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The claim to Canadian mining immortality for Herman H. “Spud” Huestis came with his introduction to the world of the large tonnage, low-cost Highland Womb Valley copper deposits in British Columbia, several hundred miles northeast of Vancouver.
His dogged persistence and determination over many years were primarily responsible for the development of these deposits into the first porphyry-copper production in Canada.
That production began in the 1960s with the formation by Huestis of the famous Bethlehem Copper Corporation, of which he was the first president.
The achievement of Huestis and his new company was from one aspect the Horatio Alger, local-boy-makes-good, “damn it, we’ve got to win every so often” approach that probably more than any other has found and made mines in Canada.
Indicative of the tremendous scale of Huestis’ accomplishment with the Bethlehem copper project is the present-day emergence from those earlier copper fields of the huge Highland Valley Copper partnership (Cominco, Lornex Mining, and Highmont Mining), today the largest-tonnage mining operation in Canada, and one of the largest earth-moving operations on the face of the globe. Mill throughput from Highland Valley Copper, for instance, will be in the order of 145,000 tons per day.
Born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Huestis moved at an early age to Superior, Wisconsin, and began prospecting while still attending high school in that community.
At age 19 and still in the grip of mineral exploration fever, he moved to British Columbia, and over the next several decades continued prospecting not only in that province, but in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, in Ontario and in Arizona and West Africa.
But, through all of this, he continued to study and watch developments in the Highland Valley, and was neither dismayed nor discouraged when several major companies, (including Ventures Limited), before 1954 had worked unsuccessfully in the Valley area and subsequently written it off.
Huestis did not give it up, however. In the late summer of 1954 he, along with J.A. McLallen and P.M. Reynolds sponsored a prospecting examination, and on Huestis’ recommendation staked 100 mineral claims on the Highland Valley’s old Snowstorm-Iona-jersey zones.
In the following year, Bethlehem Copper was incorporated to take on development of the property, and in late 1962, a 3,300-ton mill at Bethlehem began to produce copper concentrate, thus launching a new era in Canadian copper production.
Great as it was, the Highland Valley was not Huestis’ only contribution to Canadian mining success. He played a hand for instance in the Western Mines operation at Buttle Lake on Vancouver Island and in the Boss Mountain, B.C. molybdenite mine.
Appropriately enough, when in 1977 the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines established a new H.H. “Spud” Huestis Award for excellence in prospecting and mineral exploration, Huestis himself was the first recipient.