CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE: Republic Of Mining Chronicles Canadian Mining History -by Stan Sudol*

This column was posted today on the Canadian Mining Journal digital update.

The Web has forever changed the way we search for information. In today’s digitized world, most journalists, policy analysts, political leaders and the general public – especially students – turn to the Internet as their first source for facts.

Two major drawbacks to Internet searches seem to be the lack of content that is over a decade old because no one has bothered to post it or information that is deeply embedded in corporate websites. Blog postings, on the other hand, generally show up on Google searches much more readily.

In the final week of December, the annual Mining Person of the Year Award given by The Northern Miner is eagerly awaited by the industry. Since the first award was given in 1977, I was very surprised that I could not find much information about previous winners when I searched the Internet.

After contacting The Northern Miner about my concerns, publisher Doug Donnelly graciously allowed the to post all the previous Mining Person of the Year winners.

I have created a separate file in my blog’s index site located on the left hand side of the screen called “Northern Miner – Mining Person of the Year Award,” for easy access. Or just Google “Mining Person/Man of the Year” and the address will pop up at the top of the page.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 4 of 4) – Stan Sudol

The summer of 1969 was the beginning of the end of Sudbury’s commanding control of global nickel production. The labour disruptions that summer and fall would impact the industry for the next few decades. The Inco miners went on strike on July 10, 1969 with the Falconbridge workers joining them in the third week of August. They did not settle with until mid-November. The industrial economies of Britain and the U.S., both of which imported almost all of their nickel from Canada suffered greatly.

The London Times headlines screamed “The Nickel Crisis” and “Whitehall and CBI May Soon Declare Nickel Emergency.”  It was the most severe materials shortages both countries had experienced since World War Two. In the U.S. nickel stockpiles had to guarded by armed police to prevent theft. U.S. military production remained unaffected due to the government strategic stockpile.

It was the last time the “Sudbury nickel lion” roared. By bringing U.S. and British industry to their knees the Sudbury workers ensured that billions would be spent over the next few years to finally break their monopoly on this strategic metal.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 3 of 4) – Stan Sudol

The decade ended with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the community in June 1939. It was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury. Precedence was broken by allowing the Queen, the first women ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were allowed underground. There were a few miners who probably thought the beginning of the Second World War was a result of her visit.

Second World War

Shortly after the second world war started, nickel was one of the first metals to require government allocation. Non-essential use of this strategic material was banned which included most of International Nickel’s civilian markets.

Labour shortages were a constant struggle requiring the company to hire women in its surface operations for the first time in history. Over 1,400 women were hired in production and maintenance jobs for the duration of the war at the Sudbury operations and the Port Colborne refinery.

The labour shortages also finally allowed a permanent union to be established. Inco’s nickel operations were well known to have an extensive system of anti-union spies who ensured any person discussing organization activities would be quickly fired.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 2 of 4) – Stan Sudol

Thomas A. Edison the famous inventor came to Sudbury in 1901 searching for nickel. He was unsuccessful as he didn’t drill deep enough. Years later Falconbridge would develop a mine on this very claim.

The strategic military importance of nickel attracted major American corporations. In 1902 J.P. Morgan of U.S. Steel helped establish the International Nickel Company by combining the Orford Copper Company’s New Jersey refinery with the Canadian Copper Company’s Sudbury mines. Samuel Ritchie was ousted be his partners back in 1891 giving Robert M. Thompson control. Ambrose Monell, who came from U.S. Steel was the first president.

In 1905, Sudbury nickel production surpassed that of New Caladonia for the first time and would continue it stranglehold on the world’s largest supplies of nickel until the late 1970s.

The growing importance of Sudbury and all of northern Ontario was formally recognized by the provincial government of Premier James Whitney (1905-1914) by appointing Sudbury businessman and former mayor  Frank Cochrane as the province’s first northern cabinet minister. He served as the as the provincial minister of lands, forests and mines from 1905 to 1911. At the turn of the last century northern Ontario’s vast resources were supplying about 25 per cent of Queen’s Park revenues.

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Sudbury – The Republic of Nickel (Part 1 of 4) – Stan Sudol

Since the beginning of mankind, access to important mineral deposits for economic or military applications have changed the destinies of entire civilizations.

The rich gold mines of Thrace gave Alexander the Great the enormous wealth to bankrole a powerfull army and establish one of the greatest empires the world had ever seen. Ancient Chinese metalurgical expertise with iron and steel allowed the Middle Kingdom to become a powerful military and economic force during the prosperous Han dynasty.

