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For almost three decades the 1970s, 1980s and until his death in 1995 Robert Hallbauer was recognized by industry, government and labor as a giant in terms of his presence and influence over the mining industry in British Columbia. He came to personify the industry, to symbolize it, not by design, but by the strength of his character, his integrity and his technical accomplishments.
Hallbauer was a builder at heart, best known for developing a series of mines that led to a new period of growth for associated companies Teck and Cominco.
Born into a West Kootenay pioneer family in 1930, Hallbauer graduated from the University of B.C. in 1954 with a B.A.Sc. in mining engineering. He joined Placer Development as an underground miner at the Emerald mine in Salmo, and progressed quickly through the organization, rising to the position of manager at the Craigmont copper mine in Merritt.
In 1968, Hallbauer joined Teck as vice president of mining. Over the next dozen years, he spearheaded the construction and operation of many mines. In 1975, the Newfoundland Zinc mine at Daniel’s Harbour started production on time and budget. The following year, production started at the Niobec mine in Quebec. Hallbauer was the first senior manager at Teck to recognize the potential of the Afton mine near Kamloops, B.C. He urged Teck to “go after it”, even though some felt Afton’s native copper content might pose problems. Afton turned out to be a major success story after it was placed into production in 1978.
In 1981, the Highmont copper molybdenum mine began operations in B.C. Its mill assets were later merged into the Highland Valley Copper complex, which today is the second largest copperconcentrating facility in the world. Another of Hallbauer’s contributions was his involvement in the Northeast Coal project, which made its first shipment to Japan in early 1984. And under Hallbauer’s direction, the David Bell gold mine at Hemlo, Ont., opened on time and poured its first gold in May of 1985.
Hallbauer was a man of vision who played a key role in the evolution of Teck from a modest producer to one of the world’s largest mining companies. He also helped rebuild Cominco after a consortium headed by Teck took control of the debt ridden company in 1986. The 1987 decision to develop the Red Dog zinc lead mine in Alaska, thus assuring the future of Cominco and its smelter at Trail, was another of Hallbauer’s undertakings. In more recent years, he oversaw the construction of the Snip gold mine in B.C., and the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in Chile. He also modernized the Trail smelter complex, and fast tracked the Kudz Ze Kayah zinc deposit, a Cominco discovery being readied for production in the Yukon.
For his many accomplishments, Hallbauer was one of two recipients of The Northern Miner’s “Man of the Year” award in 1982. In 1992, he received the CIM’s Inco Medal.
Hallbauer was an outstanding spokesman for the mining industry, having served many years as a director of both the Mining Association of B.C. and the Coal Association. He was an industry leader, with a well earned reputation as a determined champion of mining interests in both public and private forums.