Michael J. Knuckey’s induction into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame recognizes his leadership role in the discovery or development of at least 10 mineral deposits, of which two are truly world class. Of these deposits, eight have become mines. He has championed the development of new exploration techniques that are now standard in the industry. His support for the Raglan project in northern Quebec produced an agreement with the Aboriginal people that is taken as a model of its type, providing employment opportunities at the mine and new business opportunities for northerners. Last but by no means least, Knuckey has been an inspiring mentor to many explorationists who themselves are making an impact on the industry.
Born in Cornwall, England, Knuckey graduated in mining geology from the Royal School of Mines in London, England, and emigrated to Canada in 1957. He worked in New Brunswick, at Elliot Lake in Ontario and in Quebec, where he became manager of the Coniagas mine. Then he joined Falconbridge as Chief Geologist at La Luz Mines in Nicaragua.
After a year of post-graduate studies in the U.K., he rejoined Falconbridge in Timmins in the early 1970s, subsequently joining Corporation Falconbridge Copper as Chief Geologist. In 1982 he was appointed Vice President, Exploration. In 1986 he joined Falconbridge Limited as Vice President Exploration. In 1995, as Falconbridge and Noranda moved closer together as companies, he was appointed President and CEO of Noranda Mining and Exploration. Two years later, after Noranda reorganized its smelting and mining assets, he became Executive Vice President, Exploration and Project Development.
Throughout his 45 years in the industry, Knuckey has been involved in the discovery and development of numerous deposits. Collahuasi in Chile was a discovery of “elephant” proportions. Seven other discoveries have become mines—Corbet, Ansil, Winston Lake, Samatosum, Thayer Lindsley, Raglan’s new zones and Ujina. Other finds could well become producers in the future.
Knuckey instilled in his teams the need to compile rigorously all geological data, particularly drill hole data, and to prepare folios of level plans from which longitudinal and cross sections could be compiled. This approach resulted in his first new mine discovery, the Corbet deposit, in 1974.
Knuckey’s managerial skills and strategic thinking brought together the exploration, business development and project teams of Noranda and resulted in the successful involvement of the company in the Antamina mine in Peru. The initial unsuccessful bid did not deter him from giving up one bit. He represented Noranda’s interests on the operating boards and committees. As a result of his insistence, and occasionally outspoken interventions, Antamina adopted policies that made it an award-winning leader in Peru with regard to social responsibility.
Several new technologies are in standard use in the exploration business today as a result of the support given to them by Knuckey, and the financial backing he supplied to test the early ideas. Lithogeochemistry and borehole geophysics EM studies produced the Ansil discovery – a mile below surface—and Winston Lake. MegaTM airborne and 3D seismic surveys helped to locate the Perseverence, Quebec, and Half Mile Deep, New Brunswick, discoveries. Knuckey continues his interest in new technology through his involvement with the Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization, which he has chaired for many years.
Held in high esteem by his colleagues, Mike Knuckey is one of the premier explorationists and mine finders of our time. He has the ability to recognize potential in properties and people. He is a role model, and an excellent communicator, explaining what he is doing and why in language all can understand. He also reportedly has the ability to ask that one question you had never thought of posing yourself!