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Member recap: 49th Annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture

Lucas Ljubicic MAusIMM CP(Min)
· 600 words, 2 min read

The National Wine Centre’s Exhibition Hall hosted a cross section of industry professionals, students, academics and AusIMM stalwarts earlier this year for the 49th Annual Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture.

This year featured Chris Carr, Head of Technical Services at IGO Limited, with his presentation entitled "Will decarbonisation lose its social licence?"


The Essington Lewis Memorial Lecture is the premier technical event in the Adelaide Branch calendar and is held in honour of Essington Lewis (1881-1961), Past Chairman and General Manager of BHP. Essington Lewis was born in 1881 in Burra, South Australia. In his youth he excelled at football, being recognised as one of the best players in the country, while he was training as a mining engineer at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries. He then began a distinguished career with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd, initially at its Broken Hill operations, 118 years ago. He is most well-known for his transformation of BHP – the driving force behind the birth of an efficient and internationally competitive Australian steel industry, and his leadership in the company’s expansion into coal and iron ore mining which ultimately led BHP to becoming the largest mining company in the world. Among many accolades, in 1940 Essington was awarded the highest honour bestowed by the AusIMM – The Institute Medal.

Chris Carr joined a list of 48 previous distinguished speakers to deliver the Memorial Lecture since 1975. Chris is a Mining Engineer with more than 35 years’ experience, who holds an MBA and an MSc in Mineral Economics. Chris has worked largely in underground mining of gold and base metals, and has also held roles in open pit, contracting and consulting. He led the Ernest Henry Underground project from pre-feasibility through to the final stages of shaft development, and more recently led IGO Limited’s Nova Operation from the end of construction through to consistent operations. Chris is currently Head of Technical Services for IGO, where he leads underground mine electrification and site power decarbonisation studies and is also a Fellow and Director of AusIMM.

Chris’s lecture discussed the energy transition as a key part of decarbonisation but stressed the balance required in reduction of both supply and demand. Excessive restriction of fossil fuel supply in advance of, or to force a reduction in demand, may have devastating impact on the global economy to the point where energy transition loses its appeal or ‘social licence to decarbonise’. Chris 's belief is that energy transition can only be truly effective through demand substitution so that fossil fuels are no longer required, and energy is readily available in other forms - a more subtle but effective decarbonisation strategy. Chris provided thought provoking insight on the role that emotions and beliefs play in driving opinions around social implications of the fossil fuel discussion.

The lecture was followed by an engaging Q&A session, with over one hundred combined registrations for the in-person and online streaming options. Chris was presented with the prestigious Rail Track Trophy for delivering the lecture – a nod to Essington Lewis’ instrumental influence in the steel industry around Whyalla. Distinguished guests included Bronwyn Lewis, great niece of Essington Lewis, and Jenny Purdie, Asset President Copper South Australia, BHP. The evening concluded with networking drinks and canapés amongst the stunning backdrop of the National Wine Centre, in itself a celebration of South Australia’s culture and history. The event was also recorded and will be added to the AusIMM’s Digital Library, where the 46th, 47th and 48th Lecture are already available.

The Adelaide Branch would like to thank Chris Carr for his contribution, BHP for their perennial support of this event and Essington Lewis and Family for his ongoing legacy. Next year will see this event’s 50th anniversary, celebrating a rich history of providing distinguished speakers to the minerals industry community.

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