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Northern Ontario mining exploration 'pioneer' Bob Middleton dies

Middleton was involved in major discoveries in Hemlo, Timmins, Dominican Republic
Bob Middleton

Robert "Bob" Middleton, considered a "pioneer" in modern mining exploration techniques and a globally renowned geologist and geophysicist, has died.

According to his obituary, Middleton, 77, died of heart failure at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre on Nov. 19.

Over a more than 50-year career in the industry, Middleton was credited with being directly involved in major discoveries in Hemlo, on the north shore of Lake Superior, and Bell Creek near Timmins. He was also a leading figure and early adopter in the use of airborne and satellite imagery as an exploration technique.

A highly accomplished geologist, geophysicist and professional engineer, Middleton's technical skills and experience were highly regarded in the global mining industry over his multi-decade career of exploration field work, mine discoveries and company building, which included the formation of seven junior mining companies and setting up projects in 40 countries.

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A graduate of the Haileybury School of Mines, Middleton was regarded as a pioneer in geology-geophysics, petrochemistry, petrology, remote sensing, airborne resistivity, and gravity program sciences and was the first geophysicist for the Ontario Department of Mines.

Middleton spent considerable time working in the Timmins gold camp with Rosario Resources where he discovered a major gold deposit in 1979 that became the Bell Creek gold mine. With Rosario, he also discovered and developed the Pueblo Viejo mine in the Dominican Republic - the largest gold mine in the Americas and the third largest in the world - and brought it into production.

He co-discovered the Golden Giant in Hemlo Mine in 1982 with Bruce Durham. 

He was also credited with putting the Penhorwood Talc Mine, southwest of Timmins, into production for Steetley Minerals Canada Ltd. in 1977.

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Middleton worked with many major mining companies, including Newmont Exploration of Canada and multiple junior mining companies as a consultant and member of the management team, leading numerous drill program that led to major discoveries, He completed more than 25 feasibility studies (economic reviews) of mining projects and worked aboard on assignments in Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe over his career.

Last September, Middle was named vice-president of exploration for Ready Set Gold, working in familiar stomping grounds on the north shore of Lake Superior with that company's Northshsore Gold Project in the western part of the Schreiber-Hemlo Greenstone Belt.

Among his many accolades, Middleton was the recipient of the 2008 Prospector of the Year Award (Ontario), the 2001 and 2004 Discovery of the Year Award, the Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Association (NWOPA), and the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award from NWOPA.

Middleton spoke to Northern Ontario Business in 2009 on the vast potential of the chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire. That same year he spoke about his career in a Sudbury Mining Solutions article. He was reportedly "horrified" by the then-McGuinty government's legislative move to create the Far North Act.

Middleton is survived by his wife and six children.

A funeral service will be held Nov. 25 at 11:00 a.m. in the chapel of Sargent and Son Funeral Home.

An Endowed Chair will also be set-up in Middleton’s name at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. Details will follow.