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Paul Penna was a successful mine maker and the builder of a substantial corporation destined to thrive long into the future. As chairman and president of Agnico Eagle Mines, he brought his company from small beginnings to senior status. While Canada’s mine seekers have been turning more and more to foreign lands to unearth their fortunes, Paul Penna elected to stay close to his own backyard in country he knew well Ontario and Quebec. Today, Agnico Eagle is ranked as one of the most active developers of gold deposits in Canada.
Penna was born in the west end of Toronto. His introduction to the mining industry came in 1943 with an apprenticeship to a small brokerage firm. He worked for almost ten years as a penny stock salesman before making his first attempt at raising money for a mining venture. But his success really began in 1962, when he wrested control of Agnico, a struggling Cobalt area silver producer with less than $1,000 in its treasury, trading at 30 cents. Over the course of the ensuing 25 years, Agnico produced almost 30 million ounces of silver, built a refinery, and ploughed back money into exploration of the Cobalt and Gowganda camps.
When the low price of silver temporarily closed the Cobalt operations, Penna gained control of Dumagami Mines, a struggling, low grade, open pit gold operation with limited reserves in Quebec. A firm believer in the miner’s axioms that the best place to look for ore is near ore, and that mines are not found but made, Penna put together a technical team that turned around the operation, since renamed LaRonde.
LaRonde remains Agnico Eagle’s crown jewel, and is now a mine with an expanding ore picture, rising production and falling costs. It produced 144,584 ounces of gold in 1994, with cash operating costs dropping US$50 per ounces to US$175, reflecting a gain in the production of by product copper. A continuing intensive surface and underground exploration program has since turned up seven more separate orebodies soon to be under full development. Three separate shafts were sunk at LaRonde, including a new production shaft going down to 7,200 ft. Coupled with two other new shafts going down at the nearby Vezza and Goldex properties, Agnico Eagle is carrying out what many believe to be the most intensive underground development program taking place in Canada today.
On the exploration front, Agnico Eagle is financing affiliate Sudbury Contact Mines, which recently made an important gold discovery in the Kirkland Lake Larder Lake area of Ontario. A major drilling program was carried out which led to a decision to put down a 3,000 ft. shaft to further explore the discovery. This program culminates a 20 year search in the Kirkland Lake Larder Lake area on which the Agnico Eagle group of companies has spent over $10 million on grassroots exploration.
Penna’s climb from penny stock promoter to respected and successful mine financier was accomplished through hard work, remarkable perseverance plus a knack for acquiring and motivating top notch exploration and operating personnel. Penna was named “Mining Man of Year” by The Northern Miner in 1985, and was the first recipient of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada’s Developers Award.