, 1978 until June 7, 1979. The labour dispute, which involved 11,600 workers, and starved Inco of more than 22 million hours of labour, smashed records at the time for the longest strike in Canadian history.

The impact on the Sudbury community was devastating, with businesses closing, marriages breaking up and families losing their life savings. The 1978-1979 Steelworkers strike is the subject of local author Mick Lowe’s latest novel, “Wintersong.” It’s the third in the Nickel Range Trilogy fiction series, which focuses on Sudbury’s mining history.

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Will the nickel boom make a new man of Manitoba? – by Robert Collins (MACLEAN’S Magazine – April 13, 1957)


It’s been a have-not province for years. Now its “worthless” north is bustling with an epic strike and staking rush. Some enthusiasts insist it’s the biggest thing since the CPR went through

Until a couple of decades ago every Canadian schoolboy was aware that the prosperity of our three prairie provinces — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba — depended on agriculture. Given a bumper wheat crop, the prairies were rich.

Hit by drought or rust, they were poor. Then Alberta broke the mold with a series of oil strikes, and in the bonanza that followed became a fat and flamboyant Canadian Texas. Times changed in Saskatchewan too with the advent of the atomic age and the discovery of major uranium deposits.

Manitoba was left in the lurch, with a horse-and-buggy economy hitched to agriculture in the south and a desolate pile of rock in the north that yielded a modest treasure without changing the basic pattern of the province’s economy.

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The story of nickel is industrial romance writ by man in metal – by Charles Vincent (MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE – December 15, 1936)


THE CONSTRUCTION gang foreman looked down the cut where his crew was tackling the tough rock with heavy picks, getting ready to blast. The track layers were right on his heels, pushing the new Canadian Pacific Railway westward to bridge the continent. The foreman’s eye fell on one man.

“Hey, you !” he roared, “what’re ye standin’ there gapin’ at? Get busy with that pick.”

“Well, take a look at this slab of rock, boss; it’s kind of queer.” And so in 1883 nickel was uncovered at Sudbury.

It was a product that nobody wanted. When the first smelting yielded a metal which was curiously pale instead of copper red, and when analysis showed that this fault was due to the presence of nickel, men cursed it as a plague which they neither knew how to get rid of nor how to use in such large quantities. It was the copper content of the Sudbury ore on which they had set their hopes.

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Revealed: Rio Tinto’s plan to use drones to monitor workers’ private lives – by Max Opray (The Guardian – December 9, 2016)


In the remote Australian outback, multinational companies are embarking on a secretive new kind of mining expedition. Rio Tinto has long mined the Pilbara region of Western Australia for iron ore riches but now the company is seeking to extract a rather different kind of resource – its own employees, for data.

Thousands of Rio Tinto personnel live in company-run mining camps, spending not just work hours but leisure and home time in space controlled by their employer – which in this emerging era of smart infrastructure presents the opportunity to hoover up every detail of their lives.

Rio Tinto is no stranger to using technology to improve efficiency, having replaced human-operated vehicles with automated haul trucks and trains controlled out of a central operations centre in Perth.

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Barrick’s Munk Heads Top Ten Most Important Mining Men in Canadian History – by Stan Sudol

Melanie and Peter Munk
Melanie and Peter Munk

An edited version of this list was published in the February/March issue of the Canadian Mining Journal.

Four Americans Made the List!

A few months ago, my dear colleague Joe Martin, who is the Director of the Canadian Business & Financial History Initiative at Rotman and President Emeritus of Canada’s History Society, asked me a very simple question: who would be considered the most important individual in Canadian mining?

Considering Canada’s lengthy and exceptional expertise in the mineral sector, it was not an easy answer and I decided to research and create a top ten list of the most important mining men in Canadian history.

The lack of women on this list simply reflects the fact that for much of our history most women were not given the educational or social opportunities to excel in business, especially in a rough and male-dominated sector like mining. Times have changed, women are playing key roles in mining today and will definitely be included on this list in the future.

However, a few qualifiers need to be established. This is basically a list of mine builders not mine finders.  Building a company through takeovers and discoveries is one way but I am also focusing on individuals who have built corporate empires and/or who have developed isolated regions of the country with the necessary infrastructure for mines to flourish and create multi-generational jobs, shareholder wealth and great economic impact.