For much of the twentieth century, the nickel mines of Sudbury were not only the principle source of this strategic metal, but also had a disproportionate impact on the industrial and military history of the world.
As with all good things, this story begins with a bang. Actually, it was one cosmic explosion and two smaller earth-bound blasts. The first happened about 1.8 billion years ago when a massive ten kilometer wide meteor, wider than Mount Everest, and traveling at about 75 km per second, collided with the earth at a site roughly 400 km north of present day Toronto. The impact, equal to the force of about 10 billion atomic bombs, melted the crust and concentrated the nickel-copper mineralization already at the site.

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Sudbury Dumped on the Slag Heap of History – Stan Sudol

Stan Sudol - Executive Speech Writer and Communications ConsultantThis article was originally published in the Sudbury Star –  Friday, February 6 , 2004

Sudbury should work extra hard to control its image

Ed Burtynsky is a very successful art photographer who, unfortunately for Sudbury, has become somewhat of a celebrity within the tiny Toronto media establishment. Why should the city be concerned? Mr. Burtynsky’s principal subject matter happens to be industrial environments and many of his photos were taken in the Sudbury region. In fact one particularly photo titled, Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario is not only on the cover of his new book, but is also being highlighted by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in their media promotions of his show.

 If you read last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, you would have seen a “full-page” advertisement for Mr. Burtynsky’s AGO show using a striking photo of a river of slag with denuded trees in the distance. The Globe and Mail is Canada’s most influential newspaper, read by the country’s corporate and political elite – the type of people who make decisions on where factories should be built and where significant government investments should be made.  

In the February issue of Toronto Life, journalist Gerald Hannon writes a lengthy profile on Ed Burtynsky’s work and eloquently describes that slag-dump photo as, “One image in particular has become almost iconic. Nickel Tailings #34, Sudbury, Ontario gives us a black and blistered landscape, a fragile line of trees huddling disconsolately in the background, the foreground dominated by a stream so crimson it is as if the earth has bled.”

Ed Burtynsky - Nickel Tailings # 34 Sudbury, Ontario

In a recent review in the Toronto Star, the country’s largest circulation paper, art critic Peter Goddard describes another Burtynksy photo titled #13, Inco Abandoned Mine Shaft, Crean Hill Mine, Sudbury, Ontario as “… that left a pool of lime-green water so toxic and yet so clear – and lovely to look at – that the vertical striations in the rock are reflected in the surface of the deadly pool.”

Taking a Beating

Sudbury’s public relations image is certainly taking a beating. In fact, many in my business might suggest that the past twenty-five years of trying to change the city’s image from a polluted, industrially ravaged moonscape into a transformed, regreened landscape has been dealt a mortal blow!

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Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable Community (Part 3 of 3) – Stan Sudol

Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable CommunityIV: COMPANY & GOVERMENT INVESTMENTS IN LOCAL BUSINESSES

Maximizing the Potential of our Local Cluster

More money is spent within a 500-kilometer radius of Sudbury on underground hardrock mining supplies than anywhere else in Canada, the U.S, or Chile. In 2005, lnco spent $374 million on local supplies and services and $228 million on capital spending, Within the Sudbury area there are more than 300 companies that form the basis for the Greater Sudbury mining supply and services (MS&S) cluster. These companies range from dozens of small specialty shops that have created niche markets for themselves, to firms specializing in project engineering and management, equipment design and manufacture, software development and other research.

Employing over 8,000 people, they have the potential to create a significant number of new jobs over the next 10 years, expand exports and develop as a technical leader for the mining industry. A recent Institute for Norfhern Ontario Research and Development (INORD) survey conducted for FedNor at Laurentian University indicates that innovation is extremely high among the cluster of MS&S companies in Northeastern Ontario. The study revealed that 83 out of 90 of the firms surveyed indicated they were upgrading products and services and 72 out of 93 had introduced a new product or service in the preceding three years.

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Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable Community (Part 2 of 3) – Stan Sudol

Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable CommunityINVESTMENT REQUIREMENTS


Local Operations Managed by Two Major Mining Companies

lnco is planning capital expenditures of about $2 billion in the Sudbury Basin over the next five years to expand current production and build new mines. The company is embarking on the largest period of growth in Sudbury in more than 30 years. This is a conservative estimate and depending on the financial clout of the new owner, may be increased substantially, lnco has plans for new mine developments that include the Kelly Lake and Totten deposits, milling upgrades, smelter improvements, including investments in sulphur emission reductions and expansions at the nickel refinery. The company intends to maintain the stability of their workforce, with longer-term growth potential.

