A.O. Dufresne, born April 10, 1890, devoted his 45-year professional career to Quebec’s department of mines. He molded it into an efficient support system for mineral exploration and mine development that has assisted in exploiting the province’s mineral riches in an orderly fashion. There were seven employees at the department when he started in 1914. Upon his retirement in 1960, there were more than 500.
During his third year at Ecole Polytechnique, before he had settled on a career, Dufresne spent a summer working for the Barlow Commission which was asked by the provincial government to report on the newly discovered Chibougamau copper field. After four months of bush life including surveying, geological mapping and ore sampling, he decided to pursue geology as a career and did postgraduate work at McGill University.
The season of field work in northwestern Quebec made an impression on him that guided his work for the rest of his life: “I could visualize the possibilities of important mining camps contributing generously to the wealth of the province.”
Upon graduation with an M.Sc. from McGill in 1914, he joined the Quebec Bureau of Mines and in 1927 was appointed director of the bureau. When it was reorganized as the Department of Mines in 1941, he became Deputy Minister, a position he held until his retirement, serving under 10 different ministers.
As director and deputy minister, he was responsible for creating the administrative structure within the Quebec government that fostered the spectacular growth of Quebec’s mining industry. His work led to changes in mining legislation and mine safety as well as to the development of mining towns and villages.
He continued the work of his predecessor in geological mapping, ultimately covering most of the province. He established a number of services involving publishing, technical information, mine and quarry inspections, laboratory analyses and research as well as a mineral processing pilot plant in Quebec City and a sampling plant in Val d’Or.
In 1936, through the acquisition by his department of Gale Gold Mines in the Val d’Or area, he created the Quebec Mining School. To promote prospecting for mineral deposits in Quebec, he established courses on mineral prospecting that were given originally at various locations around the province and, from 1945, at University Laval and Ecole Polytechnique.
Dufresne was responsible for the training of Quebec’s first mining, geological and metallurgical engineers through the establishment of a Canadian university scholarship program for young Quebecers. This culminated in the founding in 1934 of the Ecole des Mines at Laval University and the establishment of courses leading to B.Sc. degrees in mining and geological engineering at Ecole Polytechnique.
From 1960 to 1962, he was chairman of the Study Commission on Mining Legislation which led to thorough revisions to the Quebec Mining Act.