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[Sudbury, Ontario] Global Lessons from a Hard-Rock Mining Town: Dr. John Gunn at TEDxLaurentianU

  Published on 28 Feb 2014 Dr. Gunn presents an inspiring talk on our northern mining town Sudbury. He educates us on our history of pollution, and it’s decline and the impact Sudbury’s smoke stack plays. He illustrates the link between clean air and clean water and further explains the impact and global lessons from …

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Prof looking for tales of life in Sudbury’s moonscape – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – June 2, 2015)


Project explores the life of immigrants in Copper Clif, Coniston, Gatchell and the Donovan

Did you walk to school with a handkerchief over your face because the pollution was so bad? Did your mother have to replant the garden five times because of acid rain? Were mine tailings your personal playground?

Stacey Zembrzycki, a Sudbury-born adjunct assistant professor at Concordia University, wants to hear these kinds of stories.

It’s all part of a project called “Mining Immigrant Bodies: A Multi-Ethnic Oral History of Industry, Environment and Health in the Sudbury Region,” supported by Concordia University and a federal government grant.

She’s looking to interview men and women who came to Canada in the postwar period — as well as their children — and lived in Copper Cliff, Coniston, Gatchell or the Donovan, where mining impacted heavily on day-to-day life.

Zembrzycki also hopes to speak to those who worked in the mining industry or their families about the health impacts of these jobs.

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Inco’s Roots: The Sequel – by Marty McAllister (Inco Triangle – June 1990)

For Inco Triangle Archives, click here: http://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/?home

This article came from the June 1990 issue of the Inco Triangle: thttp://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/data/INCOTriangle-19900601.pdf

“Fools rush in …” In my January column, I boldly wrestled with the objective of finding the very beginning of Inco’s oldest operation. I even set out a rule: there had to be evidence of organizational continuity, right through to the present. So, after a fair bit of research (and an assumption that came back to haunt me), I declared Wiggin Steel and Alloys the winner — because it started as a partnership in 1835.

Now, with not a steroid user in the lot, the Wiggin group has to be stripped of its medal. Sorry, Birmingham friends, I goofed — but I hope you enjoyed your few months in the sun.

For the benefit of Canadian readers, David Balchin is the Executive Vice-President with responsibility for Inco’s Alloys and Engineered Products segment. With extensive operations on both sides of the Atlantic, he’s a busy man. Not too busy to notice, however, when some self-styled authority hands a heritage award to the wrong member of his group! So gather `round, faithful readers, while I share the continuing story of Inco’s oldest roots.

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INCO’s Roots: How Far Back? – by Marty McAllister (Inco Triangle – January 1990)

For Inco Triangle Archives, click here: http://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/?home

This article came from the January 1990 issue of the Inco Triangle: http://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/data/INCOTriangle-19900101.pdf

It has taken more than a century — actually, quite a lot more — to build the Inco Limited of today. There have been good times and bad times — and successes and failures, you bet. Throughout, we’ve demonstrated a capacity to learn from the things we’ve done, to grow, as our current motto says, “Stronger For Our Experience.

I think that’s a pretty good motto, don’t you? It doesn’t say anything about being perfect, but it implies a process of continuous improvement. In order to learn from our collective experience, we have to study it. As we face the changes and challenges of the future, we’ll want to know how we’ve coped with such things in the past. History is more than just nostalgic fun, although that’s what carries us past the boring parts. Confucius said: “Study the past if you would divine the future.”

To start 1990 off on the right foot, I want to back up to square one and give you a clearer picture of the many pieces that came together to form the company as we know it, and to maybe change a few pre-conceived notions in the bargain.

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INCO HISTORY: MOND: The Man, The Process, The Company – by Marty McAllister (Inco Triangle – September, 1989)

For Inco Triangle Archives, click here: http://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/?home

This article came from the September 1989 issue of the Inco Triangle: http://www.sudburymuseums.ca/triangle/data/INCOTriangle-19890901.pdf

Just enough paint has peeled off an old tank in the Nairn powerhouse to partially reveal the hand-lettered words: Mond Nickel Company.

At least on this side of the Atlantic, there remain few such reminders of the proud organization that became part of Inco sixty years ago. As an independent company, “the Mond” barely lasted thirty years; its spirit, however, began much earlier with its founder, and its contribution is not yet complete. In a reverse version of the Canadian Copper story, Mond Nickel began as a process looking for raw materials.

Remember the Bunsen burners in high school? Well, Robert Wilhelm Bunsen was Ludwig Mond’s chemistry prof at the University of Heidelberg. The lessons stuck, and Mond went on to earn a sizable fortune in the chemical business in England.

His home, known as The Poplars, was an ornate mansion north of Regent’s Park, and he converted one of the stables into a research lab. It was in this lab in 1889 that Mond, then 50, set out with Carl Langer to develop a bleaching powder.

