Saturday, 18 September 2021

Prof. Alban Lynch: 1930-2021, the first Director of the JKMRC

There was very sad news from Australia yesterday of the passing of one of the greats of mineral processing, Prof. Alban Lynch, the first Director of the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC). He was a man ahead of his time both in terms of technical innovation and in recognising the need to collaborate with industry. He encouraged his students to work on site and trusted them to find solutions to their research challenges. He led by example and in so doing established the JKMRC as an international leader in mining research.

Prof. Lynch at the JKMRC in the early 1970s

I first met Alban in 1986 when he presented a keynote lecture at the NATO Advanced Study Institute in Falmouth. Seven years ago I had the great pleasure of interviewing him for MEI, and I refer to the posting of 11th August 2014 for a full account of his life and work.  Following the interview I was great honoured when he suggested that he might reciprocate and interview me (posting of 2nd November 2015).

Alban Lynch was a legend in the mineral processing profession, particularly in the field of comminution, and he received many awards during his long career. He was an Officer of the Order of Australia, and in 2010 received what is considered to be mineral processing's top award, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Mineral Processing Congress (posting of 8th September 2010).

Prof. Lynch receiving the IMPC Lifetime Achievement Award
from Prof. Eric Forssberg, Brisbane 2010

In 1958 Alban joined the Dept. of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Queensland (UQ), where he would remain for most of his long career. In 1962 a three year AMIRA project on grinding started at UQ with a group consisting of Alban, two graduate students and two technicians. The theme of the research became the modelling and simulation of grinding circuits. Mount Isa Mines supported the work and this was the start of the tradition of project research being plant based and of graduate students, including T.C. Rao (posting of 16 July 2014) spending months at plants on thesis projects, which had the objectives of improving local circuits and providing data to support the general programme on modelling and simulation. This all culminated in the publication of one of Alban's most well known books, Mineral Crushing and Grinding Circuits.

In 1971 the research group was given strong encouragement by MIM Holdings Ltd when the company established the JKMRC to be its Brisbane base, with Alban Lynch its first Director, a position he held until 1989, when he handed over to Dr. Don McKee, allowing Alban to concentrate on his new role as UQ's Professor and Head of Mining & Metallurgical Engineering, a position he held until 1993. By 1980 models of grinding and flotation circuits were well developed and another book was published Mineral and Coal Flotation Circuits, which Alban co-authored with N.W. Johnson, E.V. Manlapig and C.G. Thorne.

After 6 years as Head of Department at UQ, Alban spent a large portion of the next 15 years lecturing on modelling and setting up research programmes in other countries, notably in Malaysia, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey, also finding time to co-author more books, in 2005 The History of Grinding, with Chester Rowland, in 2010 The History of Flotation with Greg Harbort and Mike Nelson and in 2015 the Comminution Handbook.

Launch of History of Flotation at the 2010 IMPC in Brisbane,
with Mike Nelson and Greg Harbort

Despite his very busy international schedule Alban remained an active member of the JKMRC community throughout his life, and as recently as only 3 months ago he joined the JKMRC staff, students and alumni at the AusIMM MillOps '21 conference in Brisbane.

Our heartfelt condolences are extended to Alban’s family. He will be sadly missed and I invite all those of you who had known this remarkable man to submit your memories and appreciations.



  1. Yet another huge loss for the mineral processing community and for us, "comminuters". Prof. Lynch was an inspiration to several generations of researchers in the field and paved the ground to anyone who is today involved in modeling, simulation and control in mineral processing. Active and excited in the field up to the last moment, as evident from his recent appearance in Mill Ops 2021. Heartfelt sympathies to all his family, friends and former students, spread all over the world.

    Luís Marcelo Tavares
    UFRJ and GCC

  2. There are not enough words to describe Prof. Alban Lynch. More than a brilliant engineer, he was a great human being. His kindness and humility were probably the key to influence so many lives during his lifetime. Rest in peace Prof. Lynch.

    Juanjo Frausto

  3. Thanks for the article. A genius of the conminution and froth flotation passed away. Thanks for all the shared knowledge!!! Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to meet him, but I hear from the people who meets him that he was an incredible person.
    Rest in Peace...
    Javier Sierra, McLanahan Corporation, Chile

  4. I met Alban Lynch in 1958, when he was recruited as a research officer at UQ. I was only 12 years old at the time when he came to our home for a visit, a quiet and unassuming individual. We had similar informal contacts until the mid-1960s, when our family relocated to Canada. By then I was more fully aware of how highly he was regarded by my dad, who stayed in touch with him. Alban reached out to me in 1992, when I was director of the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre, based in Trinidad, to invite me to participate in naming the Frank White building at UQ. He greeted me and my eldest son at our hotel in Brisbane. Still the same quiet and unassuming person, I have in the meantime learned of how much he has contributed to mineral science and engineering, through his ground breaking research into the science of comminution and leadership of JKMRC. I extend heartful condolences to his family and say: “Farewell Prof Alban Lynch, long will you be remembered for your contributions and through all the lives you have touched”.

