The Canadian Mining Hall of Fame inducts the “father of flow-through”

John Hansuld has had every experience that a mining executive could ever hope for

by Breanne Massey
John Hansuld was humbled by the letters he received to be inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame this winter.

John Hansuld was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame this winter for his groundbreaking contributions to the industry. — Photo courtesy Darlene Ettinger

After more than three decades as a mining executive, John Hansuld was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame this winter.

Hansuld, the former president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC), is well respected for making a number of groundbreaking contributions to the mining industry. Hansuld’s most notable legacies include utilizing geochemical application techniques, making the PDAC annual convention an international event, and popularizing the flow-through shares. The flow-through share is a tax-incentive program that was being used in the oil and gas industry, but Hansuld adapted it to gain financial resources while the mining industry was suffering.

Hansuld was dubbed the “father of flow-through” after more than $3 billion of flow-through capital was raised by the industry over a period of five years, revolutionizing the Canadian mining and exploration industry.

“One thing that I learned at the Harvard Business School is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re making widgets or mining or running a dairy farm,” said Hansuld, “the business principles are all pretty much the same. The one difference in mining is that mines are where you find them, not necessarily where you’d like them to be, and you’ve got to adapt the economics to where they are.”

Thoughts on success

Hansuld worked mainly in North America, but he has also worked globally. Primarily Hansuld went abroad to evaluate mining and exploration opportunities, but he has also done his fair share of grunt work in the bush.

“The thing about the exploration side is that it’s romantic," said Hansuld, "and you never know when you’re going to hit pay dirt. So it’s a dream, and everybody loves to dream.”

Oprah Winfrey once said that luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity, but Hansuld is a bit of an anomaly in this respect. He didn’t dream about studying geology—he received a suggestion from a high school peer. The “class genius” encouraged Hansuld to attend university, but Hansuld wasn’t persuaded by the first few suggestions he heard.

“He mentioned two or three things that didn’t appeal to me, and then he mentioned geology,” said Hansuld, “and I have to be honest with you, I didn’t even know what geology was. I went down to the guidance office and got the brochures on it.”

Hansuld earned a bachelor of science degree with honours in geology from McMaster University, a master of science degree from the University of British Columbia and a PhD in geological sciences at McGill. Later, he completed a Program of Management Development (PMD) at Harvard Business School.

"I’ve been gradually trying to retire, but keeping the dream alive by sitting on the boards of several junior companies," said Hansuld. "It’s a fascinating industry; if you get the bug, you’ll never leave it."

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