An imaginative exploration philosophy, sound academic approach and the resolute perseverance of a risk taker – these were the qualities that made Charles E. Michener a major factor in the success of Inco Ltd.‘s mine-finding endeavours during the middle decades of this century. The South mine in Sudbury, the Lupin gold mine (now owned by Echo Bay), the Thompson complex in Manitoba, and Inco’s vast Indonesian output can be attributed to Michener. In dollar terms, the gross annual value runs to a phenomenal $795 million.
Charles E. Michener was born in January, 1907, in Red Deer, Alta. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.Sc. in 1931. In 1932, he earned an M.Sc. in Geology from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. (Geology/Mining), again from the University of Toronto, in 1940.
Inco Ltd. offered him a position in 1935 and he spent virtually the whole of his working life with the company, that is until his retirement in 1968 when he established consulting firm Derry Michener and Booth.
The Inco years were indeed fruitful, not merely for Inco but for other companies relying on Michener’s technological innovations. Between 1940 and 1942, he helped discover the South mine, a nickel sulphide deposit near Copper Cliff, Ont. From 1945 to 1950, he helped develop Inco’s first practical airborne electromagnetic (EM) system. In the five years from 1951 to 1956, Michener discovered the Duluth Gabbro, a 200-million-tonne orebody that was blocked from development because of environmental concerns.
Early in that same period, airborne surveys incorporating Inco equipment developed by the Michener team, were used in the Mattagami area of Quebec.
In 1955 and 1956, these airborne systems played a part in discoveries as far-ranging as a nickel laterite in Australia and the Heath Steele deposit in New Brunswick.
For Inco itself, a major Michener accomplishment was the finding of the Thompson nickel belt in Manitoba (1950-1957) and the Indonesian laterite deposits (1960-1968). In fact, it was Michener who acquired the Indonesian nickel concessions for Inco. These now produce 100 million pounds of nickel a year.