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Anderson, Frank Struan (1909–1976)

by D. F. Fairweather

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Frank Struan Anderson (1909-1976), mining engineer, was born on 11 July 1909 at Cheshunt, Victoria, eldest son of Gerald Struan Evans Anderson, a New Zealand-born farmer, and his native-born wife Olive Carr, née Best. Having attended country state schools and Melbourne Church of England Grammar School (1924-26), he enrolled in 1927 at the University of Melbourne (B.Mech.Eng., 1934). On 17 December 1937 he married Elisabeth Marian Moline at Melbourne Grammar chapel.

After gaining mining experience in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria, in 1937 Anderson joined the Zinc Corporation Ltd as assistant underground manager at its Broken Hill operations. He was appointed general superintendent of mines in 1951. Next year he was transferred to the Melbourne headquarters of the Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd group with which he spent terms as managing director of such enterprises as timber milling, zinc smelting, and heavy mineral sands and uranium mining. He became chairman of directors of Blair Athol Coal Pty Ltd and Australian Fluorine Chemicals Pty Ltd, and a director of several other associated or subsidiary companies, including Interstate Oil Ltd and Kembla Coal and Coke Pty Ltd. In 1952-62 he was a director of Consolidated Zinc Pty Ltd and from 1962 of the newly-formed Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd. Following his retirement in 1971, he served as a non-executive director of C.R.A. and remained a director until his death.

In 1953 Struan Anderson had been appointed to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission's advisory committee on uranium mining. For his dynamic and innovative leadership in the rapid development of the Rum Jungle uranium mine in the Northern Territory on behalf of the A.A.E.C., he was appointed C.B.E. in 1955.

From 1962 Anderson was managing director of Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd and Hamersley Holdings Ltd. His major contribution to the Australian mining industry was his direction of the Hamersley Iron project in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, a major pioneering enterprise described as 'world scale', 'bold' and 'imaginative' by the premier of Western Australia (Sir) Charles Court. The project included the design and completion of a large mine, a heavy-duty 182-mile (293 km) railway, a major port and two complete towns; it was to cost $126 million. Construction began in January 1965 and the first ship departed in August 1966. The key factor in the achievement was Anderson's leadership—his sound engineering perceptions, his selection of able subordinates and his relentless drive. Far-sighted and courageous, he fought for high-quality engineering design and equipment. He was convinced that cutting capital expenditure was 'usually a certain route to high total costs'.

As managing director of Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd, Anderson was also responsible for negotiating Western Australian government approvals and sales contracts with the Japanese steel mills. His directness, impatience and lack of tact were resented by the Japanese, as well as by some American and English directors of H.I.'s parent companies. In 1966, when work was at a peak, he was replaced as managing director by (Sir) Russel Madigan. Anderson was then appointed director of development for the C.R.A. group, with responsiblity for research. In 1968 he was appointed a director of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd.

Most subordinates found Anderson to be extremely demanding, but fair, and capable of mixing freely with them after work. They appreciated his strengths: clarity of instruction, the ability to get quickly to the heart of a problem, dedication to the job, engineering judgement, vision, courage, energy and will to succeed. To others, however, he appeared aloof, even arrogant, secretive, humourless, ruthless and insensitive to people's needs. Although he served as a director (1959-68) and president (1969-71) of the Australian Mines and Metals Association (Inc.), he took no official role in the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy which he had joined in 1934 and attained its then top grade of member in 1946.

Rather tall, good looking and lean in his earlier years, he became somewhat thicker in girth with middle age. His eyes were hazel, his complexion olive, his hair brown. He dressed conservatively. Anderson belonged to the Melbourne and Athenaeum clubs in Melbourne, the Union in Sydney, the Queensland in Brisbane, the Weld in Perth and the Broken Hill Club, as well as the Melbourne Cricket and Victoria Racing clubs. While retaining membership of the Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, he rarely graced its course. His work and status required a deal of first-class travel abroad. Fond of high living, he found little time for exercise, but enjoyed retreating to his farm in south Gippsland. He died suddenly of hypertensive cardiovascular disease on 6 October 1976 at South Yarra and was cremated. His wife, son and two of his three daughters survived him. Anderson's estate was sworn for probate at $297,454.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Trengove, Adventure in Iron (Melb, 1976)
  • G. W. Hills, Engineering History, HI Project to 1966 (Internal Report, Hamersley Iron, Melbourne)
  • records of Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and the Australian Mines and Metals Association (Melbourne)
  • University of Melbourne Archives.

Citation details

D. F. Fairweather, 'Anderson, Frank Struan (1909–1976)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/anderson-frank-struan-9354/text16425, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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