The global underground mining community is mourning the loss of one of its pioneers: Don MacLean, the Founder of MacLean Engineering.
MacLean passed away on Jan. 11, surrounded by his family in Meaford, Ontario.
MacLean founded his namesake mobile equipment manufacturing company in 1973 and over the past five decades of growth and product development, helped to revolutionize safety in the underground mining industry globally.
His legacy of safety innovation and service live on through the employees of the company who continue his lifelong mission of making the underground environment a safer place for miners.
Mining was a world that MacLean was literally born into and dedicated his life to the industry.
He grew up in the northern Quebec mining towns of East Malartic, Noranda and Chibougamau. He hunted and fished at a young age, built a shaft headframe with friends in the back yard and worked at surface jobs at the mine until he was old enough to go underground.
MacLean graduated from Acadia University in 1957 with a pre-engineering degree followed by two years at McGill where he graduated with a degree in Mining Engineering in 1959.
While at university, he worked underground at various mines including a summer at a uranium mine in Yellowknife.
In the summer of 1958, Don traveled through Europe and Scandinavia with his friend and classmate Jim Redpath, visiting various mining sites and building a broader knowledge of mining techniques that informed his life-long interest in safety issues in underground mining.
After graduating from McGill, Don worked underground as a shift boss for International Nickel (INCO) at the Levack site. At this time underground mining was beginning the transition from rail-based equipment to mobile equipment. This experience gave him many insights into the problems workers faced underground and how equipment might be developed to provide a safer working environment.
He moved into equipment sales in 1967 and worked at Ingersol Rand in Montreal before moving to Thornbury where he worked for JMG Engineering developing equipment for underground mining.
In 1973, Don struck out on his own to form MacLean Engineering. The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2023, and now includes more than 1,200 employees on four continents, led for the past two decades by MacLean’s son, Kevin MacLean, CEO of MacLean Engineering.
“From his time growing up in Canadian mining towns, through his own time mining in Sudbury, my dad believed in the Canadian miner. But he saw first-hand that the conditions those workers were operating under needed to be safer and more productive,” Kevin MacLean said.
“He also believed that Canadian engineers and workers were capable of designing and building equipment to compete with anyone in the world. As the company grew, he welcomed the challenge to bring that safety and productivity to the world. Today, we are all saddened. But I speak for all of us when I say that I am so blessed and proud to have spent almost 20 years working with my Dad to build that vision. Thank you, Don.”
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Georgian Bay Hotel, 10 Vacation Drive, Collingwood, Ontario, on Thursday, January 18th, at 1:30 p.m.