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A hands-on approach to problem-solving, forged in both war and peace, enabled William Guy Brissenden to master repeated challenges during a lengthy career spent mostly with Noranda. His extraordinary skills surfaced as a member of the management team that successfully developed Gaspé Copper’s mine, mill and smelter at Murdochville, Quebec. He led Noranda’s team when it acquired control of Brunswick Mining and Smelting, and helped it become the major zinc-lead producer in eastern Canada. A champion of safety and technical innovation, Brissenden is particularly noted for initiating the trackless room-and-pillar mining method, as well as the mechanized cut-and-fill system. On the metallurgical front, he convinced Noranda’s Board to invest in new technology that extended the life of the Horne smelter in Quebec.
Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Brissenden obtained a B.Sc. degree in mining engineering from McGill University in 1937, followed by an M.Sc. in 1938. As a naval officer during the Second World War, he solved secret technical problems that helped win the Battle of the Atlantic.
Brissenden joined the Noranda group in 1948 as a mine superintendent and was soon noticed for his ability to grasp and evaluate information and recommend action. His first challenge came at Gaspé Copper, which was then wrestling with how to mine its huge, low-grade underground deposits at a profit. After intensive study, a room-and-pillar method was chosen as the method best suited for the tabular, gently dipping orebodies. Brissenden was the chief architect of the method, which proved so successful that engineers came from around the world to study the operation. The mine operated for 44 years, providing much-needed employment and benefits to the Quebec economy.
At Brunswick, he introduced a mechanized cut-and-fill mining system that allowed production to be increased to 7,500 tonnes per day from 4,500 tonnes. He also converted the Imperial smelting furnace at Belledune to a lead smelter, and implemented environmental improvements at all metallurgical plants.
In the early 1970s, researchers developed a unique concept for continuously smelting copper concentrates. Brissenden supported their efforts and convinced Noranda’s Board to invest in a full-scale prototype at the Horne smelter. The technology proved to be remarkably well-suited to the profitable treating of complex and varied custom materials. Thus, Brissenden helped prevent the loss of about 2,000 jobs when, in 1976, the Horne mine finally stopped hoisting ore.
Brissenden went on to enjoy a successful career as a mining executive, entrepreneur and consulting engineer with the Patino organization and its affiliated companies.