Dr. Norman Keevil of Teck receives the Order of B.C.

Dr. Norman Keevil, chair of Teck Resources, speaks to Mining & Exploration on receiving the Order of B.C.

by Karen Kornelsen
Photo of Christy Clark, Dr. Norman Keevil and Steven Point

Dr. Norman Keevil (middle) is awarded the Order of B.C. by Premier Christy Clark and Lt.-Gov. Steven Point, Chancellor of the Order, in Victoria, B.C. — Jeff Vinnick/Government of B.C. photo

On September 6, 2012, the prestigious Order of British Columbia for 2012 was awarded to 12 British Columbians. Dr. Norman Keevil, chair of Teck Resources Limited, was one of the recipients.

The Order of B.C., established in 1989, is the highest form of recognition the province can bestow on a citizen and is given out annually to those who have demonstrated outstanding distinction and achievement in any field.

Keevil was recognized for being a mining industry pioneer, entrepreneur, builder and philanthropist. He was also recognized as a mining leader and a man of great personal integrity.

Mining & Exploration spoke to Keevil to find out his reaction to receiving the Order of B.C. and ask him his thoughts on the mining industry in general.

How does it feel to be honoured with the Order of B.C.?

This award was entirely unexpected and it was a great honour to receive it, especially considering the illustrious list of past recipients, many of whom have been role models or mentors for a long time.

In the summary of why you deserved this award, the government stated that you have "championed responsible mining practices internationally." Can you tell me how you and Teck have done so?

We at Teck have always tried to apply the best made-in-Canada operating standards wherever we work, and in the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) this was a policy we adopted and encouraged for all of our Canadian member companies. I was fortunate to have been chairman of MAC when this was implemented.

Under your leadership, Teck has grown substantially. What was Teck Resources like when you first started there compared to now?

While the Teck name goes back 100 years to the Teck-Hughes gold mine in Kirkland Lake, the modern-day Teck really started to take off in the early '70s. We had three small underground mines at the time, with an average reserves life of two years—not an auspicious base from which to build a major mining company. But we were able to assemble an outstanding team of engineers and a number of potential development projects which we would build into a sequence of new mines.

It was this program that took us from a $20-million company to a market cap of $200 million in five years and, as the plan continued—with the inevitable ups and downs—to over $20 billion in 30 years.

In our view, the three keys to any successful mining company are people, ore reserves and financial strength—combined responsibly—and that is as true now as it was back then when we were doing our best to put them together to get that start.

You have received numerous other awards this year and in past years—describe some highlights of these awards and how it felt to be recognized.

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some of the best in the business, and that kind of rubs off with an accumulation of awards as one gets older. I think the most satisfying earlier ones were probably The Northern Miner’s Mining Man of the Year, Pacific Entrepreneur of the Year, induction into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame and, later, the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. Awards from one’s peers are the best gift of all.

How is the state of mining in Canada different from 20 years ago?

Compared with 20 years ago, there have been some old names in Canadian mining disappear, such as Inco, Noranda and Falconbridge—and perhaps Alcan if you consider it a miner. My old alma mater, Placer Development, was taken over as well and this was a real disappointment to me personally because it had been one of the best in the world 50 years ago—but, in fact, even it was no longer the same by the time it was bought out.

On the other hand, Teck has become much more important, as has Barrick, and with the space available there will be other such companies that will be built by new entrepreneurs and become majors. Creative destruction over time is actually the norm, and works.

What is your role with Teck as chair? How involved are you now still?

When I became chair I read that the proper role is “eyes on, hands off,” and there is something to that. However, it isn’t quite that simple, because if the eyes see something that isn’t right, then the hands should be enabled. It needs a happy medium, and I’m gradually trying to learn it.

What do you look forward to in the coming years on a personal level?

What do I look forward to? Some time to smell the roses, perhaps write a short book to pass on a few things we seem to have learned, and shoot my age on the golf course … an unlikely dream, but hope springs eternal, especially to a prospector.

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