December 2018

Obituary: Ronald D Butler

  • By Judith Butler

1928 – 2018

Ron was born in Liverpool, England on 25 September 1928, the son of Cecil Lewis Butler, a flour miller’s clerk and his wife, Audrey. Ron grew up on the Isle of Man with a taste for kippers and the smell of Castrol R in his nostrils. Ron gained a scholarship to attend King William’s College and completed his national service with the RAF. After this, he attained an honours degree in metallurgical engineering at the Royal School of Mines (RSM), Imperial College, London, graduating in 1952. After several years at ICI in England, he was awarded a Mond Nickel Post-Graduate Fellowship in 1955, to study the design, layout and operation of base metal minerals processing plants in the US and Canada. He moved to far north Canada, where he stayed for four years as the Senior Project Engineer at the Eldorado uranium mine.

In 1961, Ron joined Consolidated Tin Smelters as Assistant to the Managing Director of its Australian operations; he married the same year and moved to Sydney. He worked as a metallurgist for Sydney Smelting and was Project Manager for its Cape Flattery silica mine. He later moved on to McDonald Constructions as Chief Metallurgist, and was responsible for a copper concentrator at Gunpowder, an antimony concentrator at Hillgrove and an iron ore grading facility at Frances Creek.

Ron joined Robertson Research in 1971 as Chief Metallurgist. He moved to Bowral in 1973 to run the company’s laboratory, and was made General Manager in 1974. He returned to the Sydney office to become Managing Director in 1979, and became Chairman in 1987. In 1991 he retired from the board and was appointed Principal Consultant.

From 1979 onwards, Ron primarily engaged in advising major corporate clients and the Australian Stock Exchange in the provision of independent technical prospectus and valuation reports. He held executive responsibility for numerous technical projects and evaluations across the Asia-Pacific region, including a major contract in India to prepare an integrated development study for the Singhbhum Copper Belt.

Ron took an active role in the professional aspects of the industry. He was a Fellow of the AusIMM with service on several committees. He was a founding Board member and past Chair of Minerals Industry Consultants Association, Fellow of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy (now IOM3), and Life Member of Canadian Institute of Mining. He was awarded the Peter Harding Medal in recognition of his sustained commitment and outstanding contribution to the RSM and Imperial College alumni over many years.

Ron provided expertise as a volunteer with AESOP from 1993 to 1996. In Micronesia he helped tackle the problem of WWII scrap metal; in Tuvalu he advised on an out-of-use AusAid desalination plant; and in Kosrae he developed a garbage disposal scheme.

Ron never officially retired but did his last professional work in 2001. He continued volunteering until his final months. He volunteered with the Southern Highlands Computer Users Group, assisting residents in local retirement homes connect with their family and friends, and previously with Southern Highlands Probus. He was otherwise occupied with gardening, music, computers and his grandchildren.

Ron’s volunteering typifies his life, and professionally he always went above and beyond. He championed good practice in metallurgy and valuations, and was a caring manager, a good friend and mentor to many in the industry.

Ron is survived by his wife Sheila, their three children and eight grandchildren.

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