To win acclaim in one lifetime either as a prospector, a scientist, a mine maker or a corporate builder is no small achievement; each occupation requires a high degree of talent, competence and energy. These three qualities Norman Keevil possessed and employed in abundance as indicated by the act that he achieved preeminence in all four endeavors. Today’s impressive Teck mining organization is a monument to his many-faceted character.
Norman Keevil was born on a farm in Saskatchewan in 1910. He obtained a B.Sc. from the University of Saskatchewan in 1930 and a M.Sc. in 1932. He spent the depression years working with the Geological Survey of Canada, acquiring a hands-on knowledge of geology while mapping in the Prairies and Northwest Territories. He then entered Harvard University and earned a Ph.D. in 1937 followed by three years post-doctoral research in geophysics at MIT. In 1943, he returned to Canada to pioneer the teaching of geophysics at the University of Toronto. As an academic, he published 42 scientific papers.
Dr. Keevil left his academic career in 1946 to establish Mining Geophysics Corporation, a consulting organization. As a consultant to Dominion Gulf Company, he became familiar with an airborne magnetic device developed during World War II for submarine detection. When the detector was declassified for peacetime use, Dr. Keevil and his staff began using it and integrating its data in terms of mining geophysics.
During testing of this equipment for Dominion Gulf Company, for whom he flew some 100,000 miles, a strong magnetic anomaly was discovered in the Lake Temagami region. Gulf decided not to pursue this prospect and when Dr. Keevil left the company in 1947, he was given freedom to explore the area. Seven years later, Dr. Keevil and his associates succeeded in finding the high-grade copper deposit that became the Temagami Mine. The effect of this discovery was twofold: airborne magnetic surveys changed the nature of mining exploration; and the Temagami Mine became the taproot of the energetic Teck Corporation he founded.
From 1963 to 1981, when he became chairman of the board, Dr. Keevil led the Teck Corporation as president and chief executive officer. During this period, Teck acquired major interests in a group of mines with dazzling speed. Coming under the Teck flag were such familiar mining names as Mattagami, Pickle Crow, Teck-Hughes, Lamaque, Kirkland Minerals, Tegren, Consolidated Howey, Canadian Devonian Petroleums, Steelman oil fields, Highland-Bell, Beaverdell, Iso Mines, Brameda Resources, Highmont and Afton.
Dr. Keevil’s genius as a scientist in the field of mining geophysics served him well in the location of viable mining properties and on the assessment of properties for possible acquisition. In addition to sound judgment on mine content, he exhibited equivalent judgment and expertise in the all-important matter of mine financing. Other mines came under the Teck banner through the 1970’s, one of the more spectacular. being a joint venture with International Corona Resources in the David Bell Mine in Hemlo.
When Dr. Keevil died at the age of 78, the mining interests of the company he founded reached from British Columbia to Newfoundland.
His many awards include the Order of Canada, the Inco Medal awarded by The Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Edgar A. Scholz Medal.
A modest man, he was, nonetheless, visibly delighted with one achievement: a goal he scored for Teck in the annual hockey game at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto against the best team that could be mustered by the Prospectors and Developers Association. He was 78 at the time.