Neil Campbell’s abilities at geological deduction were responsible for several important mineral discoveries, but it is the Pine Point mine on the south shore of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories with which he was most closely associated.
Pine Point was one of the remarkable developments in Canadian mining, a partnership of government and private enterprise that returned handsome rewards to both. It sparked the construction of a 450-mile railway line into the Northwest Territories and played a major role in developing the north while creating hundreds of million of dollars in new wealth.
The total cost of the Pine Point project, including mine development, railway construction, power plant construction and townsite construction, came to $125 million with government contributing $88 million of that. The mine, which produced more than 70 million tons of ore during its 24-year operating life, permitted the company to pay out $339 million in dividends, $176 million in taxes, an estimated $400 million in freight charges to the government-owned Canadian National Railway, $246 million in wages and salaries, an estimated $500 million in supplies and services and $100 million to the Northern Canada Power Commission.
Benefits from the mine that cannot be quantified include demonstrating that a large open pit mining operation can be established successfully in the north.
Campbell was born in Medicine Hat Alta., April 27, 1914. During the Depression, he attended the University of Alberta where he obtained a B.Sc. in mining engineering in 1937.
After graduating, he went to work at the Con gold mine in Yellowknife, N.W.T. Through painstaking mapping, he determined the displacement of the West Bay Fault which led to the discovery of the Campbell shear, considered to be an extension of the Giant Yellowknife Nobodies three miles to the north.
His thesis on the geology of the Con mine and the geological details of the displacement on West Bay Fault were subsequently published and are studied internationally by students of structural and economic geology. This work earned him the Barlow Gold Medal from the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in 1947.
In 1940, he examined a small, well-known and seemingly worthless lead-zinc occurrence at Pine Point, then developed and later won acceptance for a geological theory promising large quantities of rich ore previously unknown. Upon convincing his employer, Cominco Ltd., he directed exploration work that led to the discovery of new orebodies. These spawned the community of Pine Point based on the successful lead-zinc mine which became a mit centre for the north.
Campbell had other notable successes. He provided geological direction for the town which, in 1956, discovered the Wedge copper mine in New Brunswick. In the 1960s, he headed other groups that discovered the Magmont lead mine in Missouri and the Vade potash mine in Saskatchewan.
In 1967, he set up a private practice as a consulting geologist, working around the world.
Campbell died July 12, 1978, at Spokane, Wash.