Chester F. Millar launched an illustrious career in the mining industry in the mid-1960s by discovering a copper-gold deposit that became the highly successful Afton mine near Kamloops, British Columbia. He founded Afton Mines Ltd. intending to develop his discovery, but the company was ultimately acquired on the open market by Teck Corporation (now Teck Cominco), which operated the open-pit mine from 1987 until its closure in 1997.
In the early 1970s, Millar turned his attention to the western United States, where he pioneered the use of heap leaching to process low-grade gold ores and demonstrated the success of the method at several open-pit mines. He helped introduce heap leaching to Latin America by writing a technical book on the subject in Spanish that was well received by mining engineers and other interested parties.
Millar is one of the mining industry’s most successful company builders. He helped transform Glamis Gold and Eldorado Gold from junior exploration companies into substantial gold producers with global operations. He contributed to the early growth of Alamos Gold and Castle Gold, both gold producers in Mexico, and he provided guidance to many other junior companies. He believes strongly that mining operations in Mexico and elsewhere should provide long-term rather than short-term benefits to the local people, even if it means slowing down mining rates.
Millar was born in Powell River, British Columbia, in 1927, and graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in geological engineering in 1950. He worked for coal and iron companies before going into the drilling and blasting business, and while on a drilling job became aware of the mineral potential of the Kamloops region. He staked the Afton property and applied percussion drilling techniques then used for highway construction to test its potential. The drilling program discovered the high-grade Afton copper-gold deposit that was eventually acquired by Teck.
In the 1970s, Millar became interested in heap leaching of gold ores and recommended the method to the owners of a gold mine with an inefficient mill in California. They rewarded his good advice by making him a co-owner of the America mine, the first open-pit heap-leach operation in the state. He then acquired a gold property that became the Picacho mine and vended this successful heap-leach operation to a predecessor of Glamis Gold. He refined the technique at other mines in the United States, and further applied it in Latin America and New Zealand.
Chester Millar has few equals as a builder of junior companies. He served as Chairman of Glamis Gold from 1985 to 1998 and as Chairman of Eldorado Gold from 1992 to 1994, steering both companies to producer status. He co-founded Alamos Gold and guided its acquisition of the Mulatos gold project in Mexico. Over the years he has also contributed to the growth of many other junior companies.