Archive | Mining Company History

Cominco Ltd. History (1906 – 2001)

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Incorporated in Canada in 1906, Cominco Ltd. has emerged as a leading integrated zinc and copper producer. With mines in Canada, the United States, Chile, and Peru, Cominco is the world’s largest producer of zinc concentrate as well as the fourth-largest zinc metal refiner. Additionally, Cominco produces lead, silver, gold, germanium, and indium. The company’s head office is situated in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, while it oversees subsidiaries worldwide. Teck Corporation is the largest single shareholder with 44 percent of Cominco’s Common Shares.

The Beginning: 1850-1900

Cominco’s history reaches back to the Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th century. Thousands of placer prospectors flocked to the unexplored wilderness that was later to become the Province of British Columbia. (Placer refers to a gravel deposit containing particles of gold). Although the Gold Rush ended after ten years, it hastened the proclamation of the Colony of British Columbia in 1858 and influenced the development of trails throughout the region.

The newly created trails made it possible for the remaining prospectors to move further afield. Before long, placer gold was discovered in various parts of the Kootenay region in southeastern British Columbia. Soon after, steamboat service along the upper Columbia River made it easier for miners, prospectors, and others to reach the area.

Despite these transportation enhancements, mining activity was limited until the coming of the railways 20 years later. Continue Reading →

Homestake Mining Company History (1877-2000)

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Homestake has maintained a major role in the gold mining industry for over 120 years. Since 1990, the Company has produced 17 million gold and equivalent ounces. At the end of 1999, Homestake’s share of proven and probable reserves amounted to 18.8 million ounces of gold and 110 million ounces of silver. Homestake operates both underground and open pit mines and uses a variety of mineral processing methods to extract gold, including conventional milling, heap leaching and roasting. The Company has received numerous industry awards for its superior record in the environmental, health and safety areas. Key Dates:

Company History: Owner and operator of the oldest gold mine in the United States, Homestake Mining Company is an international gold mining company with substantial gold interests in Canada and Australia, as well as smaller interests in Chile. From the company’s Homestake mine, which began producing gold in 1876, Homestake Mining has built a mining empire that has vaulted it past all competitors and ranked it as the premier gold producer in U.S. history.

The Race for Gold in the 1870s

In 1874, a U.S. Cavalry scouting party led by Lt. Col. George A. Custer inched its way through the deep valleys and steep ridges carved into the Black Hills of Dakota Territory, 15 years before the region became part of the country’s 40th state, South Dakota. Continue Reading →

Phelps Dodge Corporation History (1885-1999)

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

One of the largest copper miners in the world, Phelps Dodge Corporation produces 30 percent of the copper in the United States and operates several manufacturing businesses to insulate the company from the cyclicality of copper prices. Phelps Dodge’s copper business is conducted through the company’s Phelps Dodge Mining Company subsidiary, which also produces silver, gold, and other minerals as a byproduct of its copper operations. The manufacturing side of the company’s business operates through a division called Phelps Dodge Industries, which has expanded aggressively during the 1990s.

The manufacturing businesses include a ten percent interest in Accuride Corporation, a truck wheel and rim manufacturer; Columbian Chemicals Company, one of the world’s largest producers of carbon black (used in inks and tires); Phelps Dodge Magnet Wire Co., the world’s largest producer of magnet wire; and Phelps Dodge High Performance Conductors, which manufactures specialty conductors used by the automotive, computer, and aerospace industries.

19th-Century Origins

In 1834 founder Anson Phelps, a New York entrepreneur thoroughly experienced in the import-export trade and well-connected in his targeted British market, formed Phelps, Dodge & Co. Along with his junior partners, sons-in-law William Dodge and Daniel James, Phelps supplied his English customers with cotton, replacing it on the homeward journey with tin, tin plate, iron, and copper, for sale to government, trade, and individual consumers in the United States. Continue Reading →

[Montana Mining History] The Copper King’s Precipitous Fall – by Gilbert King (Smithsonian Magazine – September 20, 2015)

Augustus Heinze dominated the copper fields of Montana, but his family’s scheming on Wall Street set off the Panic of 1907

Frederick Augustus Heinze was young, brash, charismatic and rich. He’d made millions off the copper mines of Butte, Montana, by the time he was 30, beating back every attempt by competitors to run him out of business. After turning down Standard Oil’s $15 million offer for his copper holdings, Heinze arrived in New York in 1907 with $25 million in cash, determined to join the likes of J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller as a major player in the world of finance. By the end of the year, however, the Copper King would be ruined, and his scheme to corner the stock of the United Copper Co. would lead to one of the worst financial crises in American history—the Panic of 1907.

