From the Manhattan Project to a Major Miner: Teck Resources' Origin Story
How Canada's grandest airborne magnetic survey birthed a $26 billion mining empire, firmly under Keevil family control for nearly seven decades
In the race for the world's first atomic bomb, Canada's sole geophysics professor, Norman Keevil, received the call to join the covert Manhattan Project. But, a slow FBI clearance held that chance just out of reach.
During World War II, Professor Keevil learned of a US Navy device for spotting subs. Could airborne magnetic surveys unearth mines too? In '46, he snagged the Canadian rights, kickstarting his own geological consulting firm.
From '46 to '47, Keevil embarked on Canada's most ambitious magnetic survey. On his maiden flight from Pittsburgh to Kirkland Lake with the newly declassified technology, an epic discovery loomed on the horizon, taking several years to fully materialize.
Anaconda Copper invested $300,000 into Keevil's concept, narrowly missing ore by inches. When Anaconda cut their losses and others turned their backs, Keevil seized the reins in '54, drilling five holes at his own expense, striking copper in three. The following year, Temagami Mining Co made its debut on the TSX.
Keevil chartered flights, wowing investors. A $500 polish brought a 150-foot copper vein to life. The sun's glimmer on that vein sent Temagami stock soaring from 25 cents to $9 in a matter of days.
With rich shallow ores, a mine sprouted in six months—the empire's cornerstone until '72.
Keevil shrewdly amassed stakes in other enterprises, including Teck Hughes in '62. These interests were consolidated to form Teck Corp in '71, later Teck Resources.
By '57, Keevil was a millionaire, worth $250 million in '87, according to David Cruise & Alison Griffiths in 'Fleecing of the Lamb.'
In '63, Norman Keevil II joined Teck, becoming CEO in '81.
Teck brought seven mines into production from 1975-1985, several on time and on budget.
Norman Keevil Jr. said three things are necessary to build a successful mining company: good orebodies, the financial capital to develop them, and good people.
When cancer claimed Keevil Sr. in '89, he was already involved in pioneering rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, his passion for technology never wavering.
Norman Keevil III, now Vice Chairman, carries on the family's legacy. The Keevils retain voting control of Teck, which has grown into a $26 billion mining powerhouse, thanks to Sr.'s original stake in Temagami.
Teck's genesis shows the promise of connecting technology and tireless prospecting. A reputation for fair dealing has amplified their success.