Jules Timmins’ finest hour, and his claim to mining fame, occurred when he brought into being the iron ore fields of northern Quebec and Labrador, in one of the greatest projects in Canadian mining history.
He conceived, and developed to fruition in the 1950s, an iron ore empire which was truly one of the most imaginative, most difficult mining projects ever undertaken.
Timmins’ name was already something of a household word by the time, in 1940, he first formed the plan of unlocking the iron ore riches of the Ungava region.
He was the son, to begin with, of Henry Timmins, who with his brother Noah, (and after whom the present city of Timmins is named) brought to birth one of the world’s greatest gold mines, the Hollinger, at Porcupine, Ontario, in the Timmins area. The two brothers were thus destined to make the Timmins name one of the most famous in Canadian mining; a reputation the city itself has continued to build on with remarkable success.
Jules Timmins was not content, however, to rest on, the family laurels. After graduating from McGill University in mining engineering, he rolled up his sleeves and began his career as an underground miner at the Hollinger mine.
Later, he established the brokerage business of J.R. Timmins and Co., and on the death of his uncle Noah Timmins, in 1936, became president of Hollinger Consolidated.
It was just four years later when, seeking new fields to conquer, he began to consider how to reach the huge Quebec iron ore deposits, and how to bring them into economic operation.
The scale of the project, even by today’s standards, was impressive. In original estimates, close to $300 million was needed to bring the iron ore deposits to economic production; large-scale port facilities were required at Sept-Iles, on the St. Lawrence, and a railway 350 miles in length had to be built to link the mine with the port, through difficult terrain.
Timmins faced much more than logistical problems. One of his most formidable challenges was to raise the enormous amounts of capital needed for the project. He had great difficulty in fact raising such capital in Canada at that time, and finally was forced to turn to the United States.
Fortunately for Timmins, for the project, and for Canada, steel companies in the U.S. in the early 50s were very concerned about dwindling sources of domestic iron ore, and consequently were prepared to listen to Timmins’ financing proposals.
As a result, he was able to interest six U.S. steel companies, headed by the M.A. Hanna Co. of Cleveland (whose president then was George Humphrey) in forming a financing consortium.
So came into existence what later evolved into the Iron Ore Company of Canada. The building of Timmins’ dream was a logistical triumph, with the construction of the mine (serviced by the first and greatest wholly airborne mining operation in history), the railway, the port facilities.
Even the mighty St. Lawrence Seaway was finally built, by Canada and the United States, partly as a result of the need for deep-water ships to carry iron ore from Sept-Iles to the big steel-making centres at the head of the Great Lakes.
Jules Timmins was honored for his iron ore work with the Blaylock Medal of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, with the O.B.E. for war work on national metal supply, and by McGill and Queen’s universities with honorary degrees.
He made his place as one of the big builders of the nation.