Ian G. WHITCHER

Geologist and discoverer of Mt Tom Price - SMB student

Ian Whitcher attended the Ballarat School of Mines, graduating with a Diploma of Geology in 1953. He received the first Diploma of Applied Geology at SMB, and the second in Victoria. Ian Whitcher disproved his graduation 'statement' Ian (Grub) Whitcher - The School's one and only rockology artist. Anticipates a boring time which was published with humour in the SMB Student Magazine. Ian Whitcher's post graduation life was anything but boring after discovering one of Australia's purest iron ore deposits.

When Ian Whitcher finished at SMB he was offered a position at Consolidated Zinc Pty (C.Z.P.) Ltd as Geologist on the Rum Jungle uranium project. The project was operated by Territory Enterprises Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of C.Z.P. on behalf of the Australian Government. Ian was involved in the drilling and mining of both uranium and base-metal ores. After five years Ian transferred to Enterprise Exploration Pty Ltd, the exploration subsidiary of C.Z.P. He stayed with the C.Z.P. - C.R.A. group overall for nearly 30 years and was involved with many projects in minerals and coal including the Hamersley stint and three years on a regional ship based helicopter operation throughout P.N.G. and the Solomon Island set up by the company following the Bougainville copper discovery.

During Ian Whitcher's Hamersley stint he landed on Mount Tom Price with Bill Burns on 11 September 1962 following identifying high grade iron ore in the area. According to a pamphlet of the time the Hamersley Iron Company boasted the find as 'the best massive high grade hematite they had seen'. This find was considered to be at least as good as the Mt Newman deposits. Its position one hundred miles nearer the coast made it far more attractive than anything previously found in the western part of the Hamersley Ranges. The Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd (now a subsidiary of Rio Tinto) built a railway from the town to the port at Dampier, and started a highly successful mining operation in 1966. The mine is a massive ore body covering eight by one kilometres. Mining at Mount Tom Price yields over 18 million tonnes of ore each year, and more than 700 employees work the operations.

After leaving C.R.A. Ian Whitcher worked for 30 years as an independent consultant - contractor, operating throughout Australia, Southeast Asia and New Zealand.

This biography is currently being researched by Clare Gervasoni, November 2008, updated June 2009 (with thanks to Ian Whitcher and Jack Barker). If you are able to contribute please email c.gervasoni@federation.edu.au