Remembering Ken Grace, 1936-2019

by | May 16, 2019

We will miss Ken Grace who passed away on 25 April, 2019. He was enjoying a cruise on the Queen Victoria between family visits in South Africa and in England.

Ken was a founder of Micon and a Vice President and Director from October 1988 to 2001 during which time we appreciated his humour, his counsel and his great experience as an economic geologist. He was born and brought up in Cape Town where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Geology. He then moved to the New Mexico Institute of Technology on a Fulbright scholarship for his Master’s degree, graduating in 1965.

Ken joined the Denver office of David S. Robertson & Associates, the predecessor company to Micon, in the late-1970s having enjoyed some 20 years as an exploration geologist with Kennecott, Amax and Selection Trust. Much of that time was spent in the Caribbean where he met his beloved wife, Susan. He moved to the Toronto office of David S. Robertson in 1982.

His many and varied consulting assignments included an independent review of the diamond exploration properties of Ashton Mining in support of its listing in Canada, assessment of a carbonatite deposit in Sichuan, China, as a source of bastnaesite for rare earth processing facilities owned by Advanced Material Resources, and a due diligence review of the Ochoa polyhalite property in New Mexico. Ken was the geologist on the majority of Micon’s Independent Engineer assignments – the Lihir gold project in Papua New Guinea, the Cerro Vanguardia gold project in Argentina and the Clover Hill potash project in New Brunswick, among others.

Well before the current standards were drafted, Ken had a particular interest in the rigorous definition of mineral resources and mineral reserves, and published “Reserves, Resources and Pie-in-the-Sky” in 1984.  Importantly, he acted as the Technical Advisor to the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Ontario Securities Commission’s Mining Standards Task Force which led to the introduction National Instrument 43-101.

On retirement from Micon, Ken continued to work with us as an Associate and held directorships in a number of public companies. After his retirement, when not cruising, Ken continued to meet regularly, socially, with his fellow geologists and engineers to pass on, with humour, the benefits of his experience.

The memorial service for Ken, held on 6 July in Toronto, prompted many happy reminiscences which we have collected here:

From Harry Burgess –
Ken enjoyed the finer things in life. But given his chosen vocation he often had to put up with bush camp accommodation. One job that Ken and I worked on together involved frequent trips to Papua New Guinea. There we had to avoid eight-inch long insects with fearsome sticky-out bits in the beds and showered in the dark with huge black toads. A couple of days in Hawaii on the way home were a welcome recuperation and the “Tropical Itch” cocktails by the pool were superb. When we worked together in Peru, we were lucky to be able to visit some great restaurants in Lima that were up to Ken’s standards. But I remember once, in the high Andes, near Lake Titicaca, at lunch in a shack, the two front teeth sticking out of the flattened barbequed guinea pig didn’t look too appetising. Ken’s face really screwed up that time.

From Chris Lattanzi –
Ken Grace, at heart, was a true adventurer, and it may well have been that trait that led him to become a geologist. But Ken was much more than just a top-notch geologist. He was also a top-notch human being. He was extremely well liked and respected by those who knew him, and I cannot recall anyone ever saying a derogatory word about him. Ken Grace was the kind of person who was always there for others; always there when you needed him. He truly had a heart of gold.

Ken, and even more so, his wife Susan, were heavily involved in charity work, which they simply did without any fuss or fanfare. This work involved, among other things, collecting surplus food from hotels and other establishments in the early hours of the morning, and taking it to church halls to provide breakfast for the homeless. And they did that for many years.

From Hugh Snyder –
What Ken’s brother, Ronnie, did not know, was that Ken was working for [my wife] Jen’s father, H. L. Wells, then a senior engineer working for the Rhodesian Irrigation department. Harry Wells’ principal projects at that time were Kariba, Kyle and Lac McIlwaine. Jen and I met Ken and Midge in 1968 in South West Africa (now Namibia) when Ken was running Kennecott’s exploration programme. That is when we established the connection between Ken and Jen’s father. We reconnected with Ken when we moved to Canada in the early 70’s and were present at his wedding to Susan, where I was privileged to be Ken’s Best Man.

From Jane Spooner –
When we started Micon in 1988, we had all worked together for some years, but we became a tight-knit team determined to make the new venture a success. Ken’s wisdom and measured counsel were always valued. I cannot say that he was a mentor, but he was the oldest of our group and I was the youngest (and the only female) and I always enjoyed working with him. He encouraged me to be a co-author with him on a paper on rare earth elements that, in the way these things turn out, was the beginning of Micon’s practice in the rare earth industry and a new area of professional interest to me. He has also been someone to whom the younger geologists could turn, even when he was retired and only coming into the office for special projects.

