Marsh Cooper is best known as the driving force in the acquisition and development of many of the deposits and mines that transformed Falconbridge into a global nickel giant. He guided the company through one of its strongest periods of growth, brought new mines into production and, during the 1970s, oversaw the completion of Falconbridge Dominica’s ferronickel plant in the Dominican Republic. He also arranged for the acquisition of the deposits in Chile that eventually formed the massive Collahuasi copper project, as well as the properties in northern Quebec that now comprise the Raglan nickel project. Collahuasi and Raglan both achieved commercial production in 1998 – a testament to Cooper’s ability to identify projects worth holding through the ups and downs of the commodity cycle.
A native of Toronto, Cooper obtained his B.A.Sc. degree from the University of Toronto in 1935, followed by his M.A.Sc. in 1936. Next, he pursued post-graduate studies at Harvard University and joined the consulting firm of James and Buffam. After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war, he re-joined the renowned firm and became a partner in 1947.
As President of McIntyre Porcupine Mines, Cooper focused his efforts on developing a low-grade copper zone that extended the life of the Timmins mine for several years. In 1968, he became President of Falconbridge, a position he held until 1980. Cooper’s contributions during this period were numerous and significant. He greatly improved the safety and productivity of the Falconbridge refinery in Norway. A profitable cobalt refinery was part of this expansion. Under Cooper’s direction, Falconbridge Dominica grew from a pilot plant to a 70-million-pound-per-year ferronickel producer. Despite the energy crisis of the time, the $200-million project was built on budget and achieved full production within a year of startup. This commercially successful project placed Falconbridge at the forefront of extraction of nickel from laterite ores.
In 1978, Cooper oversaw the design and construction of a new nickel smelter and acid plant in Sudbury, Ontario, and these facilities were credited with greatly reducing sulphur dioxide emissions. The Fraser mine, developed during the latter part of his tenure, came into production in 1980.
Under Cooper’s leadership, Falconbridge also introduced its recycling and custom feed business, expanded its marketing and sales strategy into global markets, and enhanced its international presence through exploration and new projects.
Cooper’s contributions to mining continued after his retirement. He has aided many Canadian universities, notably Laurentian University in Sudbury and the University of Toronto’s Lassonde Mineral Engineering Program.