October 2019

Obituary: Don Morley

  • By Jeff Gresham MAusIMM and David Griffiths

1940-2019

Don Morley.

Donald Marshall Morley was born in Brisbane on 11 February 1940. Don’s mother, Evelyn (nee Marshall) died in 1948 and his father – to enable him to continue his own career and the travel that it involved – enrolled Don as a boarder at Brisbane Boys College. Don successfully completed his secondary education in 1957. It was no surprise Don decided on a career in mining as his father, Ian Morley ISO, had a long and distinguished career in the industry including being one of Queensland’s longest serving State Mining Engineers.

In early 1958, Don took up a position with the Sulphide Corporation at Cockle Creek in NSW and during employment with that company, as a trainee metallurgist and shift supervisor, completed a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in metallurgy at the University of NSW in Newcastle in 1964. 

In June 1966, Don moved to Canada and later that year married Jane Sutton in the Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. He continued working in the metallurgical field in both Canada and the US. In 1968, he was accepted into the prestigious University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and graduated with an MBA in 1968.

In August 1970, Don joined Western Mining Corporation (WMC) as a Corporate Analyst. Given his skill set and strong work ethic, Don rose quickly in the organisation, becoming Manager Corporate Planning in 1972 and Financial Controller in 1974. In 1980, he was appointed General Manager Finance and Treasurer and in March 1983, he joined the WMC Board as Director of Finance and Administration.

During his time as a WMC Director Don worked closely with the company’s Managing Directors; initially Sir Arvi Parbo AC Kt and, from 1986, Hugh Morgan AC. Both had great confidence in Don’s ability to carefully manage the company’s finances, and he was intimately involved in many of the major corporate decisions on the strategic direction and growth of the company. When Don announced his intention to retire from the company in June 2001, Hugh Morgan said ‘Don is the complete minerals executive. He combines a sound knowledge of minerals science with strong business ability, and is an outstanding contributor and colleague. We will miss his wisdom, dry humour and his leadership.’ 

Don’s planned retirement had to be put on hold when Alcoa of America made an informal takeover bid for WMC. In an endeavour to ensure WMC shareholders achieved maximum value from their investment, the WMC Board decided to demerge itself into two companies – one to contain the interest of Alcoa of Australia and the other to hold the remaining assets. This was successfully achieved in October 2002. 

Don then retired from WMC, but took on the role of Chairman of the newly listed company, Alumina Limited, in November 2002. He retained this position and other non-executive board positions until 2012 when he retired to spend more time with his wife Jane and family. It also gave him time to enjoy his sailing and other interests and spend more time with Jane at their homes in Albert Park, Melbourne and at Byron Bay. 

As his father did, Don took on a much broader role within the mining industry outside his responsibilities with WMC. Over a membership of 59 years with AusIMM, he made a significant contribution to the minerals industry. He initially became involved at a Branch level but soon played a role in the organisation of AusIMM events. He was Treasurer of the Organising Committee of the 13th Congress of the Council of Mining and Metallurgical Industries held in Singapore in 1986. He was AusIMM Honorary Treasurer from 1987 to 1996 – a difficult time for the Institute – and served on the AusIMM Council (predecessor of the AusIMM Board) from 1992-1996. 

In 1997, Don received the Beryl Jacka award ‘in recognition of his long association and major contribution to the affairs of the AusIMM and his significant and sustained services to the minerals and petroleum industries.’ In 2000, Don was elected President of AusIMM at a pivotal time in the reorganisation and restructuring of the Institute. During his Presidency, Don travelled extensively to visit as many Branches as possible and stressed the need for AusIMM to provide scholarships, bursaries, course recognition, conferences and publications. In 2009, Don was made an Honorary Fellow.

In addition to his various roles with AusIMM, Don served on other industry bodies including Chair of the World Gold Council, 1997-99, and as Treasurer of the International Council of Mining and Metallurgical Institutions (CMMI).

‘We will miss his wisdom, dry humour and leadership.’

In 2011, a suggestion was made that there should be a history of WMC written and published. Don took on the task to chair a small committee that was charged with the responsibility of finding an author to write the book and to see the project through to completion. More than 80 former WMC employees contributed to the costs involved in the writing, production and publication of Mandarins and Mavericks: Remembering Western Mining 1933-2005, which was published in 2017.  

Seeing this project through to a successful conclusion was no mean feat, and Don utilised all the characteristics he had displayed during his working career: an intelligent and enlightened approach to the task, a determination to see it successfully completed, and the ability to retain his dry sense of humour even at the most difficult of times. Sadly, towards the end of this project, Don’s health deteriorated but he continued to be involved to ensure the project was successfully completed. 

He passed away peacefully at home on July 18 and is survived by his wife, Jane, sons Samuel and Hugh, grandchildren, Luther and Marcel and sister, Colyn Storer.

Don Morley made a significant contribution to the growth and development of WMC, AusIMM and the broader Australian mining industry. He will be sadly missed by family, friends and colleagues.

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