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Obituary: Dr John Graham Reid

Geoff Lennard, Felix Fries, John Fittock, Ian Skepper, Joe Scott, David Morgan, Gavin Becker
· 600 words, 3 min read


Dr John Reid FAusIMM died suddenly on Sunday 8 September 2019 at home in Brisbane. John had well over 40 years’ experience as a metallurgical engineer. He was just 71 years old when he passed away.

John Reid the professional

Since 1998, Dr Reid had been the principal of Reid Resource Consulting Pty Ltd, specialising in due diligence studies for IPOs and buy-outs, undertaking feasibility studies, evaluating capital and operating costs, and providing expert witness testimony and technical and investment advice on hydrometallurgical and other matters to mining companies.

John consulted on a number of world renowned resource projects including the Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt project in the DRC, and nickel laterite HPAL projects including Cawse, Murrin Murrin, Bulong and Ravensthorpe in WA, Goro in New Caledonia and the Ramu project in PNG. He also played a consulting role on the three Caron nickel plants at Las Camarocas in Cuba, Niquelândia in Brazil and Yabulu in Qld, as well as the Australian Magnesium project in Qld, Lihir Gold in PNG and the Phosphate Hill fertiliser project in Qld.

Prior to running his own consultancy, John worked for more than 20 years with Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd (QNI Limited) rising through the ranks from Technical Manager to General Manager Technical and Marketing, EGM, Executive Director and finally Director.

Before QNI, John was an adjunct professor in hydrometallurgy at the Colorado School of Mines and worked as a process engineer for Peko Wallsend Ltd at Mount Morgan in Queensland.

He was an AusIMM Fellow, a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers in Australia, a former Chairman of the Nickel Development Institute and Chairman of CSIRO QCAT Division of Advanced Technology.

He holds four patents and was the author of 31 technical papers on mineral processing. He attended Brisbane Grammar School, graduated from the University of Queensland, and undertook his MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Early years at Queensland Nickel

John joined Queensland Nickel in late 1976 as Technical Manager two years after the Yabulu Refinery commissioning. He immediately involved himself and his team in addressing the many challenges facing the refinery.

The most significant at this time was the spiraling cost of energy (following the twin oil price ‘shocks’), because the refinery was totally fuel oil dependent for heating, and power and steam production. The decision was made to convert the ore driers and the power plant to coal as the fuel. John was involved in sourcing of coal, burner design and developing the more difficult process control techniques required for burning coal instead of oil.

Early major refractory failures in the roasters combustion chambers saw some innovative solutions and were finally solved by the technical, production and engineering teams working together. This approach had been strongly fostered by ‘the Boss’ Lloyd Hennessey.

John oversaw many other technical improvements particularly with regard to improved metal recovery within the ore roasting and leaching circuits.

He will probably be best remembered in the industry for his work to produce high-purity nickel and cobalt products at Queensland Nickel. A novel ammoniacal solvent extraction (ASX) process which had the effect of producing higher-purity nickel products was developed in-house.

Commissioning of the commercial ASX plant took place in 1989, followed by the development of a novel cobalt refining process in which the impurities are eliminated by a combination of solvent extraction and ion exchange resin treatment. That plant came on-line in 1997, producing a unique high-purity cobalt product suitable for use in the newly commercialised Li-ion battery. These developments were team efforts and John was always ready to support and encourage key groups led by Mal Price, John Fittock, etc in such projects. John played a part in all aspects of these two major projects and was closely involved with the initial laboratory testing of the processes, pilot plants, engineering design, construction, commissioning, budgeting, capital acquisition and the final marketing of the products. John added value to every stage bringing these new products into the market. His part in transforming Yabulu from a refinery producing impure nickel and cobalt products sold at discounts to selling high purity improved products at a premium cannot be understated.

Johns happy disposition and attention to detail combined with his personal and professional approach ensured these projects were successful. His ability to clearly facilitate and communicate under immense pressure is why he was an effective and successful leader. His generosity in mentoring, and professional development, of his team members led to loyalty and life-long friendships.

But ‘all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy’. Among John’s favourite hobbies was reef fishing. He would organise small groups from QNI to go out from Cardwell on very productive weekend fishing expeditions with an old fisherman (Cocky), in his ancient fishing boat! It is reported that these expeditions were a lot of fun!

John Reid the man

John was an affable gentle giant of a man, yet determined, with a mind as sharp as a tack.

His wife Sue always supported him. Their three children, Elizabeth, Catherine and Alexandra have developed in their image.

Apart from his love of technology and travel, he absorbed history, ancient and modern, and had a passion for talking about that subject.

What does a man like this do in his spare time?

He produced honey from his own hives for one thing, but most of all he loved to work in timber, particularly Australian Red Cedar from North Queensland. Only after thorough research would he buy the appropriate flitches or slabs. The results, in the form of beautifully made furniture, now adorn the rooms of the Reid home.

Dr Reid was an industry stalwart and a fine bloke.

John’s industry colleagues pass on sincerest condolences to his family.


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