Digital Issue 7

Obituary: John Oswald Reynolds OAM HonFAusIMM – 1921-2020

  • By Gilbert M Ralph MBE OAM FAusIMM
John Reynolds.

John Oswald Reynolds died on 8 August 2020 in his 99th year after spending his entire working life in the minerals industry, initially as a practicing metallurgist and later in executive management. The fact that he followed a career in metallurgy is perhaps not surprising as his father was Deputy Master of the Royal Mint, Melbourne.

John was born in Prahran on 14 November 1921 and educated in state schools until 1935, then Wesley College until 1939. After this he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Metallurgy and Chemistry at the University of Melbourne.

His industry career began in 1943 at the Munitions Supply Laboratories, Maribyrnong, moving later that year into copper smelting and refining at ER&S Port Kembla until 1946. He then joined the Department of Post-War Reconstruction in Melbourne for six months before sailing to the UK to work for two years at Consolidated Zinc Corporation’s Avonmouth zinc smelter. In 1948, ConZinc purchased the Sulphide Corporation works at Cockle Creek, NSW and John was transferred there as part of the technical management staff.

He worked at Cockle Creek for 20 years. At Cockle Creek he worked in acid and fertiliser plants, participating in the modernisation from Chamber acid plants to Contact plants. He was appointed Assistant Works Manager Acid and Fertiliser and was closely involved in specification of the acid plant required to handle sinter plant gases and was central to the development of capacity to produce triple super. When Green Leaf Fertilisers were established and a new plant constructed on Kooragang Island, he led the feasibility studies, established the design criteria and managed the construction and commissioning of the plant.

His last six years with the CRA Group were spent in R&D Management, and particularly the development of the WORCRA smelting process, in which role he transferred to CRA’s Melbourne office in 1970.

John left CRA in 1972 to join Western Mining Corporation (WMC) in Melbourne, where he was involved in nickel concentrate, metal and ammonium sulphate marketing. He saw the conversion of the Japanese concentrate contracts to nickel matte. In August 1974, John was appointed Manager, Corporate Planning for the WMC Group. In a further restructuring in 1980 John became Manager Corporate Affairs, responsible for Public and Government Relations in which he was active in industry organisations both within Australia and overseas. He represented the minerals industry on the Australian delegation to the United Nations Law of the Sea Conference 1980 to 1985 and was a member of Australian Mineral Missions to Saudi Arabia in 1981 and China in 1986. 

John was a clear thinker and very articulate. He prepared numerous reports and gave addresses for the Company and on behalf of the industry. He was Chairman of the Board of the Uranium Information Centre and a great contributor to the uranium debate, speaking very effectively for the peaceful use of uranium, and was active in South Australia during the public debate and political decision-making on the Olympic Dam development. John travelled frequently representing WMC on many industry and government organisations.

During his last year with the WMC, he put a great deal of effort into the re-establishment of the Victorian Chamber of Mines as gold mining was being revived in Victoria. He and WMC saw this as an important step in improving conditions for the industry and as a means of more effective communication with government on a whole-industry basis. Another aspect of his work was encouraging education in schools about mining and minerals. He initiated the ‘Mining in Society’ seminars for secondary school teachers at Ballarat CAE (later Federation University). I had the good fortune to work closely with John at WMC.

Following his 65th birthday in 1986, he retired from the WMC after 14 years of service. He was then elected into the role of Executive Director of the re-established Victorian Chamber of Mines and led that organisation for 11 years.  He was closely involved with the State Government in reform of Victorian mining legislation and the development of codes for the industry. He was also an Alternate Director of Ausmelt Limited, a company undertaking research into new smelting technologies.

During his long career, John sought to enhance his knowledge and experience by studying Management at Wollongong Technical College in the 1940s and Economics at the University of Melbourne in 1947 and the University of Newcastle in 1957. He also undertook the Australian Administrative Staff College Advanced Course, Session 18 in 1963 and a short ‘crash course’ in Japanese at ANU in 1974.

John joined the AusIMM in 1951 and was upgraded to a Fellow in 1957. He was Chairman of the Newcastle Branch during the 1950s and after moving to Melbourne he served as a Councillor for a time and was appointed Chairman of the Publications Committee in 1992.

John was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1995, the citation reading, ‘In recognition of his active participation in the affairs of The Institute over many years and for his outstanding contribution to the revitalisation of the Victorian minerals industry’. He was a regular attendee at AusIMM’s Annual Conferences and encouraged young associates to join AusIMM.

In 1992 John was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for services to the mining industry.

John was also a long-time member of Rotary. He was an inaugural member of the Toronto (NSW) Rotary Club which was formed in 1957 and joined the Melbourne Rotary Club in 1982. John joined the Probus Club of Port Philip in 1998. He was a regular attendee at the Melbourne Mining Club until recently and he played golf at Commonwealth Golf Club for over thirty years.

John married Frances Dent in 1950, and they have two children, William and Pamela and two grandchildren.

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