Minefinders get the glory, but it is the minebuilders who get the ore. For 65 years, while others discovered and financed the deposits, John Maclsaac applied his energies to breaking the first rock, sinking the first shafts and preparing the mines for their first production.

During his career, Maclsaac and his company have been involved in completing 26 miles of shafts for 79 projects, 134 miles of drifts, 37 miles of raises, and 7.5 million tonnes of ore production. He developed innovative shaft sinking methods and fostered the development of new shaft sinking equipment all the while maintaining safety and productivity records that are considered benchmarks for the industry. He has contributed to every major mining camp in the country.

MacIsaac was born in Butte, Mont., July 15, 1906. At the age of four, his family moved to Cape Breton Island and, except for a two-year period in Cobalt, Ont., from 1914 to 1916, lived in Cape Breton until he was 18.

He moved to Timmins, Ont. in 1924 and began his mining career at McIntyre Porcupine Gold Mines as a miner’s helper in 1925. For the next 21 years he worked for various mining firms including Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting, Algoma Ore, Quemont, DeSantis Mines, Falconbridge and Hollinger Gold Mines.

In 1947, he began working as a mining contractor incorporating his firm in April, 1953.

For the past 43 years, his firm has worked in all phases or mining operations from coast to coast in Canada as well as beyond Canada’s boundaries.

He also founded one of the largest steel fabricating plants in northern Ontario and the only horse racing facility in northern Ontario.

In 1983, he received an honorary doctorate from Laurentian University and in 1987, he received the Inco Medal from the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy in recognition of his notable achievement in the mining industry.


Donald McLeod was a revered and iconic figure in Canada’s mining industry and an inspirational role model for young mining entrepreneurs. Born and raised in Stewart, BC, he began his career as a pack-horse operator and miner’s helper in the 1940s, and went on to become a successful mine finder, developer, and founder of the Vancouver-based Northair Group of Companies.

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