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Louis Gignac contributed to the stature of Canada’s mining industry during his exemplary career as a company builder, mine operator and developer, and advocate of industry best practices. He is best known for building Quebec-based Cambior into an intermediate gold producer and mentoring a new generation of mining talent. Louis Gignac has developed and operated more than 20 domestic and international mines since the 1980s, and continues to apply his expertise to mine development projects managed by his independent consulting firm, G Mining Services Inc.
Born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Gignac holds a degree in mining engineering from Laval University (1973), a Masters in mineral engineering from the University of Minnesota (1974), and a Doctor of engineering degree from the University of Missouri-Rolla (1979).
In 1986, Gignac was appointed CEO of Cambior with a mandate to privatize mining assets held by SOQUEM, a Quebec government corporation. He led Cambior through the successful completion of a $157.5 million initial public offering and the simultaneous acquisition of SOQUEM’s mining assets.
Gignac then focused on building an operating company. The 1987 acquisitions of Aiguebelle Resources and Sullivan Mines marked the start of a journey that saw Cambior’s gold production grow from 52,000 ounces to a high of 694,100 ounces in 2004. Cambior produced a total of 9.2 million ounces of gold over a 20-year period while maintaining its position as a reliable producer of niobium for the steel industry.
In 1992, Cambior developed the Omai mine in Guyana, a partnership with Golden Star Resources. Omai ultimately became one of South America’s largest gold mines, with a total of 3.8 million ounces produced during a 12-year period. In 1995, a tailings spill forced the closure of Omai. Gignac immediately flew to the site to implement corrective measures that allowed Omai to reopen with a new tailings pond some six months later. His competence and accountability during this period helped Cambior retain its reputation as a reliable and responsible operator.
In 1999, Cambior came under pressure caused by declining gold prices and the inability to renew forward sales commitments. In response, Gignac sold base metal assets, restructured its balance sheet, and refocused its operating plan. Cambior was then able to go forward with the construction of the $100-million Rosebel gold mine in Suriname in late 2002 and initiate commercial production some 15 months later. To date, Rosebel has produced 3.9 million ounces of gold.
After 20 years, Cambior merged with Iamgold in 2006. The transaction valued Cambior at US$1.3 billion, and the merged entity at US$3 billion.
Louis Gignac has been a teacher and a mentor throughout his career. He is committed to give learning opportunities to individuals through job challenges. Many former Cambior employees went on to pursue successful careers in senior positions in Canada and internationally, a testament to Gignac’s ability to develop minds, as well as mines.
Among other honours, Louis Gignac received the Viola MacMillan Award for Mine Development in 1992, was named “Mining Man of the Year” in 1994 and received a Doctorate Honoris Causa from the Université de Montréal in 1998.