Hugo Dummett was one of the world’s most respected economic geologists, aptly described as “the brains, the ideas and the energy” behind the first discovery of economic diamond deposits in Canada. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he worked with Canadian geologists Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson and South African university professor John Gurney in a quest to find diamonds in North America. Almost a decade later, he convinced BHP Minerals to sign a joint venture with Fipke and Blusson’s junior company, Dia Met Minerals, and continue the diamond hunt in the Northwest Territories. The result of their collaboration was Ekati, Canada’s first diamond mine, and the development of a hugely successful, major new industry.
Dummett’s successes were not confined to diamonds or Canada. He was a respected authority on porphyry copper deposits. During his tenure as Vice-President of Ivanhoe Mines, he contributed to the discovery of a huge porphyry copper-gold deposit that bears his name at the advanced Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia.
Although born in South Africa, Dummett was a citizen of the world with discoveries on most continents. He moved to Canada in 1965 after earning his BSc degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1970, he immigrated to Australia and worked in exploration before entering the University of Queensland for graduate work. In 1977, he moved to the US as Senior Geologist for Superior Oil, and began exploring for diamonds. When Superior left the mineral business, he convinced the company to turn over its data to Dia Met so the exploration effort could continue. When Dia Met made its first diamond discovery in the Lac de Gras region in the early 1990s, Fipke turned to Dummett, who convinced his superiors at BHP to back the project. The discovery, which became Canada’s first diamond mine, triggered a staking rush that led to other discoveries.
Dummett rose through the ranks of BHP to become Vice-President, Minerals Discovery. He was a strong advocate of corporate social responsibility, and in the case of the Ekati mine, helped ensure that its benefits flowed to northern and aboriginal communities. He mentored a new generation of diamond geoscientists and helped introduce once-proprietary exploration methodologies, such as diamond indicator mineral geochemistry, to improve the odds of finding economic deposits.
Dummett was the quintessential gentleman geologist, a larger-than-life figure with a natural ability to make enduring friendships. His industry recognition includes: the William Lawrence Saunders Gold Medal (1997) and Daniel C. Jackling Award (2000) of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the American Mining Hall of Fame’s Medal of Merit (1997); and The Northern Miner’s “Mining Man of the Year” award (1998). He served the Society of Economic Geologists as a Thayer Lindsley Visiting Lecturer (1997-98) and was its President at the time of his death in 2002. In 2005 he was the first recipient of the Hugo Dummett Diamond Exploration Award of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.