December 2018

Obituary: Mervyn (Merv) Robjohns

  • By Neil Robjohns

Merv Robjohns was born in Broken Hill; he became a third generation mining man, following on from his grandfather and father who had worked at the Moonta Mines.

It was a source of great pride to Merv that he worked for 40 years, to the very day, at the North Mine (Broken Hill). Commencing as a cadet mining engineer on 22 January 1942, he attended Broken Hill Technical College night lectures and graduated in late 1947 from Sydney Technical College with a Diploma in Metalliferous Mining Engineering.

1943 saw Merv become a student member of the AusIMM.

Following graduation, Merv was appointed as a Technical Assistant, initially involved in mining remnant ore at the British Section of the North Mine.

In June 1947, Merv commenced his underground time. He often stated that his underground experience was of significant value in gaining an understating of the mining operations from the perspective of the miner, whom he would spend the rest of his career supervising.

Upon returning to technical duties, Merv gained valuable experience as a relief shift boss. The next few years were spent gaining a wide range of operational knowledge.

In 1952 Merv obtained his Certificate of Competency as a Below Ground Mine Manager.

Merv took on his first mining engineering role in 1955 when he was promoted to the role of Mine Planning Engineer.

Further promotion occurred in 1962 with Merv’s appointment as Production Engineer, Number 2 Shaft area. This was a very challenging role as many high-grade ore pillars had been left. Merv found it was not possible to mine them by conventional timber stope methods, a challenge Merv enjoyed.

Merv published an AusIMM technical paper, ‘Underhand Stoping at the North Mine’ in 1968.

Merv was appointed to Assistant Underground Manager responsible for Number 3 Shaft extension from 1280 metres to 1584 metres. The shaft extension faced numerous difficulties, not least the fact that the bottom 200 metres was completely contained within the Globe Vauxhall Shear Zone – ground conditions could be best described as appalling. Merv applied his engineering knowledge and time and motion experience to make sweeping changes to the sinking process.

Subsequently, Merv was appointed as Deputy Underground Manager Production. During this period he oversaw considerable change with the adoption of rubber-tyred equipment.

In 1976 Merv was promoted to the key role of Underground Manager/Registered Manager. Merv was later appointed to the newly created position of Mining Superintendent in 1979.

Merv was subsequently promoted to the position of Mine Operations Manager in 1980, and this role included ‘acting’ General Manager. Merv continued as Operations Manager until his retirement on 21 January 1982.

Initially, in retirement Merv was offered consulting jobs as 40 years of operational experience was sought after. Merv declined these offers stating that 40 years ‘was sufficient’, and he was looking forward to pursuing new interests. Merv headed off to TAFE, learning trade skills. He continued his work on his family history, often incorporating overseas travel with family tree investigations.

Despite being retired, Merv never lost his interest in the industry in which he had spent his entire career. He was keen to inspect mine sites where his family were continuing the mining tradition.

Merv married Kathleen May in 1948, who passed away in June 2017. Merv is survived by his two sons, Bruce and Neil, their wives Helen and Lesley, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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