Remembering John Emerson’s contribution to mining

John Emerson, who sadly passed away unexpectedly in August, has been recognised for his achievements in mining with the BGC Contracting Contribution to Mining honour.

Mining stalwart Emerson is already sorely missed in the Australian mining industry.

His passing was notably commemorated at the DRILL2019 event in Darwin that he had planned to attend with a moment of silence.

At the 2019 Australian Mining Prospect Awards, Emerson received further recognition by winning the BGC Contracting Contribution to Mining award.

Emerson’s nephew Steve Skull accepted the award on his uncle’s behalf by paying tribute to the mining personality as a source of inspiration and a missed family member.

“John’s passing has certainly left a hole in our family and I know from talking to the three or four hundred people that turned up to wish him farewell at his funeral just what a hole it has left in the industry, particularly the drilling and mineral exploration industry that he was such a big part of for so many years,” Skull says.

Skull also remembered the fun times spent with his uncle when he joined him on a site visit to see a drill rig during his childhood.

 “When I was a kid he was kind enough to take me out to a drill rig in the middle of nowhere when I was about 10 years old – I just couldn’t believe the amount of beer in the trailer,” Skull laughed, sharing a personal side to his uncle with the Prospect Awards crowd.

“He was an amazing guy, he’ll be remembered fondly across the industry as an amazing mentor, friend and colleague to many.”

 Although he spent more than three decades in the mining industry, Emerson seemed destined for a completely different industry – farming.

Emerson graduated from Muresk Agricultural School in Western Australia and spent his early working days on wheat and sheep farming businesses.

Before long, however, he decided to switch fields and pursue a career in minerals exploration.

Emerson gained a drilling diploma and quickly moved into drilling managerial roles in Western Australia’s gold mining capital, Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

After his time in the Goldfields city, Emerson relocated across the border to South Australia, becoming a pioneer at Western Mining’s Olympic Dam project at Roxby Downs.

His agricultural knowledge still proved valuable, however, as he interacted with local farmers to gain access to their properties for critical mining associated services, water and equipment hire.

Emerson spent almost 35 years at Western Mining as group manager for logistics and drilling, becoming commonly known as ‘the drilling expert’.

After 34 years and 10 months at the company, to be exact, Emerson spent two years travelling around Australia and the world as a business development manager for Boart Longyear.

He then settled into a new role, as operations manager for geology exploration drilling (GEX) and surface drilling manager with BHP Billiton Nickel West.

Emerson’s strong leadership skills were instrumental in devising the AMIRA drilling roadmap, which formed part of the government-endorsed deep exploration technology cooperative research centre.

This group and Emerson’s work within it has proven fundamental in promoting the importance of much-needed life-saving innovations with technology and equipment.

The initiatives helped to reduce drilling costs, increase production, extract more data and of course, eliminate harm to workers and save lives.

Emerson’s passion for upholding safety within the industry and using the best equipment available to get the job done matched his career achievements.

He would establish Emerson Consultancy in March 2014, where he worked as a consultant until the day of his passing.

In addition to his hard work and extensive knowledge of minerals exploration and drilling, Emerson was known for his contribution to the mining community, particularly through leadership and generosity to share knowledge.

Emerson guided and shaped the careers of many current leaders within the industry, making many friends along the way.

He loved the people in the industry and they loved him, which was reflected at his memorial service on September 11, with hundreds of people attending to pay their respects and say goodbye to a dear friend.

As his friends and colleagues remark, Emerson will be remembered as a “true gentleman, father figure, my mentor.”

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