Saturday, 30 July 2011

Geoff Hansford- a biohydromet pioneer

I heard only last week, at the Base Metals ’11 conference in Phalaborwa, that Geoff Hansford, Emeritus Professor at the University of Cape Town, passed away in May 2010.

It was John Neale of Mintek who passed the sad news on to me. Geoff had convinced him to follow a career in chemical engineering when he was still at school in the late '70s. During John’s undergraduate years at UCT, Geoff was the Head of Department, and he lectured the introductory Chemical Engineering course in the second year. In those days, he was a surfer, but in more recent times fishing became his main interest.

Initially Geoff’s research focused on fermentation and water treatment but from the late 1970s, he and a group of South Africans were pioneers of biohydrometallurgy, using micro-organisms in bioleaching of metals from sulfide minerals and treating sulfate-containing acidic wastewaters. He focused on the mechanism and kinetics, particularly of the microbial ferrous-iron oxidation sub-process. His contributions to biohydrometallurgy are internationally recognised.

UCT Chemical Engineering 1982. Geoff is 7th left, front row,
I am 9th and Cyril O'Connor 11th

Personally I have very fond memories of Geoff, who was a very friendly person, easy to talk to but with a formidable intellect. We first met in 1982 when I spent several weeks at UCT advising on the set-up of a mineral processing course in the Chemical Engineering department. We had many common interests, particularly in scuba diving. I last caught up with him in December 1997 at a braai with Cyril and Nanette O’Connor.


  1. Geoff was a leading force in mineral biohydro met and I recall many in depth discussions at his university and in Vancouver. No doubt, his greates pleasure was catching one or more Pacific salmon when he was visiting Vancouver. I miss him all the time.

    Ab Bruynesteyn

  2. I was a classmate of Geoffs right through school. We attended Christian Brothers College in Green Point.Geoff was a brilliant student but more than that he was always a gentleman , modest of his achievements and a thoroughly nice person. I was very saddened to read of his passing. He made the world a better place. Mickey Querido


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