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Private company, public resource: The Inco Triangle archives are home to a rich collection of historically important documents – by R. Bergen (CIM Magazine – November 2009)


“I hope my comments won’t seem picayune, but Inco’s history is an integral and important part of our heritage in the Sudbury Basin. As with any locale, I suppose, some local legends have been embellished a little over time.” — Marty McAllister, in a 1989 letter advising a correction in the Inco Triangle

Twenty years after his first dispassionate contribution to the Ontario division of Inco’s now-defunct community news magazine, Marty McAllister no longer bothers to mince words. “If a magazine could be a legend, that one was,” he declares unabashedly, referring to the Inco Triangle from his Barrie, Ontario, home. His attention to the historic record earned him a regular heritage column. As a Greater Sudbury native, lifetime reader and career Inco employee, McAllister understands better than most the unique role of the publication in the hundreds of Sudbury area households that received the Triangle each month.

Of course, the operations were often featured in its pages and trumpeted for their forward thinking, but the Triangle was far more than a company mouthpiece. From the 1930s to the 1990s, the paternal influence of the Triangle helped tie together the communities that Inco had built to support its mines. Workers named Salfi, Kanga, Levesque and Rainville, whose birthplaces were scattered across Europe and North America, featured as a fraternity in the Triangle. Marriages, births, deaths, bonspiel winners and expert gardeners were fixtures in the magazine. Sports always featured prominently.

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Excerpt: From Meteorite Impact to Constellation City: A Historical Geography of Greater Sudbury – by Oiva W. Saarinen

To order a copy of “From Meteorite Impact to Constellation City”, please click here: http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Catalog/saarinen-meteorite.shtml

Sudbury: A Union Town? (Part 5 of 5)

Post-Merger Events

In the years following 1967, both unions went their separate ways, each respectful of the other. In 1969, Inco tested the mettle of the Steelworkers, resulting in a 128-day strike. Unlike previous strikes, this one was quiet and orderly. With no nickel stockpile at hand, the Steelworkers outlasted Inco. The strike ended on November 15, 1969, with the union winning major gains in wages and, for the first time, a cost of living allowance (COLA). The union made progress on issues such as the “contracting out” of jobs, training and apprenticeship opportunities, and an evaluation of all job classifications at Inco. The last act resulted in major monetary gains for numerous positions. Falconbridge workers went on strike around the same time and reached a similar settlement, albeit without a contracting out provision.

The signing of the 1969 contract set a positive tone for the next three years because of Inco’s desire to project a revamped company image. The setting was advantageous for the Steelworkers as well, and its membership rose to a peak of 18 224 in July of 1971. Over the next six months, however, the situation changed as Inco announced cutbacks, layoffs, and the closing of the Coniston smelter. Despite this gloomy setting, the union signed a contract that introduced a new clause allowing workers to retain their seniority throughout any of Inco’s operations. Formerly, workers who moved from one department to another lost their seniority. For the first time in mining history, a Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee (JOHC) was negotiated. During the 1970s, the Steelworkers promoted the concept of mining as a trade, and in cooperation with company officials and Local 598 at Falconbridge, created a “common core” training program for basic underground hard rock mining.

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Excerpt: From Meteorite Impact to Constellation City: A Historical Geography of Greater Sudbury – by Oiva W. Saarinen

To order a copy of “From Meteorite Impact to Constellation City”, please click here: http://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Catalog/saarinen-meteorite.shtml

Sudbury: A Union Town? (Part 1 of 5)

While Sudbury’s history has been intimately associated with the corporate aspect of resource extraction, this linkage also brought with it another aspect of the mining spectrum—unionism. Indeed, Sudbury has long had the reputation of being a union town. While most Sudburians have traditionally taken pride in this image, for others it has been regarded as a dubious distinction. The latter view, for instance, is explicit in the book For the Years to Come, a history of International Nickel of Canada written by one of the company’s chairmen in 1960, where the existence of Mine Mill did not even warrant mention in the book’s index.

When viewed in the context of Inco’s traditional hegemony in Sudbury and its influence in the corridors of power in Toronto and Ottawa, and the lack of interest shown by other Canadians to Sudbury’s woes related to hazardous working conditions, mining assessments, and environmental issues, it was inevitable that some counterforce to this capitalism would appear.

This resistance came in the form of the only option available to workers: unionism, notably via the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers (IUMMSW), known locally as Mine Mill. For three decades, Mine Mill had an honourable tradition of supporting its union members and the wider community through cultural programs and fundraising activities. Its presence was sufficiently strong in the 1950s to encourage the rise of unions in other sectors of the community.

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