photo: Kevin Van Paassen / National Post

Sculptor Monica O’Halloran’Schut fashioned a frieze for FNX Mining Co.’s new head office using Sudbury Basin rock, the same ore FNX hopes will yield copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and gold.

Sudbury Basin, carved in stone
by Drew Hasselback

A sculptor drawn to rocks because of their colours and textures hit upon their economic potential after a mining company CEO saw her work and commissioned a trio of pieces for head office.

FNX Mining Co. Inc. supplied artist Monica O’Halloran-Schut with ore from its Sudbury properties to incorporate in the piece she created for the miner’s Toronto offices.

Monica O’Halloran-Schut, an Ontario sculptor, was showing her work in Toronto last December when she noticed a man “nose-to-nose” with one of her stone pieces. The man, it turned out, was Terry MacGibbon, chief executive of FNX Mining Co. Inc. It wasn’t just the design and colour that captured his attention. Ms. O’Halloran-Schut creates friezes using volcanic rocks and minerals. Mr. MacGibbon, a geologist, was mentally noting the scientific names for the rocks in the piece. He was also hatching a plan.

“He was intrigued, staring nose-to-nose at the piece. I thought, this man must really like rock,” Ms. O’Halloran-Schut recalls. She introduced herself and he told her he was a geologist. “Then he asked if I would be able to do a piece for his company’s new head office in downtown Toronto.” The meeting between Ms. O’Halloran-Schut and Mr. MacGibbon has resulted in an eight-foot-by-four-foot frieze hanging in the lobby of the mining company’s Toronto head office. The piece consists of the “FNX” letters on background shaped like the Sudbury Basin, the mineral-rich remnant of an ancient meteor crater that over the past century has provided Ontario companies with about $300 million worth of mining revenue.

FNX and joint venture partner Dynatec Corp., have teamed up to mine for copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and gold at properties in the Sudbury Basin. Operations at the first mine started last month.
FNX provided Ms. O’Halloran-Schut with ore from the Sudbury properties so she could incorporate them in the piece.

“It just arrests people when they see the Sudbury Basin done up in the right colours,” says Dave Constable, a vice-president with FNX.

The contract for the FNX logo was followed by commissions for two other pieces that now hang in the head office.

Ms. O’Halloran-Schut produced the works at Croi go Lamh (Gaelic for “Heart to Hand”), a studio she owns with her husband, David Schut, in Erin Township, Ont. Mr. Schut, a mechanical engineer, applies his technical skills to her work. For example, Mr. Schut designed the hanging device that allows the weighty FNX frieze to stay on the wall.

“Trying to get a piece that size up an elevator and installed in an office was close to impossible,” Ms. O’Halloran-Schut says. Ms. O’Halloran-Schut was originally interested in working with rocks because of their colours and textures. Now she also sees them for their economic potential.

While the work for FNX has not resulted in a proverbial gold mine of fees – she says she was paid between $3,000 and $4,000 for her work on the three FNX works – she hopes to build on her success with that work by targeting other mining and metal companies for future business. “We’re always looking for something to stretch ourselves,” she says. “This is certainly a different market.”

In the meantime, Ms. O’Halloran-Schut says her working relationship with FNX has resulted in access to a wonderful array of materials. Previously, she had to content herself by using rocks and powders provided by an architectural services company. Now Mr. MacGibbon is helping her acquire custom-cut slices of rock from the company’s mine sites. “I never thought I’d actually be able to work with the actual ore that comes out of mines, that is this immediate.”