Harry L. Roscoe – “Bill” to an army of friends and industry colleagues – contributed to the advancement and prestige of the mining industry in many ways over many years, but is best known for forging development of a Canadian mining enterprise with global reach and influence. His career was synonymous with the rise of Noranda Mines, which he helped transform from a fledgling company with a struggling mine in northwestern Quebec into one of the world’s leading natural resource enterprises. He was entrepreneurial and technically skilled, and used these talents to discover new deposits, implement new technologies, build new mines, and guide the company through a period of unprecedented expansion and growth in the 1940s and 1950s.
Bill Roscoe was a Michigan native and graduated from the Michigan School of Mines in 1909. After stints with various companies, he moved to Sudbury, Ontario, where he worked for British American Nickel as an engineer, mine captain and superintendent. He joined Noranda Mines in 1926, and was soon put in charge of shaft-sinking and underground development at the new Horne mine, which was designed to produce 500 tons of concentrates for the 1,000-ton-per-day smelter then under construction.
Roscoe’s development work at Horne led to the discovery of the fabulous Upper H and Lower H orebodies, which generated excitement because of their high copper content. Mineralization returned grades of up to 20% copper in places, and by 1928 plans were being drawn up to expand production. Roscoe was appointed general manager of the Horne mine and smelter complex in 1931. By 1934, production at Horne exceeded 4,000 tons per day, which spurred technological breakthroughs, such as the use of cemented backfill in mined-out stopes to increase ore recovery. As general manager, Roscoe played a leadership role in stabilizing and building the Horne mine and smelter complex into a successful enterprise, which allowed Noranda to seek out and participate in many new opportunities for growth in eastern Canada.
Roscoe became a vice-president and director of Noranda in 1940, and in 1948 moved to its head office in Toronto as senior vice-president and director, where he remained the “top technical person” until his retirement in 1959. He supported the development of many new mines during this period of rapid growth, and also encouraged Noranda to explore and develop projects in the rest of the world. He had a sharp eye for talent too, and assembled and mentored a team of engineers that contributed greatly to the growth of Noranda and many of its affiliated companies.
Bill Roscoe was the first chairman of the mining division of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, and supported many other industry associations. He became a Canadian citizen in 1935, during a period in which he contributed greatly to the growth of the twin cities of Noranda and Rouyn, Quebec.