Tag Archives | mining history

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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Encouraging Smelter Plans Dashed by Lack of Support Outside Village of Sudbury – by Gary Peck

Some 85 years ago, quite a stir probably was created in the village of Sudbury with the announcement of the Sudbury Customs Smelting Company. In February 1892, the company, after considerable initial discussion, was proclaimed; yet by the end of April the initial excitement had turned to disappointment.
 
The Sudbury Customs Smelting Company, according to the prospectus, had a provisional board consisiting of James Commee, MPP, president; A.J. Macdonnell, treasurer; James Stobie, vice-president; Alfred Merry, consulting chemist; W.J. Skynner, secretary.
 
The directors, many from Sudbury, included James McCormick, Stephen Fournier, R.B. Struthers, MD, James A. Orr, Has B. Hammond, D. O’Connor, Frank Cochrane, D.T. Flannery, A. Hoffman Smith, J. McCormick, C.J. Kettyle, Charles Jessop, Rinaldo McConnell, of Mattawa, J.R. Gordon, of Toronto; C. Gordon Richardson, of Toronto, and Wm. McVittie of Whitefish. 
 
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Early Mining schools in Sudbury and Copper Cliff – Gary Peck

During the 1890s, there was considerable interest in the establishing of mining schools in Ontario. One of the early promoters was James Commee, MPP for Algoma. Offering support was James Orr, editor of the Sudbury Journal, who argued for the locating of a mining school in Sudbury. The town did not quite receive the school desired, but in 1894 this area hosted two summer schools.

In the session of the legislature in 1894, $2,000 was appropriated for the purpose of organizing Summer Mining Schools in the northern districts of Ontario. Work for this undertaking was assumed by the School of Practical Science, University of Toronto, with the pilot summer schools in 1894 located in the communities of Copper Cliff, Sudbury and Rat Portage, with the later established after the Copper Cliff and Sudbury schools.
 
When advertised locally, the caption read, “Summer School for Prospectors, Miners and Others interested in mining.” On Friday evening, July , at 8 o’clock, there was a meeting at the public school in Sudbury. Continue Reading →

The Sorry Saga of the H.H. Vivian Company-Gary Peck

The arrival of the H.H. Vivian Company was preceded by its reputation. Enthusiasm must have been present in Sudbury for an operation hailing from Wales recognized the nickel worth of this area. The future looked good for the small town in New Ontario. Yet, the local expectations never were met. Disappointment would accompany failure, particularly when so much had been expected. However, its origins, development, and ultimate failure constitute an interesting tale.

The Murray Mine, familiar to so many over the years, would be the main mine for the H.H. Vivian Company’s Sudbury operations. Though accidentally discovered by Dr. Harvey, and on another occasion by Thomas Flanagan, only on February 25, 1884, would there be an offer to purchase the site. At the price of one dollar an acre, 310 acres would come under the control of four non-residents – Thomas and William Murray of Pembroke, Henry Abbott of Brockville, and John Loughrin of Mattawa. In 1899, Murray Mine, located on the north half of lot one, concession four of McKim, was purchased by the Welsh company.

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Dynamite’s Successor Tested at the Copper Cliff Elsie Mine – Gary Peck

It combines all the elements of dynamite as an explosive as well as many other laudable features. It is safe to handle and needs the action of heat, flame and concussion to ignite it. One can even pound it with a hammer or rub it with sandpaper without fear. As well, it will not freeze under 25 degrees below zero nor is it affected by water or weather.

 Finally, no noxious gases will be emitted underground to slow down work and perhaps overcome the miner.  Such were the claims of a company in 1901 developing a new explosive to replace dynamite. Of interest is the little-known fact that the first Canadian plant was built in Sudbury.

The new explosive was of Russian origin, having been invented by Count Sergius Smollinoff.

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The Discovery of Sudbury Nickel was Accidental – Gary Peck

The discovery of ore in the Sudbury area is one worthy of recording for in many ways its discovery was both accidental and initially at least, unappreciated.

 In 1856, A.P. Salter, provincial land surveyor was involved in survey work in the area. While running the meridian line north of Whitefish Lake, he noted a deflection on his compass needle. This occurred in the area between present – day Creighton and Snider townships. He reported to Alexander Murray, a geologist with the Geological Commission. Murray visited the area, took samples, and wrote a report; however, in 1856 little interest was generated given the inaccessibility of the area. Significantly, the samples were taken about 200 yards west of Creighton mine. Creighton mine was rediscovered in 1886 and in 1901 the Canadian Copper Company began operation there.