From Mani Verma –
Before Ken and I went on a due diligence assessment of a gold project in the Philippines, it sounded an interesting assignment. Heavy rain prevented us from being taken by helicopter to the site from a small town in northern Luzon, so we were provided with a guide and people to carry our belongings and started a long walk. About six hours into the journey along narrow, muddy footpaths, across a river in full flood using a slippery rope bridge, and through paddy fields walking along the narrow ridges separating the fields, Ken made himself as comfortable as he could and told me to continue on, for he was going to stay there, shut his eyes and die. I could not see how I could explain this to Susan (or my Micon colleagues for that matter), and managed to persuade him to continue. We eventually reached the site late in the evening. Over the next two days, we managed to review all the technical data but the likelihood of having a helicopter come in and pick us up clearly remained low. Ken was all for staying until the weather improved, but all the camp staff and their families were leaving and there was no beer and no food – the two ducks remaining in the pond were to be eaten that night. There was no alternative but to walk back the way we had come. I threw my muddy clothes away at the little motel but Ken kept his to be laundered at our upscale hotel in Manila. They came back with a note, “Your laundry very stinky”! We did not get back to Toronto in time for the Micon Christmas dinner that year.

From Ian Ward –
Ken Grace believed in and respected everyone. The first time I ever met Ken, we were in Nevada assigned to evaluate a gold property. Ken was based in Denver with Robertson Associates and I was from Toronto with Kilborn. After several days working together, Ken told me that after the assignment, he would be moving to Toronto with his sports car (a convertible, maybe a Triumph?) which evidently was his pride and joy. He asked me if I would like to travel with him and to share the driving over several days. Unfortunately for me I had another commitment but it remains as a lifelong memory with me that Ken had the generosity and confidence to trust his safety and his car, plus compatibility in a cramped space, to a comparatively unknown person. His judgement was sound in that the compatibility lasted until very recently from my view, and we will never know about the risk to the car.

And a tall tale from Ken himself –
“One night, a little old lady was staying at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. As it happened, it was at the time of the Prospectors and Developers Convention. Although there seemed to be a certain amount of noise in the corridors and hallways, she managed to settle down and was just drifting off to sleep when she heard a small voice – “Kiss me, please, kiss me.” The little old lady thought she had been dreaming but looked around her. She could not see anything at all but then she heard the voice again – “I am under your bed, please kiss me.” So she looked under the bed and, to her surprise, saw a frog. Again, the frog said, “Kiss me, please, kiss me”. By that time the little old lady was quite awake and asked the frog why she should kiss him. “Because I have been transformed by a wicked witch. Really. I am a geologist attending the convention. I have a gold property in northern Ontario and if you kiss me and turn me back into a geologist, I will give you a half-interest in my property.” To the frog’s surprise, the little old lady scooped him up and put him in her carpet bag and started to go out of the room. “Help, help”, called the frog, “what are you doing, where are you going? I can give you a half-interest in my gold property if you will only kiss me”. “Kiss you?” said the little old lady, “I am not going to kiss you. I may be only a little old lady, but I know that a talking frog is worth far more than a half-interest in some gold property in northern Ontario.”

























    Thank you for this lovely summary of my father’s professional contribution. So wonderful to hear about his work from his colleagues! I hope some of you all will be able to participate in a celebration of his life at his memorial on July 6th.

    • Susan Moss

      What a wonderful testament to a lovely man. Ken was one in a million and will always be remembered as such. It was an honor to know him.

    • Russell Barnes

      Deirdre, sorry to hear of the passing of your Dad, Ken. We met your family, many years (decades) ago in West Van BC. I remember your Geo Dad as I received my undergrad from UBC as Geologist. I’m now a retired Energy Banker. My parents, Roy & Barbara Barnes passed while ago. You may recall my sister, Rosalyn. Cheers, Russell

  2. Peter Heydenrych

    A very good tribute to Ken. Although he was a friend from uni days, I did not realise that he had such an interesting career!

  3. Ronnie Grace

    From Ronnie Grace, Ken’s brother in South Africa.
    What an honor to have had a brother like Ken. My big brother. I remember when I was at school and Ken worked in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and each month Ken sent my other brother and I some pocket money as our parents were too poor to give us pocket money. How wonderful it was to wait each month for that pocket money from Ken. I shall never forget it. And how wonderful to stay in touch with him and to visit him in the USA and Canada over the years. And finally, how wonderful it was to have him visiting us for three days on his last trip to South Africa and then put him on the ship for his cruise to England which he never completed. We shall miss him and never forget him.

  4. Chuck and Mary Humphrey

    We only briefly knew Ken. We met while on a cruise to Nova Scotia last Fall. Ken and Susan graciously accepted our invite to dine with us for the rest of the cruise after my brother and his wife departed the cruise due to illness. We so enjoyed their company for the rest of the cruise and we were looking forward to a summer visit to Toronto. God bless you and your families.


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