Henry James (Harry) Evans


Harry was born in Greymouth, New Zealand in 1912 and died in Melbourne in 1990. His initial interest in geology was sparked when he and his stepfather prospected for gold in the Reefton district and he first began work at a gold mine at the age of 16. In the early 1930s he studied at the Reefton School of Mines and qualified as an assayer.

In 1936 he joined the Geological Survey in New Zealand then in 1938 joined the New Zealand Petroleum Co, searching for oil and gas. In 1946, he left New Zealand to join the Zinc Corporation in Melbourne to work as an exploration geologist. While searching for oil, he discovered the extensive bauxite deposits at Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula, which led to the formation of the Comalco Group, now part of the Rio Tinto Group. Subsequently, he held several positions within the CRA Group, now part of Rio Tinto, including Chief Geologist of the exploration division. His younger half-brother G W (Bill) Patterson also became a much respected exploration geologist with the CRA Group.

Harry joined the AusIMM in 1953 and received the AusIMM President’s Award in 1988. He was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1965, in recognition of his discovery of the Weipa bauxite deposits and his role in their development.

His early exploration of the cliffs of outcropping bauxite and underlying clays on the western side of Cape York was carried out by dinghy. The miles and miles of coastline and the huge extent of the deposits he observed were well conveyed in a quote of Harry’s which reads in part, ‘I kept thinking that, if all this was bauxite, then there must be something wrong with it…’

Harry was a modest man, small in stature and enthusiastic by nature. The practical knowledge and bushcraft skills which were gained in his youth were honed over a lifetime in exploration, sometimes in very remote and difficult circumstances. He was also devoted to his family and he and his wife Helen had a son and a daughter.

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