He was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1869. His father, Otto Heinze, was a wealthy German immigrant, and young Augustus was educated in Germany before he returned to the United States to study at Columbia University’s School of Mines. An engineer by training, Heinze arrived in Montana after his father died, and with a $50,000 inheritance he developed a smelting process that enabled him to produce copper from very low-grade ore in native rock more than 1,500 feet below ground. He leased mines and worked for other mining companies until he was able, in 1895, to purchase the Rarus Mine in Butte, which proved to be one of Montana’s richest copper properties.

In a rapid ascent, Heinze established the Montana Ore Purchasing Co. and became one of the three “Copper Kings” of Butte, along with Gilded Age icons William Andrews Clark and Marcus Daly. Whip smart and devious, Heinze took advantage of the so-called apex law, a provision that allowed owners of a surface outcrop to mine it wherever it led, even if it went beneath land owned by someone else. Continue Reading →

Asarco Incorporated History (1899 – 1991) – International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

ASARCO Incorporated is a world leader in the production of nonferrous metals, including copper, lead, zinc, silver, and gold. Among the mines operated by ASARCO or its associated companies are the Mission and Ray open-pit copper mines in Arizona; the Silver Bell Mine in Arizona; the Continental Mine in Montana; four zinc mines near Knoxville, Tennessee; the West Fork and Sweetwater lead mines in Missouri; the zinc, lead, silver, and gold mine at Leadville in Colorado; the Troy silver-copper mine in Montana; and two silver mines in Idaho, at Galena and Coeur. Processing facilities operated by ASARCO include copper smelters in Hayden, Arizona, and El Paso, Texas; a copper refinery in Amarillo, Texas; a lead smelter in East Helena, Montana; and a lead refinery in Omaha, Nebraska.

In 1990 ASARCO and its associated companies in Australia, Mexico, and Peru accounted for 12% of free-world mine production of copper, 14% of silver, 14% of lead, and 9% of zinc. Through its subsidiaries, ASARCO is heavily involved in the manufacture of specialty chemicals for electroplating, metal finishing, and electronics applications.

In addition to processing the products of its own mines, ASARCO acquires ore from other companies, either to process for a fee or to process and then sell on the open market. Consumers encounter these refined metals in many forms, including zinc in the form of flashlight batteries, copper in the form of car radiators, lead in the form of automotive batteries, and silver in the form of coatings on photographic film. ASARCO has entered into hazardous-waste recycling as well. Continue Reading →

Kennecott Corporation History: 1915-1997 – by International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Kennecott Corporation, the world’s leader in copper output throughout most of the 20th century, had by 1997 ceased to exist as a separate entity. That year it was divided into a group of wholly owned subsidiaries of the British metals and mining company Rio Tinto plc. Rio Tinto, formed by the 1995 merger of Kennecott’s owner RTZ Corporation and CRA Limited, continued to operate Kennecott’s chief U.S. businesses: Kennecott Utah Copper, Kennecott Minerals, and Kennecott Energy. However, these operations were absorbed into Rio Tinto’s copper and energy units. The RTZ-CRA merger, pulling in all of Kennecott’s holdings, made Rio Tinto an international giant in the mining and minerals industry.

Origins in the Alaskan Wilderness

The chain of events that would lead to Kennecott’s founding began in 1901. With financial backing from the Havemeyer family, a young mining engineer named Stephen Birch acquired mining rights on a sizeable chunk of promising copper property near the Kennicott Glacier in Alaska (the difference in spelling between the glacier and the company was the result of a clerical mistake). Birch returned East to seek additional investors in the venture, and was introduced by the Havemeyers to J. P. Morgan and to members of the Guggenheim family the following year.

At that time, the Guggenheims were the most powerful force in the industry, controlling the vast majority of copper reserves and nearly all of the smelting capacity in the western United States. These two financial giants formed the Kennecott Mines Company to develop mining operations on the claims purchased from Birch, and Birch was named general manager of the organization. Continue Reading →

Placer Dome Incorporated History: 1910-2002 – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History: (Please Note that Placer Dome was taken over by Barrick Gold in 2006)

Placer Dome Inc., the fifth largest gold mining company in the world, produces approximately 3.5 million ounces of gold annually. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the company also mines silver and copper and has interests in 18 mines, many outside of Canada, in countries including South Africa, Australia, the United States, and Papua New Guinea. A leader in mine exploration, Placer Dome spent about $60 million in 2003 on exploration.

