The citation accompanying the 1973 Inco Medal award to Frederick M. Connell, probably said it all:

“In recognition of the leading part he has played as a mine-finder and mine-maker, placing his name in the foremost rank of those whose names and accomplishments will always be associated with laying broad and firm foundations to one of Canada’s greatest industries.”

Known best as the man who built the Conwest empire, Fred Connell was aptly described in the Inco Medal citation. He was indeed one of Canada’s greatest minefinders and mine-makers.

The Connell magic brought life to such famous names, besides Conwest Exploration itself, as Central Patricia Gold Mines, United Keno Hill Mines, Waite Amulet Mines and Cassiar Asbestos Corp. And it was Connell who helped launch the Kerr Addison mine in northeastern Ontario (at one time Canada’s biggest gold producer), with his participation in the financing of its early exploration and diamond drilling.

Born in Spencerville, Ontario, and a 1906 graduate of Queen’s University in mining engineering, Connell at first was engaged in silver exploration activity in the Cobalt area, and in both the Porcupine and Kirkland Lake, Ontario gold rushes.

In the 1920s, following his involvement early in that decade in the formation of Waite Amulet Mines, Connell, in 1929, launched Central Patricia Gold Mines, which started production several years later.

In 1938, he formed and incorporated Conwest Exploration to take over the western Canada and Alaska exploration activities of the previously-formed (in 1930) Connell Mining and Exploration company. In 1944, Conwest was expanded to absorb the entire exploration work of Connell Mining.

Just a year later, in 1945, Connell’s Conwest, along with Frobisher Ltd., established the Keno Hill Mining Co. (later United Keno Hill Mines), to develop rich silver properties in the Yukon. Under his direction, United Keno became the largest single producer of silver in Canada. (Conwest subsequently sold its interest in the Yukon silver company to the Ventures/Falconbridge organization).

Then in 1950, again under Connell’s guiding hand, Conwest optioned a group of claims on a remote high ridge near McDame Mt., in northern British Columbia. A bold move indeed, this led to the formation of Cassiar Asbestos Corp. and the development of a highly successful asbestos-producing operation.

There was more, much more, to add to the chronicle of Connell’s achievements. In honor of these achievements over the years, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire, the Inco Medal, and received an honorary degree from Queen’s University.


As the founder and builder of Barrick Gold, Peter Munk has few peers in Canadian mining history. In less than two decades, he turned a small Canadian producer into one of the world’s largest and most respected mining companies.

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