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Dick Ennis was among a select number of larger-than-life personalities that appeared in the early days of the twentieth century when an explosion of mineral discoveries launched Canadian mining on a wave of unprecedented growth.
Born in Aspen, Colorado he came to Canada in 1911 to build and manage a 300 tons per day mill for the then crisis-ridden McIntyre gold discovery in the new Porcupine camp in northern Ontario. Dick Ennis stayed with Mcintyre for the next 40 years guiding the growth of that crown jewel among gold mines which provided the financial resources to create a mining-industrial conglomerate.
His role, the difficult problems he dealt with and innovations he introduced, earned him a reputation as the mine managers mine-manager. In its early days, the McIntyre mine was a nightmare of problems. A history remarked: “...it is doubtful if any major mining corporation anywhere was ever established on a shakier foundation.” Dick Ennis told how he ran to the bank with hot bullion bars to cover a payroll and how he disappeared underground to hide from creditors.
Ennis prevailed, overcoming obstacles and going on to set a long list of “firsts” in mining and milling practices, in health and safety and in the life of a vibrant community—today’s Timmins, Ontario.
His record of 38 continuous years as manager of the same mine is believed to be the longest in the Canadian industry, and possibly in world mining. McIntyre was the first mine in Canada to have a metallurgist on the mill staff and pioneered employing a graduate engineer as mine superintendent.
Under Dick Ennis, the McIntyre was the first mine in Canada to use rubber liners in milling and the first in the Porcupine to apply square-set and cut and fill stoping mining methods underground. A member of his team developed gunitting. McIntyre also adapted and introduced flotation to gold milling and the mine was the first in Ontario to sink a shaft to below 4,000 ft.
Ennis was always an innovator in mine safety establishing early procedures which gave him a daily report on safety conditions underground, a standard that is common today.
Under Ennis’s leadership, McIntyre became internationally famous when it tackled the serious health problem of silicosis. European researchers had discovered that the scarring of lungs caused by silicosis was the result of a complex chemical reaction between silica particles and lung tissue. A McIntyre research group which included the world-renowned Banting Institute of the University of Toronto pursued the goal of finding a way of eliminating or reducing the solubility of silica particles. Their solution: small quantities of metallic aluminum dust added to the air in another Ennis innovation—the two-stage dry through which miners passed when they returned to surface. The non-profit McIntyre Research Foundation was formed to further the use of the treatment throughout the world mining industry.