Falconbridge’s half billion-dollar Nickel Rim South project, currently under construction, may become the richest individual mine in Canadian history.

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Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable Community (Part 1 of 3) – Stan Sudol

Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable CommunityIn the summer of 2006, Greater Sudbury residents were extremely concerned that the local community was being overlooked during the foreign takeovers of Inco and Falconbridge. The then Mayor David Courtemanche asked me to produce a policy document that outlined the community’s concerns about the impending loss of Sudbury’s two iconic Canadian miners to foreign ownership.

Many community stakeholders were interviewed and an aggressive first draft was delivered to Mayor Courtemanche. To the concern of some of the stakeholders, myself included, the final version was less bold and assertive than originally planned.

However, it was an honour to play a key role in the production and writing of “Claiming Our Stake! Building a Sustainable Community” during this pivotal time in the mining history of the Sudbury Basin.

Stan Sudol

Executive Summary

“There is an international bidding war taking place in the Canadian mining sector, and Greater Sudbury is at the front lines. What happens here in the next few months will re-define the Canadian mining industry and this community for, the next century.

Mayor Courtemanche, Greater Sudbury (June, 2006)

Over the past year, the global business media and Canadians have been captivated by one of the most expensive and bitter takeover battles in the history of world mining. Falconbridge Limited has been taken over by Swiss-based Xstrata PLC and, while the final ownership of lnco Limited has yet to be decided, these events will permanently change the course and ownership of the country’s resource sector.

We are also witnessing one of the largest economic transformations in the history of mankind. China, India and many other developing countries are rapidly urbanizing and industrializing their societies, and mineral commodities and mining expertise are an essential part of this change. The world is entering the start of commodity super-cycle that will last for decades and create enormous prosperity.

Our community has an enormous stake in the outcome of this international bidding war. Our stake is over 100 years of mining behind us, billions of dollars of ore beneath us, and enormous opportunities in front of us. Greater Sudbury is the historic heart and soul of the global nickel industry. Most geologists and mine industry experts agree that there is still another hundred years of life to this enormous trillion dollar mining camp.

Greater Sudbury is home to one of the greatest mining camps that the world has ever known. The Sudbury Basin is the richest mining district in North America and among the top ten most significant globally. In a world full of geo-political uncertainty, Sudbury’s strategic nickel resources ensure a secure environment for the billions of dollars needed to increase production. Nickel has become the metallic version of oil.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 7 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Finland’s Strategic Nickel Deposits

In the 1930s, Inco had invested several million dollars developing valuable nickel deposits in the Petsamo district of northern Finland, close to the Russian border. At the outbreak of war events in the region unfolded with lightning speed. The Soviets invaded Finland and annexed the nickel mines in March 1940. Germany invaded Russia in 1941 and the Finns recaptured the nickel mines which were immediately put under German control.

The British wanted Inco Limited to keep operating the mines even though production would be sold to the Germans. They were hoping that Inco could slow down development and provide the necessary intelligence for nickel shipments that the British navy could destroy. The Mackenzie King government in Ottawa steadfastly refused to co-operate with this plan. Their big fear was the negative public reaction if it was discovered that a Canadian company was helping send vital nickel to the enemy.

During the First World War some Sudbury nickel had been shipped to the Germans via a neutral United States. The “Deutschland” incident caused a huge uproar in Canada and Prime Minister King was adamant that a similar event would not happen. Inco was caught in the middle but agreed to abide with the Canadian government even though its concession in Finland would ultimately be lost.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 6 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Roger Whittle’s Amazing Invention – the Jet Engine

The successful development of British-born Roger Whittle’s amazing invention, the jet turbine engine was integrally linked to Inco’s metallurgical expertise with high temperature nickel alloys.

In the early 1940s, at the request of Britain’s Air Ministry, company scientists worked furiously to solve the problem of appropriate materials for emerging designs in jet and gas turbine engines. The Germans were also working on their own version of a jet engine the Messerschmitt Me 262.

One of the most noted contributions during the war was the invention of a new alloy for jet-propelled aircraft engines by International Nickel metallurgists from the Henry Wiggin & Company Ltd. facilities in Birmingham.

This new alloy called “Nimonic 80” allowed the jet engine’s turbine parts, particularly the blades, to operate for long periods under tremendous stress, high heat and corrosive exhaust without deforming or melting. This new alloy was superior to German aircraft technology. The first British airplane outfitted with the new engine was the Meteor which first flew in 1943 and was finally approved for the air force in July, 1944.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 4 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterThe Struggle for Union Organization

Before the war, among mining camps in Northern Ontario, Sudbury had earned the reputation of being a centre for “scabs” and “company stooges.”

