Mining in the Great Lakes?

In 1968, researchers found small manganese nodules scattered across the floor of Green Bay. The following year, copper was discovered beneath the chilly waters of Lake Superior. Gregory Dexter Hedden, with the Wisconsin Sea Grant College Program, provided advisory and technical support to the nascent Great Lakes mining industry spawned by those discoveries. Hedden died on Monday, Oct. 17, in Madison, Wis. He was 92.

For 14 years, Hedden worked for Sea Grant. His background in physical organic chemistry, combined with his understanding of the lakes, allowed him to facilitate cooperation among mining industry representatives, scientists and policymakers.

Milwaukee’s mining equipment manufacturers also took note of the Lakes Superior and Michigan minerals. Hedden worked to explore the possibilities of sustainably extracting the metals while simultaneously boosting the mining equipment manufacturing sector.

He was instrumental in the founding and functioning of the national Underwater Mining Institute. Although Great Lakes mining ventures never fully materialized, the institute is still in operation. It describes its charge as promoting responsible development of marine mineral resources in the U.S. and abroad.

Wisconsin Sea Grant’s first director, Robert Ragotzkie, worked closely with Hedden and at the time said, “Greg Hedden is one of those few people who many of us recognize as a mature and experienced outreach person with exceptionally good judgment. His opinions on how to proceed with an outreach project, be it customized assistance to a client or industry or a conference with interinstitutional and possibly political overtones, are valued for their insight and reliability…He helps achieve the maximum benefit from the university’s intellectual resources.”

Hedden also brought together scientists and stakeholders to address toxic contaminants in aquatic ecosystems, a critical issue for the world’s largest freshwater system.

Hedden retired from UW-Madison in 1983 and spent his remaining years in the Madison area. He leaves behind two sons and two grandchildren.