SA Mines and Energy Journal : February-March 2011
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011 SA MINES & ENERGY JOURNAL PROFILE When Norton Jackson graduated from the School of Mines in late 1942 he could not have known it would be the start of a career which would see him travel the world, head a global workforce, sit on the boards of numerous mining companies and be presented various awards, including a Medal of the Order of Australia, for his contribution to the mining industry. "I've had a first-class life, all paid for, " Dr Jackson said. "I've lived all over the world, I've travelled first-class, I've worked in 70 different countries, opened up business in Japan in the 1960s, and lived in Hong Kong in the days of the Cultural Revolution in China, " he said. It's a far cry from the days when, as a student at the School of Mines (now UniSA), he switched from his industrial chemistry course to metallurgy, in recognition of the travel opportunities open to Bachelor of Engineering in Metallurgy students. He met several returning from working in the field in what seemed like exciting places such as Port Pirie and Broken Hill, in SA's north. The change was to pay dividends, with Dr Jackson's qualifications, which eventually included Diplomas in Applied Science and Mining, a Bachelor of Engineering in Metallurgy, and a Master of Engineering, helping him live all over the world, including the Hong Kong, the US and Europe. He graduated from the School of Mines during WWII and his first job was making brass cases for bullet shells at the Finsbury munitions factory, which was built during the war. He worked as a bridge builder, road maker and bomb disposal officer in New Guinea after joining the army. His first post-war job was at the Emperor gold mine in Fiji. Dr Jackson considers the posting a major turning point in his career. "It was my first exposure to working with other people. I've just gone on from there. " It was here that he came into contact with visitor Reg Sprigg, who was leading the SA Mine Department's exploration for uranium. He recommended Dr Jackson to find a way to extract davidite from the ore at Radium Hill. In 1948 Dr Jackson was invited back to Adelaide to become Chief Metallurgist at the SA Department of Mines. Awarded an honorary doctorate in 2006, Dr Jackson has played a pivotal role in the development of mining in SA. "From 1949-58 I was responsible for designing, building and starting up Radium Hill -- the first big uranium mine in the country, "Dr Jackson said. He subsequently participated in process development for a number of uranium mines, including Mary Kathleen near Mt Isa. In his time at the SA Department of Mines, Dr Jackson was part of the team, led by legendary SA Premier Sir Thomas Playford, which travelled to the UK and the US in the 1950s to sell nuclear energy and the output of Radium Hill, which "put SA on the world map. " "They were exciting days dealing with top people around the world, including UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill's son, when plans for uranium use were top-secret. "Later everyone was against uranium because it was used for making bombs but they overlooked all the peaceful uses of atomic energy. " A firm supporter of nuclear power, Dr Jackson said at the time of the Premier's mission the world had only five uranium deposits -- two of which were in SA. Of the five-member group, he remains the only member alive. "In those days we were national heroes. Then we became national villains. Now we're having our turn again, " he said. "When I travel around the world people tell me they just can't understand why we don't use our uranium. "There are reasons. Coal has always been a relatively cheap power source in Australia. But now people don't like coal and are starting to look at uranium again, so the tables have turned. " Dismissing renewable energies ("They're fun toys to play with") Dr Jackson said it was inevitable uranium would become a prized energy source in Australia. In 1958 Dr Jackson was lured from SA Mines to a New Jersey- based multinational called Cyanamid, a Quaker-owned fertiliser organisation that morphed into one of the biggest agricultural and industrial chemical groups in the world. Dr Jackson spent 20 years travelling the world with Cyanamid, rising through the ranks from Field Engineer, based in Melbourne, to Regional Director Hong Kong then to a desk job in New York for nine years, and finally back to Europe and Africa. "I never learned a language -- I never had time. One day I'd be in Japan, the next day in the Philippines, then Thailand, " he said of his days travelling the world with Cyanamid. He returned to Adelaide in 1978, as managing director of Amdel, which was established in 1960 by the federal and state governments and private industry to provide laboratory-testing services for the mining industry. Through the early 1970s and '80s, Amdel expanded the services it offered and the area it covered. Dr Jackson was hired to turn the struggling company around. During I've lived all over the world, I've worked in 70 different countries, opened up business in Japan in the 1960s, and lived in Hong Kong in the days of the Cultural Revolution in China A lifetime in mining Adelaide businessman Norton Jackson has spent a lifetime in the mining industry, helping to make history along the way, writes KATE NASH.
December 2010 - January 2011