John Bruno ‘JJ’ Jakobson 1948-2017

  • By Dmitry Przhedetsky FAusIMM

With sadness and disbelief we are bidding farewell to John Jakobson, who passed away after a long battle with cancer.

John Jakobson.

He was a consummate professional and a dear man. The Australian iron ore industry and the community of Newman would have been very different without his immense contribution and grand personality.

John Jakobson, famously known in the Pilbara as ‘JJ’, has made an unprecedented contribution to Australian iron ore operations. Having led for many years the largest (at that time) iron mine in Australia, Yandi, John increased its rated 37.5 Mt/a capacity to 48 Mt/a (excluding capital works).

John was the first to trial surface miners for production of iron ore, which later was adopted in other iron ore operations. It is regrettable that John has never been professionally credited for that. Had he been further involved with this method, it may have been more successful throughout the industry.

For more than 20 years, John had been improving and developing various BHP iron ore operations, such as Orebody 25 and Jimblebar. His major achievements were primarily focused on improving productivity. Scree ore projects were taken from 1 Mt/a to 5 Mt/a; driving transformations by adapting plants to have capability for surrounding bedrock. John was also involved in township housing and maintenance, helping maintain the local power station as well as bore field, water supply and waste water treatment. Since his graduation as a mechanical engineer in 1966, John’s other engagements included his work in the New South Wales quarrying industry with Blue Circle Cement.

As the General Manager – Mining with Rock Cognition Pty Ltd, a mining consultancy company, John was able to share his deep insightful knowledge of mining operations along with novel ideas and passion for engineering innovations. Whether conducting a mine site assessment or coaching a marketing team, John was always open-minded and resourceful in his approach to finding the best solution for a client.

John Jakobson was born as Janis Bruno Jakobson in 1948 in Germany in a family of Latvian migrants. As for many Balts, the return to their home countries was hardly possible and the move to Australia was a far better option. John’s family settled in the Snowy Mountains, contributing to the development of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Throughout his life, John was a valuable member of the Australian community. He will be remembered for his work as a Councillor representing the Shire of East Pilbara from 2015 to 2017, and was recognised for his community work. One of his ideas was to develop tourism in the Pilbara and this would have worked perfectly with his other idea – development of modern airships – to cater for this.

As well as John’s achievements in his professional life and community services, people who knew John would remember him for his radiant personality. His sense of humour was unmistakable – always present, always original and always balanced and polite. This will be cherished by all people who knew John Jakobson professionally or socially. Those who have attended business meetings with John will remember his ability to stay focused throughout the entire meeting, remaining calm and friendly, while encouraging all other participants to stay involved.

JJ was a man of broad horizons and great intelligence. He was equally comfortable talking about history or horticulture, foreign policy or sport, cuisine or music. He played guitar and kept a Fender Stratocaster, a valve-driven guitar amplifier and a keyboard in his cabin at the Yandi mine. Having been badly ill for years, he continued exploring music and once was seriously considering purchasing a theremin.

One of his dreams was to arrange a music show at the bottom of an iron ore pit, which would have been a truly spectacular event. Perhaps one day John’s dream will come true in a form of a music festival in honour of this great man, who was not only one of the best Australian mining specialists, but also a visionary capable of converting future into reality.

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