Scientist-teacher and discoverer-developer of mines, Jim Gill made major contributions in every area he touched throughout a long and extra-full life in mining.
To hundreds of mining professionals now scattered throughout the world he was the “Professor” who, through over 40 years, taught and encouraged them to achieve the highest standards in their mining careers. Today, many former Jim Gill students, including a grandson, are prominent in the industry.
The leadership he displayed in education is demonstrated by two innovations: introduction of an M.Sc. (Applied) Program in Mineral Exploration; and establishment of the first analytical laboratory for the application of geochemistry to mineral exploration. Both were introduced at McGill University in Montreal where he joined the Department of Geological Studies in 1929 and retired in 1969 as Emeritus Professor.
As a teacher and scientist his main interest was the geology of ore deposits. He was keenly interested in structural geology, formulating the concept of a “structural province” and applied this in defining the fundamental subdivisions of the Canadian Shield. The more than 50 technical papers he published and his role as Managing Editor for the 24th International Geological Congress which resulted in a bookshelf length set of volumes are an ongoing contribution as a geoscientist.
While the challenges of the academic and scientific worlds were the major part of Jim Gill’s lifetime, he also established a record of hands-on achievements in the mining industry that includes discovery of deposits which became mines and expansions of producing mines.
In 1929, Jim Gill together with the late Dr. W.R. James Sr., an internationally-famous mining consultant (and an early inductee into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame) discovered the deposits of high-grade direct-shipping iron ore that years later led to the opening up of the iron wealth of Quebec and Labrador. That summer exploration project was a daring undertaking as one of the first major air-supported programs.
Gold in northwestern Quebec was a major and fruitful interest. He was instrumental in discovery of at least three gold mines and contributed to many other successful mines as a consultant and advisor. His extensive work in the field included coal on Vancouver Island, fire clays in Pennsylvania, the Caribbean, South America, the mineral resources of the Northwest Territories and the Red Lake area in Ontario.
During the Second World War when Canada’s mining industry was mobilized to provide essential minerals and metals, Jim Gill directed development and opening of a Canada’s only source of chromite.
Jim Gill was born in Nelson, British Columbia, attended the University of British Columbia and then McGill University where he graduated in 1921 with a B.Sc. in Mining Engineering. He spent two years as a Mining Engineer in British Columbia. Gill obtained his Ph.D. at Princeton University in 1925 and embarked on his academic career as Assistant Professor at the University of Rochester in the U.S.