Robert C Sticht


Robert Sticht was born in 1856 in New Jersey, graduating with a Bachelor of Science from Brooklyn Polytechnic in the United States before specialising in metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines in Clausthal, Germany.

He spent 15 years as a metallurgist in Colorado and Montana, specialising in pyritic smelting. In 1893, he was approached by the directors of the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Co and accepted a role as a metallurgist to bring his pyritic smelting expertise to Tasmania. He arrived in 1895 and constructed a plant and initiated pyritic smelting in Queenstown in 1896, albeit with the addition of some coke to the feed. In 1897 he became general manager of the Mount Lyell mine.

In 1902 he realised his hope of pure pyritic smelting, although he was forced to concede that the process was more efficient with up to one per cent coke and this was subsequently reintroduced. The mine continued profitable operation throughout the early years of the 20th century, but the advent of World War I heralded a particularly difficult period. The successful development of flotation by Guillaume Delprat and his colleagues over the same period saw the end of pyritic smelting in the early 1920s. Sticht’s technique was subsequently used elsewhere when ore conditions were right.

Sticht was AusIMM President in 1905, 1915 and 1916. He was the first AusIMM President to have served three years and one of only four to have done so.

Sticht’s home, ‘Penghana’, overlooking the mine and smelter, housed his expansive private library including early editions of Shakespeare and Australiana. He also owned a significant collection of art, some of which is now housed in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Robert Sticht died in Launceston on 30 April 1922. The mineral Stichtite, a rare lilac-coloured variety of serpentine, was named in his honour. He is the only Tasmanian AusIMM member to receive such an honour.

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