The Creation of a New Company

Placer Dome Inc. was formed in 1987 by the amalgamation of three Canadian mining companies, creating the largest gold producer in North America with an annual output of more than 800,000 ounces of gold. Dome Mines Limited, the oldest of the three predecessors and one of Canada’s most venerable gold producers, was incorporated in 1910, following the discovery of the Dome Mine, a hard-rock mine in northern Ontario, which was still producing gold in 1997. The mine and the company got their name from the shape of the gold-studded rock structure a band of prospectors literally stumbled over in 1909.

Placer Development Limited was incorporated in British Columbia in 1926 and made its first earnings during the 1930s, dredging gold from the gravel of a river in Papua New Guinea, then under Australian mandate. “Placer,” which was Spanish for shoal, referred to water-borne deposits of sand or gravel containing particles of gold or silver. Mining that deposit was no easy task. Continue Reading →

Cleveland-Cliffs Incorporated History (1846 – 2004) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

With six iron ore mines in Michigan, Minnesota, and Eastern Canada, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. is North America’s leading producer of iron ore pellets, which are used in the steelmaking process. The company’s capacity stands at 36.9 million tons of ore, which represents nearly 28 percent of the continent’s annual pellet capacity. Throughout its history, Cleveland-Cliffs has faced competition from imports, takeover attempts, shareholder revolts, ill-advised diversification efforts, and the vagaries of the cyclical steel sector. In the early years of the new century, the company focused on bolstering its assets while the industry restructured and consolidated.

Early History in the 1800s

Cleveland-Cliffs’ predecessor, the Cleveland Iron Mining Company, was established in 1846 by a group of investors led by Samuel L. Mather. Mather, an attorney, had moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1843, just two years after iron ore was discovered in the Marquette Range of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Although Mather was confident that, given time, the venture would prove profitable, it was for many years a losing proposition. Continue Reading →

Noranda Incorporated History (1922 – 2004) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Noranda Inc. is one of the largest mining and metals companies in the world with operations in 18 countries. Production of copper and nickel accounts for the majority of Noranda’s revenues–the company also mines aluminum, zinc, and precious metals. Noranda restructured in the late 1990s by selling off its forest products and oil and gas businesses in order to focus on its core metals and mining assets.

Origins and Development: 1920s-50s

The history of Noranda begins with the story of a prospector named Edmund Horne, and a hunch. During the early 1920s, at a time when northern Canada was unchartered–the area was mostly wilderness, and prospectors preferred to stay on the familiar grounds of Ontario–Horne was drawn to the Rouyn district in northeastern Quebec. He visited Rouyn repeatedly, because he believed it “didn’t seem sensible that all the good geology should quit at the Ontario border!” Horne could reach Rouyn only by way of a chain of lakes and rivers.

His enthusiasm was contagious, and soon a group of 12 men had raised C$225 to finance further explorations. The effort paid off when word of Horne’s first strike made it to S.C. Thomson and H.W. Chadbourne, two United States mining engineers with a syndicate of investors interested in exploring Canadian mines. In February 1922, the syndicate bought an option on Horne’s mining claims in Ontario and Quebec and exercised it. Noranda Mines Ltd. was incorporated in 1922 to acquire the U.S. syndicate’s mining claims. Continue Reading →

Falconbridge Limited (1928-2000) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Falconbridge Limited is a leading base metals mining company operating out of Toronto, Canada. Its primary commodity is nickel, which is instrumental in the manufacture of stainless steel, followed by copper, cobalt, and platinum group metals. Falconbridge owns nickel mines in Canada and the Dominican Republic, and ever since 1930 has maintained a refinery in Norway. The company is majority owned by Noranda, a Canadian natural resources company that controls more than 50 percent of its stock. Falconbridge shares trade on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Founding of Falconbridge: 1928

Falconbridge took its name from the township of Falconbridge, Ontario, an area possessing large deposits of nickel. In 1928, businessman Thayer Lindsley paid $2.5 million for mining claims in the area and created Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited. The new company took immediate steps to work the claims, and despite the stock market crash of 1929 it was able to sink a shaft and begin to develop the mine, as well as build a smelter. Falconbridge still had to refine the ore, however, and the International Nickel Company of Canada (INCO) retained the North American rights to refining technologies. Continue Reading →

Inco Limited History (1902- 2001) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Inco Limited is one of the world’s top producers of nickel. It operates Canada’s largest mining and processing operation in Sudbury, Ontario, and runs other mines in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Indonesia. It has interests in refineries in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, and sales and operations in over 40 countries worldwide. Overall Inco provides about 25 percent of the nickel used globally. The company also produces cobalt, copper, precious metals, and specialty nickel products.

