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John (Jack) McOuat helped advance hundreds of mines and mineral projects around the world as a founding partner of Watts, Griffis and McOuat (WGM), Canada’s longest-running independent firm of geological and mining consultants. The trailblazing geological engineer rose to prominence for overcoming challenges at remote and foreign projects, notably construction of a copper-zinc mine in Saudi Arabia, in less than 11 months. He supported development of several major mines in Canada’s Far North, including Nanisivik and Raglan, and was renowned for his ability to review and select favorable projects and geological districts worldwide.
For 20 years, McOuat was the lead negotiator on behalf of mining groups in creating joint ventures to explore prospective land packages held by various Alaskan native corporations for mutual benefit. He provided sage counsel to companies pursuing growth and investment opportunities, best exemplified by the prescient participation of Teck Resources in the emerging Voisey’s Bay nickel project. He elevated the status of the industry that had sustained his career for more than 50 years, and helped introduce and promote its greatest accomplishments to the world.
Born in Toronto in 1933, McOuat came of age as Canada’s mining industry entered a post-war boom. After earning a degree in geological engineering from the University of Toronto in 1956, and a short stint in Ungava, he teamed up with Murray Watts, Arthur (Tom) Griffis and Ross Lawrence to launch WGM in 1962. His belief in “going where the work is” helped introduce Canadian mining expertise to the world. WGM captured global attention and a 1982 Canadian Consulting Engineering Award for its innovative approach to developing the Al Masane underground mine in rugged terrain of Saudi Arabia. McOuat had a keen eye for opportunities and recognized the potential of Western Australia long before his peers. His Alaskan foray led to discoveries later developed into the Red Dog (zinc), Pogo (gold) and Green’s Creek (silver) mines.
McOuat made the transition to the boardroom by virtue of his expertise, credibility and dedication to clients. His advice was valued in Canada and abroad. When Australia’s mining industry suffered from scandal, he provided guidance to a Senate committee whose 1974 report led to important reforms. He also was an expert witness in the landmark case of International Corona v. Lac Minerals, among others.
Along with helping countless companies “make mines” around the world, McOuat was a strong supporter of industry organizations and causes. In 1996, he joined the Board of Governors of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to help raise awareness of its Earth Sciences collection. His dynamic personality was instrumental in securing the ROM’s largest corporate gift of $10 million from Teck Resources. The donation resulted in the creation of new exhibits and galleries, including the new Canadian Mining Hall of Fame gallery, and helps to raise public awareness of the mining industry’s diverse contributions to society.