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It was not for nothing that The Northern Miner, the weekly journal of Canada’s mining industry, in 1977 chose Stephen B. Roman as its first Mining Man of the Year.
He received the title, the newspaper said at the time, “because Stephen Roman has graphically shown that Canadian money and expertise can compete very successfully with anyone in the world.”
At that time, he had engineered, through his already big and fast-growing company, Denison Mines, the largest-ever uranium sales by a uranium producer.
A Slovakian immigrant who began his working life in Canada as a tomato picker. Roman subsequently took control of a penny mining stock in 1953, and from this built Denison into one of the country’s largest mining and resource empires, rising from the foundation of the company’s sprawling uranium mines at Elliot Lake, Ontario.
That globe-spanning empire now includes, in addition to its uranium interests, coal mining in British Columbia, potash mining in New Brunswick, and oil and gas production in Greece, Egypt, Spain, Italy and Western Canada.
Roman’s start in this country was inauspicious. It began with an unsuccessful try at farming in Ontario, with his brother George. His fortunes began to turn however when, after a period of service with the Canadian Army in World War II, Roman began playing the penny mining stocks.
His first major success came in 1953, when he sold a $10,000 investment in the Concord Mining Syndicate for $2 million, following the Syndicate’s discovery of oil at Leduc, Alberta.
With those profits he bought a stake in North Denison Mines at just over 8 cents a share, and by 1954 controlled the company, renaming it Consolidated Denison Mines.
But it was his subsequent purchase of 83 mining claims at Elliot Lake for some $30,000 in cash, and 500,000 shares of Consolidated Denison that catapulted Denison, and Roman, into the major leagues of the world’s mining industry.
Those claims contained what was then the world’s largest uranium deposit and served as the foundation on which Roman built Denison and its affiliate, Roman Corporation.
The acquisition of the Elliot Lake claims, says Dr. Franc Joubin, another of the first inductees into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, and the man who actually discovered Elliot Lake uranium orebody, “Was the cork in the bottle for Steve Roman. He opened the bottle and the genie appeared.”
Roman was a passionate entrepreneur and defender of the free enterprise system, a builder who created wealth for his shareholders, and jobs for his country, by finding, exploring and developing resource products.
“I’m a builder,” he once said, “whether it’s mines, churches, or houses. I always was a risk taker. I was a dreamer who wanted to transfer those dreams into reality.”
In the mining industry, as elsewhere, he did just that.