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Joseph Hirshhorn came to Canada in 1933, drawn by opportunities in gold mining. He was an unabashed promoter and entrepreneur who announced his arrival with a full page advertisement in The Northern Miner, entitled “My Name is Opportunity and I Am Paging Canada.”
Canada answered the call, and Hirshhorn went on to have a remarkable career in the country’s mining industry. He financed not only the discovery and development of the Blind River uranium field in Ontario his major accomplishment but also contributed towards the development of numerous other Canadian mines.
Hirshhorn was born in Jukst, Latvia. Seven years later, his widowed mother brought him and five siblings to the United States. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Hirshhorn sold newspapers on the street to help support his mother. He left school at age 15 to begin work as a messenger boy on Wall Street, and the financial markets soon became his life.
By age 29, Hirshhorn reportedly had accumulated $4 million. He was a shrewd speculator who sold all his stocks before the 1929 stock market collapse, and took an interest in Canadian mining after the gold price rose to US$35 an ounce in 1932.
In Canada, Hirshhorn met prospectors Fred Marshall and Arthur Cockshutt who were selling units in the Little Longlac Syndicate they had organized to develop a gold discovery near Geraldton, Ontario. Hirshhorn bought 200 units for a total of $2,000, which he sold for $500,000 after a mine was found.
Hirshhorn provided mining engineer Robert Bryce with much of the required financing to bring the Macassa gold mine in the Kirkland Lake camp into production. He also helped Doug Wright develop the Preston East Dome mine in the Porcupine camp. This mine elevated Hirshhorn’s status from “buccaneer” to “corporate captain”, and served as his principal source of capital for his crowning achievement, the Blind River uranium field of Ontario.
In 1949, Hirshhorn sensed that uranium mining would become important and began an association with Dr. Franc Joubin to develop uranium interests. The work was carried out by Technical Mine Consultants (TMC), a company Hirshhorn had formed to handle the technical aspects of his mining activities.
The first uranium success was the Rix property in Saskatchewan, which was developed in 1952 into the small, but profitable, Rix Athabaska mine. TMC’s activities in the province also led to the acquisition of La Ronge copper gold deposit, which later became the profitable Anglo Rouyn mine.
TMC’s main achievements were the discovery and definition of the Blind River Algoma uranium district, and the subsequent development of eight of the eventual 12 uranium mines in that region: the Pronto, Nordic, Quirke No. 1, Quirke No. 2, Buckles, Spanish American, Panel and Milliken. TMC also brought the Pater copper cobalt mine into production in this area.
Hirshhorn’s primary role was to provide funding which, for the Blind River developments, ultimately approached $250 million before an overall deal was made with Rio Tinto. In the 1980s, an analyst estimated that TMC’s Blind River discoveries had added some $30 billion to the Canadian economy. This achievement owes much to Hirshhorn’s drive and energy, and his faith in Canada’s mineral potential.