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So diverse were the achievements of John Bradfield that he can well be characterized as a coach who built a winning team capable of excellent performance on more than one type of playing field. Long identified with Noranda Mines Limited, he was president and chief executive officer of that organization from 1956-68. John Bradfield not only assured the future of this company as a mining organization, but he also elevated it to the status of a national natural resource company. During this latter process, the focus on the development and acquisition of new mines was never lost.
J.R. Bradfield was born in the Ontario riverside town of Morrisburg in 1899 and was graduated from McGill University in 1922 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. Early employment took him to the Unites States where he was a field engineer on the construction of Yankee Stadium.
When the New York-based Thomson-Chadbourne syndicate formed Noranda Mines Limited in 1922 to develop the Home claims in what was then the wilds of northern Quebec, John Bradfield was hired to work on the engineering drawings. From that point forward, Noranda was his career.
In 1927 he became construction superintendent responsible for construction of all surface buildings at the mine. In succession, he became plant engineer, company secretary, executive assistant to the president, director and vice-president. In 1956, he became president and chief executive officer; he became chairman of the board and chief executive officer in 1962. To lighten his load, he relinquished the president s post in 1964 but remained chairman of the board and CEO. He resigned in 1968 but remained as Chairman of the board until 1974 when he was appointed honorary chairman, a post which he held until his death in 1983, thus completing more than 60 years of service to Noranda.
Reasonably early in his executive career, he faced a problem that all mineral operations must eventually face: the great Home Mine, centrepiece of the Noranda operation, was running out of ore and would be exhausted by the mid-1970’s. Survival and continuity demanded new ore or new company direction. In fight of this bleak outlook, John Bradfield assembled a team of young, well educated people from various disciplines to help lead the company in the direction of diversification and growth. His management style emphasized a team approach with him as a modest coach. The results were spectacular.
He spearheaded the development of Gaspe Copper Mines and Geco Mines, three Matagami area mines and the zinc reduction plant in Valleyfield. He channeled investment into Brunswick Mining and Smelting and Placer Development. He directed the development of Central Canada Potash, Boss’ Mountain and Kennedy Lake Mines.
Under John Bradfield’s direction, exploration was increased, advanced technology emphasized and the Noranda Research Centre established. He led Noranda into the new fields of forest products and aluminum. Mining-related education received his strong support. He launched the Canadian Mineral Industry Education Foundation, was president of CIM, won the Inco Medal, earned two honorary degrees and was invested as a Companion of the Order of Canada. During his career with Noranda, company assets increased six-fold.