Labour historian Jim Tester wrote in 1979, “Besides, they [Inco/Falconbridge] hated unions with a universal, almost pathological, passion.” He continues, “Inco had one of the best spy systems in all of North America, not exceeded by the notorious set-up at Fords. Inco’s reputation was known in every mining camp on the continent. In Kirkland Lake and Timmins there was a tremendous sympathy for the nickel workers of Sudbury. It was estimated that one in ten Inco workers was an informer.”

Inco hired people to intimidate union organizers handing out leaflets and disrupted meetings. The company even resorted to violence to keep the union out.  In 1942, two union organizers were severely beaten and hospitalized and their downtown office destroyed by a group of twelve company goons. Although it was the middle of the day, no police were around to stop the violence. Two of the twelve went public and the union printed and distributed 10,000 leaflets throughout the community telling the truth.

A portion of the leaflet read, “This may be what INCO wants — it may be what the Star wants — but it is not what we want, and not what Sudbury wants.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 3 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterCKSO Radio Propaganda (Part 3 of 7)

The enormous war time demands for the metal ensured that the men working underground would be pushed to their very limits. For the ones who stayed at the mines, absenteeism was becoming a major issue. In the fall of 1942, the International Nickel Company of Canada sponsored a local CKSO radio program called “The Victory Parade.”

The following three radio spots were written by W.J. Woodill. The radio ads were used to encourage the general public to buy Victory Bonds as well as attempt to combat miner burnout with guilt.

“Mrs. Housewife! Are you one of those women who does her part by encouraging her husband to do his part in this war? Or are you “A Worry bird”, one of those girl friends of Hitler and Company? You know, even if that husband of yours doesn’t bring home a full war kit and rifle, he’s still doing his part if he’s doing his full eight hours of work every day. That Nickel or copper he’s turning out is mighty important these days.”

“Yes this is a critical time! Your husband is working not for so many cents an hour, but working for Victory. Working to put the metal into the hands of industry so there may be tools of war available. It’s vital that he does his job with his full heart in it. That husband of yours needs a clear head and his full attention to his job. Do your part, look after his health and his peace of mind. Remember he is needed on the job every minute of his shift.”

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 2 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterIncreased Nickel Production

In 1941 the Allied governments asked the company to increase production. International Nickel complied by committing $35 million to expand nickel output by 50 million pounds above 1940 production levels, reaching this goal by 1943 without any government subsidies. However, the Canadian government did allow the company to amortize within a five-year period, instead of ten or twenty years, $25 million worth of expansion expenditures.

That enormous task fell to American-born Ralph Parker, who at the time was the general superintendent of the mining and smelting division at Sudbury. It was one of Mr. Parker’s greatest achievements to organize the enormous program of enlarging the Sudbury mining and plant facilities without any loss of production.

To increase production of extraordinary war-time demands, Mr. Parker had to resort to “high-grading” which entails using above average ore grades and leaving behind lower grades that would have normally contributed to a longer, more profitable mine life. There was a real fear that the company would use up most of its reserves and have little to mine after the war.

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Inco’s Sudbury Nickel Mines were Critical During World War Two (Part 1 of 7) – by Stan Sudol

Inco World War Two PosterNickel Was the Most Strategic Metal

By anyone’s estimation, the highlight of Sudbury’s social calendar in 1939 was the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on June 5th, accompanied by Prime Minister Mackenzie King and a host of local dignitaries. This was the first time a reigning British monarch had ever visited Canada, let alone Sudbury, a testimony to the growing importance of the region’s vital nickel mines. The nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin were booming due to growing global tensions and increased spending on military budgets. Sudbury and the northeastern Ontario gold mining centres of Timmins and Kirkland Lake were among the few economic bright spots in a country devastated by the Great Depression.

In an April 15, 1938 article, Maclean’s Magazine journalist Leslie McFarlane described the three mining communities as, “Northern Ontario’s glittering triangle….No communities in all of Canada are busier, none more prosperous. The same golden light shines on each.”

During the royal visit, precedence was broken by allowing Queen Elizabeth the first female ever to go underground at the Frood Mine. Traditionally miners thought women would bring bad luck if they were permitted underground. There were probably many who thought the beginning of the Second World War on September 1, 1939 was the result of her subterranean visit.

The German invasion of Poland was to have dramatic effects on Sudbury. Many communities across Canada, Britain and the United States played exceptional roles in producing certain commodities and munitions for the war effort. However, it would be no exaggeration to say that in North America, Sudbury was among the top few communities that were absolutely critical to the war effort.

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