Sir Maurice Mawby


As head of Conzinc RioTinto of Australia (CRA), Sir Maurice Mawby contributed to the rapid growth of the Australian mineral industry during the mid-20th century. The Australian mineral industry grew rapidly during this period and CRA, led by Sir Maurice Mawby, contributed strongly to this growth. Maurice was born and educated in Broken Hill and in 1928 joined the Zinc Corporation (ZC), where he innovated the all-flotation process for the separation of ores. In the late 1930s he employed biologist Albert Morris to establish a wide ‘green belt’ around the town in which flora and fauna could thrive and which reduced the dust storms that plagued the town. He also developed New Broken Hill Consolidated to extract metals from the deposit at the southern end of the lode. In 1946, Maurice went to Melbourne as Director of Exploration and Research for ZC.

During the following years Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd (CZP) was formed, and it was a CZP geologist who identified the huge bauxite deposits in northern Queensland. A plant was built at Gladstone to convert bauxite to alumina and a smelter was built in New Zealand to produce aluminium from alumina.

When Maurice became chairman of the CZ companies in 1961, he supported a search for a large deposit of iron ore to augment the CZP portfolio of mineral plants. In 1962 a massive deposit of iron ore was found at Mt Tom Price in the Hamersley Range and a large open pit mine, a port and townships were built.

In 1964, CRA geologists found a low-grade – but potentially huge – copper-gold resource in the inhospitable mountainous region of Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea. To be financially viable, the ore needed to be processed at more than 60 000 t/d. The technological developments in both open pit mining and comminution made high mine capacities possible. Roadways and a township were built and a CRA subsidiary, Bougainville Copper, was formed to control the operation and mining began in 1972. It was successful, with the throughput eventually reaching 150,000 t/d, but social problems caused a temporary termination of operations.

Maurice resigned as Chairman of CRA and other companies with the CRA group in 1974. He was involved in many activities outside CRA, including the establishment of the Australian Mineral Industries Research Association Ltd (AMIRA), which formed a close link with the UQ Mining and Metallurgy Department.

Sir Maurice Mawby was President of the AusIMM in 1953-54 and again in 1968.

This note is based on an article written by Frank Strahan and published in Volume 15 of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  

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