Glencore is one of the world’s largest diversified natural resource companies. Founded in 1974, Glencore inherited a century-old legacy in 2013 through organic growth and Canadian acquisitions. Glencore Canada’s two founding companies, Noranda Mines Limited and Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited, were created in the 1920s. They merged in 2005 and were purchased in 2006 by Xstrata, which was in turn acquired by Glencore in 2013.
The history of our copper business
Noranda was founded by Canadian businessman and prospector Edmund Horne. Horne discovered his first gold veins in 1921 during his fourth trip to Abitibi, Quebec, where he travelled by canoe and snowshoes. Horne transferred his titles to two American mining engineers, Humphrey Chadbourne and Sam Thomson, who established Noranda Mines in 1922. The discovery of a major copper deposit led to the construction of the Horne Smelter in 1927 and the growth of the towns of Rouyn and Noranda.
The Horne Mine’s large ore reserves and the price of copper convinced Noranda Mines President James Y. Murdoch to consider building a refinery. An 82.6-acre site on the edge of the St. Lawrence River in eastern Montreal was selected for its proximity to the port, national railways, and hydroelectric power companies. CCR (Canadian Copper Refinery) opened in 1931 after nine months of construction.
The new $2 million refinery had a processing capacity of 75,000 tonnes of copper, but for much of the 1930s, the plant never reached capacity due to the Great Depression. Experts said that it wouldn’t last more than 10 years. Little did they know that CCR would still be in operation 90 years later. Before and after shots below show the construction of the refinery.
The Horne Smelter, still in operation today, is the only copper smelter in Canada and the first metal recycling facility of its kind in North America. Since 1986, the smelter has processed an annual volume of 50,000 tonnes of electronic waste from Canada and the United States to give copper and other metals a second life.
CCR Refinery processes copper produced by the Horne Smelter, as well as refining other types of metals, including gold and silver, making it one of the largest urban mines in North America.
The history of our nickel business
By the 19th century, the Sudbury area in Ontario was attracting prospectors looking for copper and other metals. Thomas Edison, the American businessman and inventor, had an office in Falconbridge Township from 1901 to 1903, exploring the area in hopes of finding a nickel deposit for the alkaline battery he had developed for his electric car engine.
Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited was born when Thayer Lindsley famous Canadian engineer and mining developer bought concessions containing rich nickel and copper deposits—the same ones that were once staked by Thomas Edison.
Falconbridge Nickel Mines Limited, named after the township of the same name, was incorporated in 1928. The Town of Falconbridge was then built to house the workers.
The company rapidly expanded. As the mine site grew bigger, a smelter was built in 1930 and a processing plant in 1932. A second hub, Strathcona, was created in 1968. These facilities, along with the Fraser Mine and the Nickel Rim South Mine, built in 1963 and 2010 respectively and still in operation, form the Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations (INO), one of the largest nickel upgraders in the world.
The Nickel Department achieved another significant milestone in Quebec in 1995 with the signing of the Raglan Agreement, the first Canadian Impact and Benefit Agreement (IBA) between a mining company and Indigenous groups. This agreement paved the way for production to begin at the Raglan Mine in 1997. Today, the adventure continues for Raglan Mine, which has four underground mines operating in a remote and majestic landscape. Raglan Mine reached a significant milestone on December 4, 2022 celebrating 25 years of operations.
In 2017, Glencore approved the necessary capital to carry out the Onaping Depth and Sivumut Projects at Sudbury INO and Raglan Mine, respectively. The Onaping Depth project, an ultra deep mine, will keep mining going in Sudbury until 2035. Similarly, the Sivumut Project will extend Raglan Mine’s operations beyond that of its existing mines by more than 20 years.
The history of our zinc and lead business
Our zinc and lead operations comprise three facilities that were also founded by Noranda Mines Limited in the 1960s.
CEZinc was established in 1963. In 1961, five mining companies founded Canadian Electrolytic Zinc Limited with the goal of building a zinc refinery capable of processing ore from their respective facilities. The five co-owners, Mattagami Lakes Mines Limited, Orchan Mines Limited, Geco Mines, Quemont Mining Corporation Limited and Normétal Mining Corporation Limited, entrusted the management of the refinery to the Noranda corporation.
Today, CEZinc is Canada’s largest zinc refinery and the second largest zinc refinery in North America.
Kidd Operations in Timmins, Ontario, has been going strong since 1966. On the initiative of a young Canadian geologist, Kenneth Darke, a breakthrough in the Canadian Shield in the early 1960s led to the discovery of Kidd Creek, one of the largest base metal reserves in the world, reviving mining activity in Timmins, where the economy had up until then been based on forestry and gold mining.
More than 20,000 people have worked at the mine since it began operations. The huge quantity of ore at the site led the production teams to dig deeper and deeper. In 2010, a breakthrough was made 8,907 feet underground, becoming the deepest accessible point below sea level in the world.
This encouraged scientists to search for ancient waters enclosed in the rock. Guided by the characteristic smell of water, the scientists’ quest was rewarded, and the analysis of the sample revealed that the water was 1.6 billion years old—the oldest ever found on Earth.
General Smelting of Canada was founded in Lachine, Quebec, in 1955. Originally a small company, General Smelting of Canada has become one of North America’s most well-established manufacturers of lead and tin products and alloys. Like other foundries (Darling, City Foundry, and Ives and Allen), General Smelting of Canada is a testament to the rich industrial past of southwest Montreal, which became the cradle of the metallurgical industry, especially after the construction of the Lachine Canal in 1840.
Closed and remediated sites
Glencore Canada looks after a significant legacy of closed sites. They are considered to be either inactive, or active if they are being remediated or the water is still being treated. The closure and remediation of mining or industrial sites is a complex process requiring a wide range of expertise. These sites—over 35 in North America—are mostly located in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. Brenda Mine, Brunswick Smelter and Matagami Mine are a few examples.
Some of these sites have made history. Thousands of men and women have worked there, towns have been built and sometimes surprising discoveries have been made, such as the discovery in 1971 of the remains of a Columbian mammoth at the Bell Mine in British Columbia.
Because the sites have been in operation over such a long time, they led to the development of a highly skilled and mobile workforce, whose skills were, and still are, recognized around the world. Many of the sites have been in operation for nearly 50 years, so it was not uncommon to see three generations of workers from the same family.
Deeply rooted in Canadian history, we have a strong commitment to Canada and we look forward to being a part of many more historical milestones as time goes on.