Hans Lundberg, Canada’s greatest mineral detective, Part 2

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Hans Lundberg examining the magnetometer towed by a Beech Model 18 operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 12 September 1946. CASM, Spartan Air Services coll., negative no 35818.

Welcome back, my reading and slightly impatient friend. Let us pick up where we left off with a brief bio of the main character of this article, Hans Torkel Fredrik Lundberg, a gentleman born in Malmö, Sweden, on 22 July 1893. While in his teens, this adventurous lad flight tested a gilder made of bamboo and wrapping paper by jumping off a cliff overlooking the Baltic Sea. Some trees broke Lundberg’s fall, possibly saving his life. He got off with a broken collarbone.

Around 1918, having graduated from the Kungliga Tekniska Högskola, or Royal Technical Institute, in Stockholm, Lundberg designed and tested a geophysical exploration device in conjunction with fellow engineer Harry Nathörst. This equipment was used to uncover important ore deposits in 1918 and 1922, in northern Sweden. One of the discoveries Lundberg was involved in came about as a result of a meeting with a medicine man from the Sami indigenous population of Scandinavia awaiting trial for the death of several patients who had taken in the fumes from one of his potions. The young man tested said potion and discovered it contained arsenic and copper, two ingredients that the medicine man was not aware of. A search for the copper deposit began in earnest. It led to the creation of a mine that made Sweden self-sufficient for years to come. In 1926, Lundberg was also involved in the discovery of a large vein of gold, also in the country’s north. If truth be told, Sweden was becoming a world leader in geophysical exploration.

The management of the New York-based Swedish-American Prospecting Corporation was sufficiently impressed by this new technology to offer a field manager’s job to Lundberg around 1923-24. The young man moved to the United States with his wife, Signe Maria Lundberg, and their two young sons, Torkel Torkelsson and Sten Torkelsson Lundberg. From 1926 on, Lundberg conducted surveys in the Buchans River region of Newfoundland, a Dominion integrated within Canada in 1949. The ore bodies he uncovered during his first year there were among the richest ever found on Canadian soil. Convinced that geophysical exploration had a bright future in Canada, Lundberg took on the job of vice-president and manager of Swedish-American Prospecting Company of Canada. Initially based in Haileybury, Ontario, a key location during the early years of bush flying in Canada, he eventually settled in Toronto, Ontario. There being no such thing as a Canadian citizenship before 1947, Lundberg became a British subject in 1936. He set up a consulting firm, Hans Lundberg Limited, at an as yet undetermined date, and built up his business as a freelance mineral sleuth.

Despite the Buchans discovery, Lundberg’s early years in Canada proved difficult. Many of the people who claimed to be geophysicists were charlatans. By 1928-29, things were so bad that the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy asked the federal government to look into the value of the work done by geophysicists. Individuals were thus asked to pinpoint the location of a known deposit. Of the 25 or son participants, only Lundberg and another competitor got it right. As the 1920s gave way to the 1930s, the tide began to turn. The Canadian mining industry trusted Lundberg’s expertise more and more. He was no longer the lucky Swede with a newfangled divining rod.

The fascinating story of Canada’s greatest mineral detective will continue in the 3rd part of this article. Do not miss it.

Author(s)
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Rénald Fortier