SynopsisGerald Heffernan, a pioneering engineer, passed away at the age of 104, leaving behind a legacy of eco-friendly steel production, reports The Globe & Mail. He introduced mini-mills in Alberta and Ontario, which produce specialized steel products more affordably while using scrap metal, a sustainable approach. Heffernan's innovative vision reduced pollution and made steelmaking more efficient. His entrepreneurial spirit and scientific acumen earned him global recognition. Today, mini-mills account for a significant portion of the world's steel production.ArticleGerald Heffernan, a visionary engineer who reshaped the steel industry, passed away on July 28 in Toronto at the remarkable age of 104. He leaves behind a profound legacy of innovation in the realm of eco-friendly steel production, having pioneered the concept of mini-mills.Heffernan's journey began in Alberta during the oil boom, where he established the first mini-mill. Unlike traditional steel smelters, these compact mills proved capable of producing specialized steel products at a lower cost. Notably, they utilized scrap metal, aligning with the principles of recycling.Alan Bernstein, former president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, emphasized Heffernan's role as both a scientist and a businessman. He described Heffernan's pioneering spirit in creating smaller, more efficient steel mills that could be strategically placed.Today, mini-mills have become a global phenomenon, contributing to one-third of the world's steel production. Heffernan's innovation not only transformed the steel industry but also championed sustainability through recycling practices.Gerald Heffernan's journey began in Edmonton on July 12, 1919. His father, William Heffernan, was an entrepreneur who ran a sawmill and cement plant. Young Gerald displayed his entrepreneurial spirit early in life when, at a mere 13 years old, he negotiated contracts for his family's fruit farm and used the proceeds to purchase a truck.Tragedy struck when Gerald's father passed away when he was 15. His mother, Elise, raised him and his siblings in British Columbia, where he navigated the challenges of rural education. He attended a one-room schoolhouse at Mirror Lake, B.C., before eventually relocating to Toronto to complete his education at the University of Toronto.In 1943, Heffernan married Geraldine O'Leary, who would play a significant role in his business endeavors. Known for his impulsive nature, Heffernan often sought his wife's counsel before making important decisions.Heffernan's life took an unexpected turn when he joined the army during World War II. He served as Lieutenant Gerald Heffernan, training engineering troops. His contributions to the war effort were invaluable.Following the war, Heffernan embarked on an academic career but was soon advised by an industrial psychologist to explore the world of business due to his entrepreneurial mindset. He left academia and began his journey in the steel industry at the Western Iron & Steel Foundry in British Columbia.Heffernan identified an opportunity as oil was discovered in Alberta in the late 1940s. Recognizing the need for steel near the oil fields, he founded Premier Steel Mills in Edmonton in 1955. However, competition with the formidable Stelco led to Heffernan's sale of the Edmonton operation to Stelco in 1962.Unfazed by this setback, Heffernan ventured into Ontario, establishing a mini-mill in Whitby and competing directly with Stelco. This marked the beginning of his mini-mill empire, known as Co-Steel.Under Heffernan's leadership, Co-Steel achieved remarkable success, with group sales approaching $1 billion annually. Beyond financial success, he was lauded for his contributions to technological advancements in steelmaking and for fostering employee loyalty through profit-sharing initiatives.The impact of Heffernan's mini-mill technology extended worldwide, leading to the closure of older, heavily polluting steel mills. In Texas, one of Heffernan's plants could produce a ton of steel in just 1.8 person-hours, a stark contrast to the six to eight person-hours required by traditional large steel mills.Throughout his long and adventurous life, Gerald Heffernan remained an advocate for science, innovation, and risk-taking. He displayed his adventurous spirit even in his later years, as he and a friend braved rough surf for a swim in Florida, drawing applause from onlookers.ConclusionHeffernan's philanthropic endeavors mirrored his commitment to diverse fields, from grants for engineering students to support for the arts, including Toronto's Four Seasons Centre. His contributions extended to the University of Toronto, where he donated to advance research and development.