Early Years

Nickel was first isolated as an element in the middle of the 18th century, but not until the following century did it come into demand as a coin metal. Up to around 1890, coining remained the metal’s only use, and most of the world’s nickel was mined by Le Nickel, a Rothschild company, on the island of New Caledonia. At that time, however, it was determined that steel made from an iron-nickel alloy could be rolled into exceptionally hard plates, called armor plate, for warships, tanks, and other military vehicles, and the resulting surge in demand spurred a worldwide search for nickel deposits.

The world’s largest nickel deposit ever discovered was in Ontario’s Sudbury Basin; before long, one of the area’s big copper mining companies, Canadian Copper, began shipping quantities of nickel to a U.S. refinery in Bayonne, New Jersey, the Orford Copper Company. Continue Reading →

Companhia Vale Do Rio Doce (CVRD/VALE) History (1942-1989) – by International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD) is one of the world’s most important producers of iron ore, iron pellets, and other minerals. Owned primarily by the Brazilian government, it has taken a leading role in developing the mineral resources of the Amazonia region. Much of the company’s success is based on its ability to draw on foreign expertise and capital while at the same time retaining effective control in Brazilian hands.

Companhia Vale do Rio Doce was formed in 1942, receiving the assets of the Itabira Iron Ore Company, including the “iron mountain” of Caué Peak in the Itabira region of Minais Gerais state. The Brazilian government held 80% of the shares in the company, reduced to the present level of 53%. Initially hampered by poor management and inadequate transport facilities, it was only in the early 1950s that the company started on its path to becoming one of the world’s most important exporters of iron ore.

With its success closely linked to improvements in transport which it helped to finance, CVRD also expanded into the production of other minerals, the provision of shipping services, and iron pelleting. It also helped finance and organize a wide range of other industrial and service enterprises. When the huge iron ore reserves of the Amazon region were discovered in the 1960s, it was natural that CVRD be given responsibility for spearheading their exploitation. Continue Reading →

Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited Company History (1953 – 2005) – International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited is a Toronto-based Canadian gold producer, with its shares trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange. The company no longer mines its founding properties, the silver-producing Agnico mine and Eagle Gold mine, instead limiting its mining activities to the LaRonde Mine in northwestern Quebec, which possesses proven and probable gold reserves of 5.3 million ounces and produces silver, copper, and zinc as a byproduct of the gold mining process.

Agnico-Eagle’s other properties, not currently in production, contain gold reserves of another 2.6 million ounces. The company also is conducting exploration on 56 properties located in eastern Canada and the western United States. It is pursuing opportunities in northern Mexico as well and owns a stake in the Surrikuusikko gold field in Finland. For many years Agnico-Eagle has been one of the lowest cost producers in North America, a company that has steadfastly refused to engage in hedging (selling future gold production at a set price as a precautionary measure), instead selling all of its production at the spot price of gold. Continue Reading →

Barrick Gold Corporate History (1980-2000) – International Directory of Company Histories

For a large selection of corporate histories click: International Directory of Company Histories

Company History:

Barrick Gold Corporation is an anomaly in the gold exploration and mining industry; it has little debt and low-cost production, yet high yield and even higher sales. Though Barrick began as a less than spectacular petroleum and oil company in Canada founded by Peter Munk and David Gilmour, they turned to prospecting in 1983 and became the quintessential success story. While gold mining operations may spend decades searching for the motherlode, Barrick began by acquiring established mines and bringing them to new levels of productivity and profit.

On its Goldstrike Property on the Carlin Trend in Nevada, Barrick has established the Betze-Post and Meikle Mines: the former is the richest and most productive mine in the United States while the latter is the largest underground mine in North America. Ongoing exploration and drilling continue in the region, as well as on properties in Canada, South America, and Africa, with projections to reach more than five million ounces of gold production by 2003. Since Barrick’s mining and processing facilities are among the most technologically advanced in the world, this is all but a fait accompli. Continue Reading →

Mining for victory [Inco, Nickel, World War Two] – by Stan Sudol (National Post – August 25, 2005)

Inco World War Two Poster

Inco World War Two Poster

Stan Sudol is a Toronto-based communications consultant who writes extensively on mining issues. [email protected]

The Royal Canadian Mint last spring introduced the Victory Anniversary Nickel to commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of our fighting forces in the Second World War. In Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ont., that victory coin has many additional memories, especially for Inco Ltd and its work force.

During the war years, International Nickel Company of Canada, as it was known back then, and its employees in Sudbury and Port Colborne, supplied 95% of all Allied demands for nickel — a vital raw material critical for our final victory.

In fact, for much of the past century the leading source of this essential metal was the legendary Sudbury Basin; the South Pacific island of New Caledonia came a distant second. Until the mid-seventies, Sudbury supplied up to 90% of world demand during some periods. Continue Reading →