Oliver Hall joined Noranda Inc. almost at its inception, responsible for both mine operations and exploration. His foresight and economic sense promoted the company’s rapid growth in the 1930s and 1940s to become one of the country’s greatest mining concerns.
His practical knowledge of modem methods for the economic mining of large orebodies helped to win 100% of the ore from the rich lower “H” orebody at Noranda’s Horne mine - the company maker. Under his direction, Noranda’s mining staff developed the method of sublevel mining with ring drilling of blastholes (sectional steel and diamond drilling) and introduced cemented backfill utilizing granulated slag and pyrhotite tailings. This new and safer mining system enabled the company to increase production while lowering costs. The blasthole method has since found worldwide acceptance.
During the 1930s, seven new mines were added to Noranda’s list: Pamour, Hallnor and Aunor in the Timmins area of northeastern Ontario, La India (two mines) in Nicaragua, a deeper orebody at Waite Amulet in Quebec, participation in Kerr Addison, Gaspé Copper, and investments in Mining Corp.
The recommendation to take on what is now Gaspé Copper was considered his greatest contribution to Noranda. The decision to go ahead with the mine on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula was made in 1950. A mill, smelter and other surface facilities were built along with a townsite to house the mine’s employees. Mining began in 1951 and the mine went into full production in 1955.
Hall was born near Ayr, Ont., April 7, 1879. He attended McGill University where he studied mining engineering, obtaining a master’s degree in 1904.
Soon after, he went to work for Mond Nickel Company as exploration engineer. Over the next seven years, he is credited with reviving Mond by bringing back two failing mines, Victoria and Garson, and adding five new ones, Worthington, Kirkwood, North Star, Lack and Frood Extension.
His services to the Mond Nickel Company were rewarded by successive advances to the position of mines superintendent, mines manager and finally general manager, the most senior position in Canada for the British company. In 1929, Mond amalgamated with International Nickel Company of Canada. After the merger, Hall was placed in charge of all Inco’s mines with the title Superintendent of Mines. The next year he resigned from Inco and joined Noranda.
During the Second World War, he chaired a mining technical committee that organized mine machine shops across Canada for military work and equipment needed for the Twelfth Field Company, Royal Canadian Engineers.
In 1939, he was given the Inco medal by the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and, in 1948, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science by McGill University in recognition of his outstanding service to the mining industry.
He died February 15, 1954.