Eltin Limited – Champion of WASM
The four Western Australian School of Mines graduates formed Eltin Limited in the late ‘70’s and transformed the mining services industry. The four combined in a unique way to create a business model and develop an organisation that was to be a world leader, not only in Australian mines, but indeed in mines throughout the world.
Barry Patterson, Ron Harken, Graeme Smith and metallurgist George Botica were four close friends who had worked together for years at Western Mining.
Eltin was the brainchild of Barry Patterson, a concept that he developed in 1978/1979. Barry worked for Western Mining Corporation for many years and ultimately became The Resident Manager of the Kambalda Nickel Operations. He foresaw the coming gold boom of the early eighties and the desire of small gold companies to develop their own gold mines. He also foresaw the lack of skilled and experienced mining people to develop and manage these operations and this was the seed that developed his thinking to establish a mine management and consultancy to provide these services.
With his contacts throughout the industry he secured three foundation projects to provide mine management services. These were the starting points for what was to become a trail blazing start to something that developed into a very substantial company. George Botica joined as the forth founding partner in 1980, to provide metallurgical consulting expertise in both gold and nickel metallurgy.
Demand for Eltin’s services began to skyrocket and mining analysis and mine management became the major workload. At the same time, it was becoming apparent that the demand for mining contracting services was growing at an un-paralleled rate and it was decided that the company would be more profitable by following this path and leaving the consulting work to others.
Subsequently Eltin won its first major shaft sinking project at the Bellevue mine south of Wiluna. This contract was won in the company of international shaft sinkers and was a great boost to the credibility of the company. The project was one of those “on time, on budget“ stories, which added further to Eltin’s reputation.
It was the Bellevue Shaft Sink that focused on the need for dedicated and professional engineering input and as a result JR Engineering Services was born under the leadership of Joe Ricciardo, another WASM graduate. There is a trend here. JR as it was affectionately known went on to undertake the design and construction of many major gold projects throughout Australia and overseas. Joe Ricciardo engaged a further two WASM graduates to executive positions in the company.
Around this time, another company, Australian Mine Management was established to take on all the mine management and consultancy work that Eltin no longer sought. At this time, the demand for open pit mining became evident and it was decided to do a reverse takeover of a small, ASX listed local earthmoving contractor, MRSA Limited. This was the company’s entree to becoming a publicly listed entity. This was done in 1985 and gave Eltin the ability to offer both underground and open pit services. Both of these divisions grew rapidly, with the addition of a quarrying and concrete division, which also operated throughout the country. John Watkins, another WASM Mining Graduate took on the role of divisional manager.
In 1986, Eltin set up in Chile to service Amax mines and soon after travelled to
Ghana where Eltin and Ausdrill established a company in Accra to undertake mining for a number of companies.
On top of this, came a call from Alcoa US to bid for the mining of their extensive bauxite reserves in Jamaica. This was a substantial operation feeding bauxite onto a forty kilometre long overland conveyor system.
Adding further to the geographical spread, Eltin and Orion Resources formed a company that owned and operated a goldmine in southern France,
In 1988, Eltin became a joint venture partner on a $600 million contract for the construction of the Lantau Expressway to the new Chep Lap Cok International Airport in Hong Kong. This was the largest civil construction job that the company ever undertook.
The success of Eltin over this period (1980 to 1998) was almost entirely due to its people and the influence WMC had on key employees. From the Board of Directors to the change room cleaner there was a very strong common thread which related to close friendship and the overwhelming desire by everyone to achieve. The subject of money was rarely raised when interviewing a prospective employee. All they wanted was to work for Eltin and be part of the team. This was the fundamental culture that drove the success of Eltin and it is not often seen in other companies.