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Northern Ontario Settlers Mining on Indian Land in the 1840s – Michael Barnes

Across the North American continent there are many stories from earlier times of conflict when the interests of First Nations people came up against commercial greed.

One such incident took place at Bruce Mines in 1847 and fortunately for all concerned the situation was defused and settled amicably.

The rush to obtain copper and other minerals at Bruce Mines was the first instance of commercial mining operations in the northern Ontario. Continue Reading →

Sudbury Looks to the Future – By Leslie Roberts (MacLean’s March 15, 1931) Part 2

A Vast Corporation

Smelter expansion is perhaps the key to the developments which have taken place in post-war years and of the company’s plans for even greater expansion in the days to come. When Mond merged with International Nickel, it was reported falsely, as it turned out that Coniston’s fires would be drawn and that all future smelting operations would be transferred to the mammoth new plant than projected for Copper Cliff and since built.

Wiseacres in brokers’ board rooms declared that there would be nothing left for Coniston to do, but instead it has been enlarged into a more important production unit than before, despite the construction of the new Copper Cliff plant, plans for which were greatly enlarged during the construction stage. The two smelters combined have the capacity for treating more than 8,000 tons of ore a day, though running well below capacity at the present time as the result of low prices prevailing for nickel and copper.

In addition to its operations in mines and smelters, this vast corporation that is Sudbury owns refineries at Port Colbourne, at Clydach in Wales and at Acton in England, and is par owner of the immense new plant of Ontario Refineries, recently completed in Copper Cliff. Continue Reading →

Samuel J. Ritchie: A Tower in Early Sudbury Mining – Gary Peck

There are many tales yet untold pertaining to the formative years of the area’s mining industry. Numerous prospectors, the names of some unrecorded, are part of the history. The various workers who toiled with the rock are also an important facet of the story.

As well, entrepreneurs and their companies have to be examined. Not surprising, more of the early companies met with failure than success. One company and one name towered above the others during the early years of mining – the Canadian Copper Company and Samuel J. Ritchie. Ritchie’s introduction to nickel and the events leading to formation of the Canadian Copper Company constitute an interesting story. Continue Reading →

Thomas Frood and his faith in the New Ontario – Gary Peck

Reminiscences of pioneers are often the more difficult of sources to uncover. In some cases the pioneer was never interviewed. Often people were too busy surviving in what had to have been a trying time. However, Thomas Frood, one of Sudbury’s early history-makers, did have a few of his views committed to paper at the turn of the century. The account is an important one for not only the views expressed but also what they reveal about the author.

Thomas Frood was born in Renfrew in 1843. For the early years of his life, he lived in southern Ontario as a druggist in Southampton, and later as a teacher in Kincardine. Continue Reading →

2008 Canadian Mining Hall of Fame – Twenty years and going strong – Stan Sudol

Pierre Lassonde, Chairman of Franco-Nevada Corp. and the World Gold CouncilThe Canadian Mining Hall of Fame (CMHF) celebrated its 20th anniversary with a star-studded line-up of industry movers and shakers on January 17th 2008, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. The annual dinner and induction ceremony is one of the social highlights of the mining industry which has a lot to be celebrating about this year in addition to the five new members that were inducted that evening – Carroll O. Brawner, Johannes J. Brummer, Ernest Craig, Chester F. Millar and David A. Thompson.

In total, including this year’s inductees, 135 individuals have been honored for their outstanding lifetime achievements to the benefit of the country’s minerals industry.

Many people and politicians still think the mining sector is a boring, polluting, low-tech industry that should be delegated to the dustbins of history. A quick review of the many prospectors, metallurgists, geo-scientists, and corporate financiers in the hall of fame, whose discoveries and technological advances have made Canada a global mining powerhouse, would quickly change those negative perceptions of the industry.

Ed Thompson, Mining Consultant; Nean Allman, CMHF Coordinator; Doug Donnelly, Publisher, Northern MinerStories of intense courage, guts, greed and glory. Stories of passionate believers with quiet and tenacious determination. Stubborn characters who would not give up. These are the people who helped populate our isolated north, created enormous amounts of shareholder and corporate wealth and jobs for hundreds of thousands if not millions of Canadians.

That is why the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame is so important. It is the keeper of the flame ensuring that the next generation understands and is justifiably proud of the enormous contributions and debt we owe to those that preceded us.

The four main sponsors of the Hall of Fame are the Northern Miner, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) and the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) which also publishes an industry magazine. Continue Reading →