James McCrea was instrumental in building Dome Mines into one of the giants of the Canadian mining industry. He was responsible for acquiring and developing Dome’s Sigma mine in northwestern Quebec in the early 1930s, which has been producing gold for 56 years, and the Campbell Red Lake gold mine, one of Canada’s premier gold producers and also still in production. He was credited with creating Dome Exploration (Western) Ltd. which later became Dome Petroleum and with several other successful ventures. He died on an assignment in Western Canada for the company, to which he had devoted most of his adult life.
McCrea was born in Springtown, Ont. He attended school in Ottawa and later St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. After graduating and serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the First World War, he studied at Queen’s University where, in 1923, he received a degree in mining engineering.
During his time at Queen’s, he spent a summer mapping the geology of the Red Lake area for the Ontario government, an experience that was later to prove valuable.
After graduating from Queen’s, he joined Dome Mines and rose steadily in the organization and its related companies to become president of Dome Exploration (Western). As well, he spearheaded the development of major oil fields in Western Canada.
McCrea took Dome into its earliest subsidiary operation – the Sigma gold mine. On his recommendation, Sigma Mines (Quebec) was formed to develop a property on the outskirts of Val d’Or.
In 1944, new information from the Red Lake area prompted McCrea to decide that one particular claim group deserved a thorough investigation and he obtained an option on the property. In 1945, Dome Exploration was formed with McCrea as general manager to participate in the expansion of Canadian mining when the war concluded and one of the new company’s first steps was to acquire a 57% interest in Campbell Red Lake Mines to develop the property.
The shaft at Campbell was deepened in 1953 to 2,150 ft., with seven new levels, to search for new and richer ore. That year while on a trip investigating the possibilities of a uranium find in the west, McCrea contracted pneumonia and died from complications at the age of 55, after serving Dome for three decades.
The next spring, a spectacular orebody was discovered at Campbell, lying close to the shaft at the 14th level, the richest vein encountered to date.