John Alexander Hansuld ( 1931-2019)

John Alexander Hansuld (1931-2019)

John A. Hansuld, a founding member of the Association of Applied Geochemists (originally named the Association of Exploration Geochemists, AEG), died recently at the age of 88 on November 26th, 2019. John played a key role in establishing the AEG/AAG. Stimulated by the well-attended International Geochemical Exploration Symposia (IGES) of the late 1960s, John and fellow geochemists such as Alan Coope, Herb Hawkes and Eion Cameron, recognised the need for a professional organization of exploration geochemists and thus the AEG was formed in 1970. John became President of the AEG in 1971. In a remarkably short time, the AEG had taken over responsibility for the IGES series (the 4th took place in London in 1972) and John had negotiated with Elsevier to launch the Association’s flagship journal – the Journal of Geochemical Exploration – to be published from 1972 onwards. In the following years, John focused on the role of Business Editor. The early association newsletters (later to become ‘EXPLORE’) make for a very interesting a read and can be found here. Recognition of John’s numerous important contributions to the AEG are shown by the Distinguished Service Award of the Association presented to him in 1982 and the Past-President’s Medal in 1999.

Ontario-born, John earned a BSc (Hons, Geology) from McMaster University in 1954, followed in 1956 by an MSc from the University of British Columbia where his work focused on the factors influencing the rate of leaching of Britannia ore (copper sulphide). While having a beer on a train to a Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention, John was recruited to do a PhD at McGill University on Montreal, Canada. That chance meeting led to a blossoming of his fascination for geochemistry, specifically into the mobility of metals (especially Mo) in the surficial environment using Eh-pH phase equilibrium diagrams, thus establishing this technique in predictive geochemical studies. 

After obtaining his PhD in 1961, John joined Amax and in 1962 he was promoted to Chief Geochemist at their headquarters in Denver, followed by a further promotion to Manager of Exploration Research. In 1967, John returned to Toronto where he was responsible for managing exploration in Eastern Canada and the following year, supported by Amax, he obtained a PMD (akin to an MBA) from Harvard Business School. In 1973, John was further promoted to Canadian Exploration Manager and by the late 1970s Amax Exploration (Canada) was one of the largest groups in the country, with 91 active projects. In 1978, he became Vice-President of Amax with responsibility for the worldwide exploration budget. In 1983, John persuaded Amax to spin out its Canadian operations into a new company – Canamax Resources - of which he became President and CEO. The spin-out raised $30 million in its initial public offering, a major achievement as the financing introduced ‘flow through’ shares, already used by the Oil and Gas industry, to the Mining Sector. This tremendous boost to financing mineral exploration, especially for junior companies, led to the positioning of Canada as a global leader in the mining industry. John was dubbed ‘the father of flow through’ and was named “Mining Man of the Year” by the Northern Miner in 1988 and “Developer of the Year” by the PDAC in 1989.

John left Amax in 1989 to take on executive and directorship positions with various mining companies. He was President of the PDAC in the period 1993-1996 when, again, his leadership had a major impact through his strategic plan to revitalise and expand the organization beyond its North American focus to an international one with extensive influence. In 2012, John was inducted into the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame and it was then that the presenters demonstrated the breadth of his accomplishments, as a geochemist, entrepreneur, mine-finder, financial investor, and leader. John remained active in the mining community up to the age of 85.

John and his wife of 64 years, Jane, travelled the world extensively. He was very much a family man. Jane, their three children, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren were his priority and his delight.

John Hansuld was a trailblazer and leader in the exploration and mining industry, and the AAG benefitted greatly from his many talents.

Gwendy E.M. Hall