Monday, 28 November 2016

In conversation with Chris Kelsey- mineral processing innovator

Chris Kelsey, Technical Director of IMPTEC, Australia is perhaps most well known for the Kelsey Jig, but he has a long history of innovation in engineering design, particularly in the area of mineral processing equipment, where his latest innovation is the IMPTEC Super Fine Crusher.
Chris has received significant recognition and awards during his career. These include: 1970 Recipient of The Prince Philip Prize for Australian Engineering Design; 2004 Recipient of The Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering (Sydney University) Innovation Heroes Award for engineering development in mineral processing; 2009 Recipient of the Sir Ian McLennan Achievement for Industry Award;  2112/2113 Recipient of the MITA AWARD (Mineral industries Technique Award), from The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and 2016 Recipient (through IMPTEC ) of the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy Award for Innovation in the Mining Industry.
Chris (4th left) with his 2009 Sir Ian McLennan Achievement for Industry Award
Kelsey Jig
Chris Kelsey took the concept of jigging with high G-forces from invention and practical R&D to commercialisation, resulting in today’s Kelsey Centrifugal Jig (KCJ).The KCJ was developed in the early 1980s and is now in use in eight countries on a range of minerals.
The early development was supported by CRA, which tested the first commercial prototype at its Wimmera mineral sands project near Horsham, Victoria in 1991. Funding was then by Geo Logics who ultimately took on the commercial development and marketing of the jig. The first truly commercial installation was achieved, with practical operating and maintenance input by staff, at Renison Tin in Tasmania in 1992. By 1995 there were 36 machines operating at 28 mine sites.
In 2001 Geo Logics was bought by Roche Mining which became Downer EDI Mineral Technologies, and he was retained by them as senior consultant till 2014. By 2006 the jig was processing about a quarter of the world’s tin and in 2010 there were 42 Kelsey Centrifugal Jigs operating in eight countries operating on tin, mineral sands, gold, nickel, tantalum and wolframite.
Chris has remained closely associated with the development of the jig since its invention in the early 1980s. In that time the machine has had numerous refinements not just in terms of separation efficiency but also in relation to operational and mechanical robustness. The Kelsey Centrifugal Jig remains the only high gravity (up to 100 G) continuous operation jig which is commercially available.
At the age of 81, Chris’s current interest is in lowering processing costs in the minerals industry, conducting innovative research into superfine crushing. This work is extending the boundaries of low cost crushing technology into the ultrafine size range – in particular converting -10mm size particles into a product where 95% is less than 36 microns. This is done in one pass.

Chis Kelsey was born on 17th June 1935 in the little town of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills. He is a true Aussie, his great-great grandfather having "emigrated" to Australia in 1830 courtesy of England's King William IV, and sentenced to 14 years in the Port Arthur Penal Colony in Tasmania. Chris's father, a chartered accountant, was born in 1892, and his mother, a concert pianist, in 1910.
Chris, his younger brother and mother c1940
Chris (right) with his sister, mother and younger brother
With his parental background, what made him become an engineer? Chris says that from a very early age he always knew that he wanted to be an engineer, as "an engineer to me, drove massive steam locomotives. My maternal grandfather, who was in charge of the railway workshops in Port Pirie, encouraged this belief. At aged 7, and my brother aged 6, we were fortunate to spend our holidays riding around the shunting tracks in an RX shunting steam locomotive, eventually returning to my grandfather’s house black as the ace of spades. Fortunately my brother followed my father into accountancy".
Chris's father
"My father was a remarkable man, who reached the highest level in accountancy. He was crippled at 14 with polio and at 16 was run over by a truck, so he was unable to walk. By all standards, he was a very patient man, as almost every piece of equipment that was dear to him, ended up in pieces as a result of my insidious enquiring mind", said Chris. "When no one was looking, at age 10, I taught myself to drive in one of my father’s vehicles, a 1928 Dodge buckboard. I then, at age 12, secretly graduated myself to my father’s ford 10 Prefect, and drove it down the main street of Balhannah in South Australia. Unfortunately this turned out to be a mistake as an elderly spinster reported me to the local police. There was a tense interview with the local policeman and my father with myself the centre of attention. Looking back now, I realise they were both smiling behind that terse lecture, and I rather think my father was actually proud of me".
"So at aged 16 my father signed me to an indentured 5 year apprenticeship with the Chrysler Corporation. For this I have been eternally grateful as it laid the foundation for all of my schooling and engineering practical knowledge. Most of the apprentices that served their time with me, went on to be company executives, some as chief engineers".
Chris commenced his working life in 1951 with the Chrysler Corporation, and later was co-founder of Rorlach Kelsey Lyons and Associates providing design services to the automotive industry and the Weapons Research Establishment (Ikara Missile Project). He designed the IBES Automotive CAD CAM 3D systems for Ford in 1967, Chrysler in 1968, a Boeing contractor and Fuji Heavy Industry.
Cars have always played a big part in his life, and he says that he always "had a thing for sports cars". In the photo below in 1969 he is in a very rare vehicle, and his "pride and joy", the First Elfin race car made.
In 1971 he was Operation Works Manager and Director of Heavy-Mech Engineering which manufactured large hydraulic, mining and industrial equipment components and in 1976 he became Senior Engineer and Acting Manager Milling Operations for CRA Bougainville Copper and led their concentrator expansion. "Coming from a cool climate into 6 degrees below the Equator took a while to adjust, however the island was absolutely beautiful with fantastic tropical beaches. and the mine was impressive being only a couple of years old when I first arrived. Rio put in the best available that money could buy" he says.
While at Bougainville, a few like minded characters decided to form a jazz band to entertain the residents. Chris says that it was an odd assortment, from mining engineers, metallurgists, engineers and qualified trades guys including the company pilot. Rob Morrison, the mill metallurgist, now with JKMRC, was a staunch member.
The Bougainville Jazz Band c1978. Alan Beck on banjo and vocals, Rob Morrison (centre) on bass guitar,
Chris Kelsey, the band leader on clarinet, and Mike Furstner on alto sax.
After Bougainville, in 1982, Chris set up and was Technical Director of GeoLogics and went on to develop the Kelsey Centrifugal Jig, inspired by the fact that gold was escaping into the flotation scavenger cleaner tailings at Bougainville, which he believed could be recovered by enhanced gravity. His son Simon now owns Kelsey Engineering where all the development is done, and Chris and his wife Diana also have two daughters, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Diana and Chris with their elder daughter, Sarah,
son Simon and their younger daughter Rebecca
All in all a wonderful success story of an exceptional Australian family. It has been great finding out about the man behind the Kelsey jig!

More Conversations


  1. Good to know the details on Chris; we in India are familiar and his contribution is of great value.
    Kelsey jig is a familiar sight.
    All the best Chris

  2. Its great to know about the great innovator. People know about Kelsey and very few are aware about the man behind it invention.
    Nice biography and know about chris.

    Rama Murthy

  3. Really interesting Chris! Very proud to call you a relative.

  4. Hello Chris, I studied your centrifugal jig. It is very interesting. Your life is also very interesting. I am a researcher from Russia and I have many questions for you, I would like to ask you them and learn more about you. Please, write to me.


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