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Richard Geren has been aptly described as a man with mining in his blood, mind and soul. As a geologist working with Labrador Mining and Exploration, he was a key member of a team that delineated high-grade iron ore in the Knob Lake area of northeastern Quebec. The discovery’s magnitude and significance led to the formation, in 1949, of the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC). Geren led pre-production studies and became Manager of IOC’s operations at Schefferville, where he conquered numerous challenges associated with building a large mine in a remote region. Yet, in his typical self-effacing style, he credited the team of “young, ambitious, hard-working and non-complaining people” for success in achieving IOC’s target of “iron ore by ‘54.”
Geren was born in Columbus, Ohio. His interest in mining was sparked in 1935 by a chance meeting with two geologists in the wilds of northern Ontario. The young man was so impressed that he set his own life on a deliberate and auspicious course toward the mining industry. After earning his B.Sc. degree in geological sciences from Ohio State University, he returned to Canada and worked in the Timmins camp. His experiences there confirmed his choice of career path and prepared him for the future leadership roles he would assume.
After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War, Geren began what was to be his greatest odyssey: the search for iron ore deposits of sufficient size to offset the depletion of Minnesota and Michigan reserves. More than 400 million tonnes were found in the Knob Lake area, which led to the formation of IOC and Geren’s appointment as supervising geologist and chief mining engineer. He spent time in Minnesota learning the iron ore business, and, over the next six years, threw his energies into building a successful mine and company. His efforts were rewarded in 1961, when he became Assistant Manager of IOC.
Two years later, Geren left IOC to establish his own consulting firm. For the next decade, he carried out geological and engineering studies for clients around the world. He participated in the Syncrude project in Alberta, soon to be the world’s largest producer of oil from oil sands.
After returning to IOC in 1974, Geren oversaw the construction of a plant at Sept-Iles and the Carol project expansion at Labrador City. The Carol project extracted its billionth tonne of ore in 1969.
Geren became an Executive Vice-President of IOC in 1976, a position he held until his retirement. During this period, he implemented a management development program aimed at establishing a sense of teamwork at all levels of the company. Having risen through the ranks himself, Geren considered the program his greatest legacy.