Essington Lewis was born in Burra, South Australia in 1881. He was born into a pastoral family where the outback attributes of hard work, self-reliance, discipline, detailed observation and a propensity to action were prerequisites for his eminently successful life in mining and industry.
He trained as a mining engineer at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries in Adelaide and then began a distinguished career with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Ltd, initially at its Broken Hill operations.
Essington is mostly remembered for his role in BHP’s expansion into the steel industry. This, and his leadership in the company’s expansion into coal and iron ore mining, were key factors in the overall growth of BHP, now one of the largest mining companies in the world. Within BHP, Essington rose to the highest executive position as General Manager, with a seat on the Board, and was ultimately appointed as its Chairman.
His organisational and personal skills were recognised and used by both the Menzies and Curtin Governments during World War II to oversee munitions production. Through his leadership and management, he significantly improved Australia’s preparedness for the Pacific conflict. His work also provided a solid foundation for the general expansion of the manufacturing industry in Australia after the war. This included weapons projects at Salisbury and Woomera during the late 1940s and 1950s and manufacture of Holden cars.
Essington was President of the AusIMM in 1935 and was awarded the AusIMM Institute Medal in 1940 in recognition of his outstanding work in the development of the steel and allied industries in Australia and for his national service.