Geologist Arthur Thomas Griffis has truly earned his place of honor in Canadian mining history. He discovered five iron deposits for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, a copper deposit at the McIntyre Porcupine gold mine and developed a profitable copper-zinc orebody near Timmins, Ont., for Canadian Jamieson Mines. He also shaped Watts, Griffis & McOuat during its formative years into a major geological and engineering consulting firm of international renown.
Born in Port Arthur, Ont., Griffis obtained both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in science from the University of Toronto. He joined Hollinger Consolidated Gold Mines shortly after obtaining his doctorate in geology from Cornell University in 1939. A few years later, he was selected, along with Dr. A.E. Moss, to re-map the geology of Ontario’s Porcupine camp.
Meanwhile, Hollinger had assembled a large land package in Labrador and Quebec. In 1944, M.A. Hanna of Cleveland agreed to fund a work program based on the recommendations of Dr. Gustafson and Dr. Retty, who had been involved in exploration for iron ore in the area. Thus began the work that led to the formation of the Iron Ore Company of Canada.
Griffis and Moss were chosen to head up the exploration team. Griffis worked at this task for the next three years and was rewarded with the discovery of five orebodies.
After a period overseas, Griffis joined a Rio Tinto-owned company, which held a large iron ore property in Quebec’s Ungava region. He supervised the fieldwork, extensive metallurgical testing, market studies and feasibility studies. After completing this work in 1958, he joined McIntyre Porcupine Mines and focused his attention on the McIntyre mine, which produced more than 8.6 million ounces of gold and 1.9 million ounces of silver from 1912 through 1960.
Over the next three years, Griffis re-examined technical data and re- mapped miles of underground workings. This work resulted in the discovery of copper, rather than gold, within the existing mine. The find extended the mine’s life by more than a decade.
In 1962, Griffis became a founding partner of Watts, Griffis & McOuat. He became president in 1965 and retired as chairman in 1980. Under his stewardship, the firm developed a worldwide reputation for technical excellence and rock-solid integrity.
WGM opened offices in Australia, where it participated in the great nickel boom, and other foreign locales. Griffis became a senior advisor to the government of Saudi Arabia and managed several major mineral projects there. In Canada, he took a keen interest in the Nanisivik zinc-lead mine on Baffin Island. This work led to the WGM feasibility study, upon which financing to bring the mine into production was based.
Another WGM assignment was an evaluation of the estate of the late George Jamieson, a prospector from Timmins. With the help of local businessmen, Canadian Jamieson Mines was formed to buy and develop Jamieson’s property near Kam-Kotia. A drilling program under Griffis’ leadership led to the identification of a deposit of 519,000 tons grading 2.9% copper and 4.2% zinc. Less than two years later, the first copper and zinc concentrates were produced.
These accomplishments reflect the multi-faceted talents of a remarkable mining man.