Horace John Fraser’s career was a varied one: a gifted student, a respected teacher, a wartime civil servant in the United States, and a senior mining executive in the private sector. He is best remembered, however, for his private sector career, during which he oversaw the merger of Ventures Limited. and Falconbridge Nickel Mines into Falconbridge Ltd. and set the company on its greatest period of growth, ultimately becoming the Free World’s second largest nickel producer.
Fraser was born in Girvin, Sask., Nov. 27, 1905. He graduated from the University of Manitoba with a B.Sc. in chemistry and a gold medal in science in 1925, received an M.Sc. in 1928, entered Harvard University the same year and earned an M.A. and, in 1930, a Ph.D. in economic geology.
For three years he worked with the International Nickel Company of Canada but returned to academic life in 1935 when he became assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology where he remained for seven years.
After the United States entered the Second World War, Fraser went to Washington in 1942 and was named assistant divisional chief in charge of ferroalloys.
When the war ended, he returned to Canada and joined Ventures in 1945. One of Ventures’ subsidiaries was Falconbridge Nickel Mines, and he was named its manager, eventually being elected president and chief executive officer in 1957. In 1958, he became president and managing director of Ventures. The two companies were finally merged through his administrative skill and business acumen.
When Fraser started with Falconbridge, it was a one-mine company. During his years with the company, the Strathcona mine and mill complex came on steam along with the Fecunis, Hardy, McKim and Boundary mines. This was Falconbridge’s greatest period of growth.
Perhaps the most significant of Fraser’s ventures was his decision to develop a ferronickel mining complex in the Dominican Republic. He was aware of the potential of laterite deposits and his academic background convinced him that the problems of extracting nickel from such refractory ores could be solved. Under his direction, the Dominican Republic’s laterite nickel deposits were explored extensively for 15 years while at the same time a research program was embarked upon to develop a commercial process for treatment of the nickel ores.
Although Fraser didn’t live to see the mine’s startup, he was the driving force behind the formation of Falconbridge Dominicana C. por A. which produces about 63 million pounds of ferronickel each year.
Fraser was also committed to maintaining high standards of education for the betterment of the country. He worked to ensure that Canada’s educational institutions received support and guidance from the business community and served on the advisory council of engineering at Queen’s University. One of the guiding lights in the establishment of Laurentian University in Sudbury, he became chairman of the school’s board of governors in 1965.
Fraser died in 1969.