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Archibald Bell contributed to the development of several mines during the course of an illustrious career that epitomizes the progress made by the mining industry this century. He is best known for his role in the discovery of the Copper and Needle Mountain orebodies of Gaspe Copper which, at 67 million tons averaging 1.3% copper, could be termed an “elephant” discovery.
Bell was manager of exploration for Noranda for 25 years and, during that period, created an exploration group that extended the company’s reach and search for ore across the country, and beyond to the United States, South America and Australia. When Bell retired, Noranda had moved well beyond its original base of the Horne mine to a diversified international company with many mines.
Bell was born in Australia to Canadian parents. He studied geology at the University of Toronto and began his career in 1934, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Ph.D. in geology.
Shortly after joining Noranda, Bell and colleague Oliver Hall proposed that the company acquire the Pamour gold mine east of Timmins, Ontario. An agreement to finance development followed, resulting in the start of production in 1936.
Bell went on to test his theory that the ore-making structure at Pamour continued on to the Hallnor property. His persistence in exploring the property resulted in the eventual development of the high-grade Hallnor mine.
In 1937, Bell examined a previously discovered copper showing at Copper Mountain in Quebec’s Gaspe region and optioned the claims. Detailed exploration began in 1938, ceased until after the war, and resumed in 1947. Success was elusive, as drilling on Copper Mountain was successful but low-grade. Bell decided to move the drills over to Needle Mountain, where the richer C zone ore was eventually intersected at a lower horizon. Production began in 1955, and “Mines Gaspe” has continued to operate for many decades.
In the interim, Bell had moved to Toronto in 1947, to take up the post of manager of exploration. He astutely managed international programs from his office, but was happiest in the bush, where mines are to be found, testing his theories and directing operations.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Noranda Exploration, under Bell, pioneered geochemical exploration, portable geophysical instrumentation and rock alteration studies as guides to ore.
In 1963, Bell implemented the exploration program leading to the discovery of a copper deposit at Babine Lake, B.C. Ultimate reserves totalled 46 million tons averaging 0.5% copper, and the mine was named Bell Copper in recognition of his achievement.
After retiring in 1972, Bell teamed up with Bern Brynelsen, another retired Noranda mine-finder, to form B&B Mining and other companies. The producing Castle Mountain gold mine of Viceroy Resource is one result of B&B’s efforts.
Bell’s contribution to Canadian mining cannot be measured merely by a list of the orebodies he helped find, or by his scientific and technical advances. His career is testimony that mineral exploration can be investment, rather than speculation.