PHOTO: Geologist Ray Bernatchez prospecting on the Lumby Lake volcanic belt
April 10, 2017 Atikokan Progress
Long-time Atikokanite Ray Bernatchez was recognized for his career as a geologist with the Dave Christianson Lifetime Achievement Award last week.
It’s the second year in a row the Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Assoc. has honoured a mining star with Atikokan credentials; last year Bob Moffatt won the award.
For most of his 45 years in the field, Bernatchez served as a consulting geologist for projects spread out from the Nipigon area to Uranium City in northern Saskatchewan. But he also launched a pair of exploration companies in this area, worked for years for Steep Rock Iron Mines (and later became the go to guide for geological tours of the area), taught a variety of courses for prospectors and potential geologists, and assembled (and continues to work on) a magnificent collection of rocks and minerals.
Bernatchez, who grew up in the mining town of Matachewan, west of Kirkland Lake, graduated from the Haileybury School of Mining as a technologist in 1969, and went on to earn his BSc in geological engineering in North Dakota in 1972.
He first came to Atikokan in 1974 to evaluate the Atiko Gold Mines property at Sapawe, and ended up staying for over 35 years. (He and Charlotte raised their family (sons Jeremy and Ben) here.) He was soon the resident expert on the geology of the Atikokan, Finlayson Lake, and Lumby Lake volcanic belt, and spent every moment he could spare tramping the bush and poring over every geological study of the region ever done.
“I’ve learned, the more you look, the more you find,” he told Progress reporter Jessica Smith in 2007.
In 1976, he became a metallurgical technician at Steep Rock’s pellet plant, and was named the company’s senior geologist here in 1979. Although mining soon stopped, he stayed on with SRIM through 1985, as the company considered Bending Lake and other possible projects in the region.
With the end of mining, the Steep Rock site took on a whole new attraction for scientists and rock hounds, and over the years Bernatchez guided hundreds of groups through it.
At the end of his time with Steep Rock, Bernatchez had enough experience to step out on his own, and became a consulting geologist. Over the years he has contributed to dozens of projects, including Hammond Reef during its early days as a Pentland Frith property.
The award was presented at the 2017 Ontario Prospectors Exploration Showcase awards ceremony Tuesday in Thunder Bay. Also honoured were James Martin, a prospector in this region since 1987, and Al Mowat (another Haileybury School of Mining alumnus), who has worked in exploration and mine management and administration in Northern Ontario for close to 50 years.