Monday, 6 May 2013

Nchanga Metallurgists, 1970s

This is really an update on previous Zambia postings and my quest to get in touch with long lost colleagues from those days.

Just over a week ago, Don Maxwell, who was an engineer at Nchanga in the 70s, commented on my posting Return to Chingola. Don had also returned to Chingola in 2010, accompanied by Peter Bulloch (Section Engineer, Concentrator) and Roger and Janet Thomas. Although I only vaguely remembered Peter Bulloch, it was great to see Roger and Janet in the mine photo, and to be able to contact them after all these years.

Nchanga metallurgits, 1970s, Zambia
Peter Bulloch, Janet Thomas, Don Maxwell and Roger Thomas at Nchanga, 2010

Roger was acting plant metallurgist on the concentrator when I arrived in Zambia. He remembers me as a “slim, slightly nervous metallurgist, accompanied by a fair young damsel”. I’m not sure who that was, but I will ask Barbara, maybe she will remember! He also remembers supervising my first duty on the concentrator- looking after the daily and monthly metallurgical accounts. I also have vivid memories of Roger praising me for how quickly I produced the first monthly account, and then the next date berating me, as I had completely cocked it up – never mind, it’s a bit like washing-up, break a few pots and you are not asked again!

Like me and the fair damsel, Roger and Janet were adventurous, and they certainly made the most of their time in Zambia, travelling to East Africa (as we did), and climbing Kilimanjaro (which we did not do). They also made an overland trip to UK, driving through India and Afghanistan, something which no sane person would attempt today.

Janet and Roger Thomas
Roger and Janet left Chingola in early 1971 to study for MBAs at the University of Cape Town. He then left the metallurgical profession to develop his entrepreneurial skills, first in boat building and truck hire and then in engineering supply, where he became Managing Director and then Chairman of a company supplying anticorrosive and low friction products. After retirement seven years ago Roger and Janet, and their three children, settled in Cape Town. They live in Constantia, and a nearby neighbour is Jack Holmes, who I believe was metallurgical manager at Nchanga in the 70s. Roger is also in regular contact with Les Stewart, Paul Smithson, Roger Kelley, Willem Duyvesteyn, Ken Severs, Dave Parker, John Duckworth and Dave Deuchar, familiar names to any metallurgist who worked at Nchanga in the 70s.
In early 1972 I was transferred from the Concentrator to the commisioning team for stage 1 of the Tailings Leach Plant (TLP) Project, where I had the pleasure of working with metallurgist Tom Whitehouse. I totally lost track of Tom after leaving Zambia, but he traced me a couple of months ago, via my posting on my days at TLP. He left Zambia in 1978 after spending some time at Broken Hill in Kabwe, and Nampundwe Mine near Lusaka. On returning to UK he retrained as a secondary school teacher, and he and his wife Fran now live in Rochdale in the north of England.
Nchanga metallugits, Tom Whitehouse
Tom and Fran Whitehouse
I left Zambia in 1973, too late to see the giant TLP come into operation, so it was great to see this during my visit to the mine last year. I have made contact with many old friends from the past recently, but none so far back as that of Roy Jeffrey. He and I were friends in the very early 1960s, at the local Youth Club, where I also first met Barbara! Roy and I lost touch when I went to Leeds University in 1963 and then on to Zambia.

Nchanga metallurgists 1970s
Pam and Roy Jeffrey, 1987
Roy also studied metallurgy, at Swansea University, and then also left for Zambia as a metallurgist on the High Grade Leach Plant (HGLP) (which no longer exists). He became assistant superintendent of the HGLP and then moved on to the TLP as assistant superintendent/acting superintendent. On leaving Zambia in 1990, Roy, like Tom, retrained as a teacher, and he and his wife Pam now live in Stalybridge, not too far away from the old Youth Club!
It must be around 50 years since we last saw Roy and Pam, so it was great to see them again today. They are on a Bank Holiday weekend holiday in Cornwall and dropped into Falmouth for lunch with us at the lovely Cove restaurant.
More and more people are visiting the blog (the page views have doubled over the last 5 months to over 18000 per month) so I am sure that many other old colleagues from the past will read this posting. If you do, please get in touch.


  1. Your part of Cornwall reminds me of Portwenn in the TV Doc Martin series seen here in Oz not long ago.
    Karen and I stayed briefly in Mousehole back in 1990, and loved it.
    Rob Allan

    1. We are not too far away from the fictional Portwenn which is actually Port Isaac. See the posting of 21st August 2011


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