An eminent economic geologist, known internationally for his many contributions to mineral exploration on nearly every continent of the world, Duncan R. Derry was one of the Canadian mining industry’s leading spokesmen. The recipient of many honors and awards for his work, Derry had special qualities which were described, at the time he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from the University of Toronto, as “his humanity, his integrity, his logic and his wisdom.”
He was a past-president of the Society of Economic Geologists, and one of the original founders of the Geological Association of Canada.
He also launched the Canadian Geological Foundation, and was a member of the founding group of the Canadian Geoscience Council.
Among his many awards were the Logan Medal, presented for “distinguished contributions to the earth sciences”, and the Selwyn Blaylock Medal from the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, “in recognition of his meritorious service to the Canadian mining industry in general, and especially related to his widely-recognized talents in the geological sciences.”
So highly was he valued in these sciences that in 1980, the Geological Association of Canada inaugurated a new medal, the Duncan R. Derry Medal, which is now awarded annually to an outstanding economic geologist who has made major contributions in the field in Canada.
Dr. Derry was born in England in 1906, graduated at Cambridge in honor science, then, moving to Canada, took his M.A. and Ph.D. in geology at the University of Toronto.
In 1935, he joined Thayer Lindsley at Ventures Ltd., forerunner of Falconbridge, and worked closely with Lindsley for many years in a highly successful team. It was interrupted only by Derry’s service in World War II, as a squadron leader navigation training officer.
At Ventures, he supervised exploration and mining programs in Canada and many other countries, including South Africa, Greece, Guyana, Chile, Peru, and Greenland. In Canada, he was responsible for the mine geology for such operations as Canadian Malartic, Matachewan Consolidated and Opemiska Copper. His contribution to the success of the latter company was one of his most important undertakings while with Ventures.
In 1954, Derry joined Rio Tinto as president of Rio Tinto Exploration, and that job led to the acquisition and development of what is now Rio Algom’s bit uranium mines in the Elliot Lake area of Ontario.
Derry left Rio in 1960 to form his own consulting firm, Derry Michener Booth & Wahl, which partnership has since become a highly-respected, household name not just in Canada, but throughout the mining world.
Dr. Derry added immeasurably not only to the advancement of the geological sciences and their practical application to mining development in Canada and elsewhere, but to the publication of world literature in the field. Most notably, he spent some three years researching, compiling, funding and publishing an impressive “World Atlas of Geological and Mineral Deposits.”