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MEI Online: People News: Australasia: September 23rd 2011


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:: David Muir 1945-2011

It is with great sadness that we record the passing of David Muir, former editor of Hydrometallurgy and Adjunct Professor at Murdoch University.

We invite you to leave your personal memories and appreciations of David at min-eng.blogspot.com/2011/09/david-muir.html

The following obituary has been suppplied by Dr. Jim Avraamides, David’s close friend and colleague at Murdoch University

David passed away peacefully at home in Perth, Western Australia on 16 September, 2011 after a long battle with cancer. His funeral was held on 22 September, attended by a large group of family, friends and work colleagues both past and present.

David Muir was born in Reading in the UK on 2 January, 1945. He completed a PhD at Bristol University and then accepted a postdoctoral position with the late Professor Jim Parker at the Australian National University’s Research School of Chemistry in Canberra. He arrived in Australia in 1970 with first wife, Pat and young daughter, Lisa and quickly settled into the Australian way of life. David’s initial research project was in the field of organic chemistry reaction mechanisms. However, some interesting discoveries made by other members of the group led to the application of this new knowledge to mineral leaching processes. David and other researchers (including the author) were taken off their normal duties by Jim Parker and relocated into some old buildings on the ANU campus known as “H Block”. Supported by university grants and copper industry partners, the team made good progress and soon after, several patents on copper refining using non-aqueous solvents were filed. This change in research direction was to transform David’s career.

In late 1973, David moved to the newly established Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, where he became one of the foundation lecturers in a Chemistry Department headed up by Professor Jim Parker. David developed and taught both chemistry and mineral science courses and started a new and highly successful research career in hydrometallurgy. This self-imposed career change eventually resulted in his being elected a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and an appointment as an Editor of the prestigious journal, Hydrometallurgy.

David, his wife Mary Kate, and Jim Avraamides

David, having risen to the level of Associate Professor, left Murdoch University in 1995 and joined Western Mining Corporation as a Senior Technology Advisor. Three years later he was appointed as Principal Research Scientist with CSIRO Minerals in Perth where he remained for the rest of his working life.

In a career lasting over 40 years, David was involved in a wide range of hydrometallurgical projects, mainly in gold, copper and nickel leaching. His first area of minerals research was in the development of the Parker Process for refining copper. This involved the use of organic solvents such as acetonitrile mixed with dilute sulfuric acid solution in which copper was stable in the Cu(I) or cuprous form. Metallic copper could be recovered as a pure metal powder by distillation of the organic solvent or as cathode copper by electrowinning. Attempts at commercialisation with an American company were eventually unsuccessful but provided David with a unique opportunity to spend time in the USA, take a laboratory idea into pilot scale testing and become familiar with commercial feasibility studies.

In the early 1980s the carbon-in-pulp gold process was introduced into Australia and there was a significant lack of knowledge of the underlying science and how the new process could be adapted to Australian conditions. David was a key member of a consortium of researchers drawn from Murdoch and Curtin Universities, CSIRO and WA government research agencies which looked into some of these issues. Much of the early effort was in understanding the fundamental chemistry of activated carbon, how it adsorbed gold from cyanide solution and how gold was desorbed from the loaded carbon. The team had excellent contacts with the new gold industry and developed effective technology transfer programs to communicate research outcomes to gold producers. David was an active participant in the seminars, conferences and workshops which were held, as well as in the many site visits undertaken by the research team members. Out of this work was born the AMIRA P420 Gold Processing Technology Project which is now in its 14th year of continuous industry funding.

His time at CSIRO Minerals saw him become interested in nickel processing at a time when pressure acid leaching of nickel laterites was being developed in Western Australia. Much of this work was done as part of CSIRO’s membership of the Parker Cooperative Research Centre in Hydrometallurgy established in 1992. David was a founding member of the Centre and led a number of projects funded jointly by the Centre’s Government grant and its industry partners. David’s significant contributions to hydrometallurgy in general were recognised by the awarding to him of the inaugural Parker Centre Fellowship at a ceremony held at the Centre’s headquarters at CSIRO Waterford on 2 September, 2011.

He was author and co-author of over 100 peer reviewed journal articles, organised and participated in numerous international conferences and supervised and mentored many Honours and PhD students.

His last international conference was Processing of Nickel Ores and Concentrates (Nickel Processing '10) held in Falmouth on 17-18 June 2010 while he was being treated for cancer. He and his second wife Mary Kate also took the opportunity to visit family and friends in Ireland and England, knowing that this was probably his final opportunity to travel abroad.

David was a passionate runner, being actively involved in rogaining, orienteering and in marathons. A keen sailor and member of South of Perth Yacht Club, he was a fierce competitor in his yacht, Magnum Force, for many years.

David is survived by his second wife Mary Kate, daughter Lisa, son in law, Stuart and three grandchildren. He leaves behind a large body of scientific achievement, numerous postgraduate students who have gone on to successful careers in the mining industry and many friends and colleagues around the world.




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