  5. A great loss to Mineral Processing fraternity. May his soul rest in peace
    Tivanana Trinadha Rao, FLSmidth, India

  6. I am very thankful for all the leadership and knowledge that he created.
    Osvaldo Bascur, Seeq Corporation, USA

  7. A legend.
    Elizabeth Lewis-Gray, Gekko Systems, Australia

  8. It's very sad to hear the demise of Prof Lynch, One of the pillars of Mineral Engineering and JKMRC. He laid the foundation for Modelling studies in Mineral Engg., real time implementation and plant process control and collaboration of Institute and industry.
    A little am aware off and greatest "THE Mentor " as regarded by his students.
    Rama Murthy Yanamandra, Tata Steel, India

  9. Goodbye Alban, sleep well, thank you for all the "free" coffees and long discussions.
    Gregory Harbort, Geometecon Pty Ltd, Australia

  10. That sad morning I got a mail from Suzanna Lynch, Dr.Lynch's daughter, informing me of the sad demise of Prof.Lynch with a sentence"You and Dad had such a special relationship, personal and professional,  and you will always be a special part of our family"--that sums up -I lost my Mentor.
    Whatever I did in Mineral Engineering while working as his student and thereafter in my professional career, is all due to DrLynch--his main traits just rubbed on me and I carried them to India.Wherever and whenever I speak about mineral engineering, my mentor, Dr.Lynch was always there in my heart, mind, and words.Lynch and Rao model--not only on cyclone but whatever I did during all these years--professional, students, interaction with industry, human touch--
    I must recall what Dr, Don McKee of J, K told during the 50th-anniversary celebrations of J.K.--he recalled the inspiration of the University of Queensland in appointing Prof.F.T.M White as Professor and Head of the Dept of Mining and Metallurgy in the late '50s. Then the inspired decision of Prof.White to appoint Alban Lynch to Head the research center at the experimental mine--the rest is well-documented history.-Dr. Lynch brought an identity to mineral engineering at a Global Level; took it into a new orbit in the way he interacted with industry and molded his research students. I would dare to say that he allowed the students to realize their inherent talents to "blossom", never squeezed them for more papers and glory.Bary nicely summarised--the legacy of Dr.Lynch will be there for ages as we travel on the path of original thinking in mineral engineering.So many memories; Dr.Lynch is not physically present but the canvas he painted on mineral engineering would always be there.A personal loss to me.
    He just joined his wife Barbara in HEAVEN to recollect the sweet memories they shared in this Planet.

  11. A huge loss to the Mineral Processing and Mining industries. Fortunately Prof. Lynch left an extensive bibliography and number of edited works which will continue to be foundational to future generations of professionals in the industry.
    Manuel A. Rivera, Maquinas Diesel, S. A. de C. V. (MADISA-CAT), Mexico

  12. He changed the (mining) world for the better...and will be missed. "Show me the numbers!" (when it comes to plant assessment) is only one of his many great expressions that will remain valid for ever.
    Romke Kuyvenhoven, Director Technical Services en Minera Santo Domingo SCM, Chile

  13. Very sad to hear. JKMRC,the pioneers in the Mineral Process Engineering had lost a very eminent technologist
    P.V Ramana Murthy, Independent Consultant, India

  14. Thank you very much, on behalf of the Lynch family, for this blog and all of the messages of condolences. My father will be greatly missed also by his family. The messages, memories and comments from people all over the world have been shared amongst his 7 children and have provided much comfort.
    Best wishes,
    Suzanne Lynch-Watson, Brisbane.

    1. There is no doubt, Suzy, that your father will be missed by the whole of the mineral processing community. He was a true legend and his legacy will live on for many many years

  15. During my student days (1980’s) in the Dept. of Fuel & Mineral Engineering, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, I always used to hear a lot about Prof A J Lynch from Prof T C Rao. He used to narrate about the research addictions of Prof Alban Lynch to encourage the students and develop research interests in Minerals Engineering. Later, after reading their books, the students got convinced that without the consent of Lynch and Rao the minerals wouldn't float. One day it was decided why not invite Prof Lynch to Indian School of Mines. In fact, with no second thought, Prof Lynch initially and then Dr Barry were invited to our Department. They visited separately on different dates. Again series lectures from Prof Lynch on commination, classification and froth floatation, more importantly on grinding and liberation. I still preserve points noted in Dr Lynch’s lecture. I still feel that I am one of the fortunate to hear his lectures.

    Dr Lynch showed the world, if a teacher (Prof Lynch) and his student (Prof T C Rao) work together, then sky is the limit to do research. Thereafter, I was desperate to meet and see him during my visit to Brisbane in 2015. I went to his residence to take his blessings, that time he was alone at home as his family members were abroad. He was in his wheelchair, he initially discussed the future areas of research in Mineral Engineering to be covered, then about his book on grinding, he took me to the balcony and showed me the place where he used to sit with Prof T C Rao for technical discussions on cyclones, modelling and simulation of mineral processing plants etc.

    More surprisingly to me, being in a wheelchair , he wanted to prepare a coffee for me to offer. These were the good human qualities Prof Lynch had. This was his strength, and the reason he drew love, affection and respect from all corners specially from JKMRC. Above all Prof Lynch was a great human being. His departure is a great loss to the Mineral Engineering fraternity and he will be remembered forever.

    Today it is not possible to digest that Dr Alban Lynch is not with us, but he has left a strong message -- how a teacher (Guru) and student (Shishya) should work together.

    Let us pray for the soul to rest in peace and give strength to his daughter to bear this loss.

    Prof Nikkam Suresh
    Dept. of Fuel & Mineral Engineering, IIT(ISM) Dhanbad


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