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Loftus-Hills, Clive (1885–1967)

by Maxwell R. Banks

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Clive Loftus-Hills (1885-1967), geologist, was born on 31 March 1885 at Deloraine, Tasmania, and registered as Loftus, son of James Hills, builder, and his wife Mary, née Smith. He was educated at Launceston Church Grammar School and the University of Tasmania (B.Sc., 1907; M.Sc., 1913). In 1907-12 while a chemist, assayer and metallurgist in Launceston he was also a part-time lecturer in geology and briefly head of the mining branch of the government technical school. On 12 February 1908 he married Jessie Adelaide Dean, daughter of a Launceston stockbroker and former mayor. As assistant government geologist with the Geological Survey of Tasmania in 1912-15 he worked on mining fields including Read-Rosebery and published significant contributions to knowledge of the areas. His work on the stratigraphy structure and mineralogy of the Read-Rosebery zinc-lead ores formed the basis for their mining and treatment.

In January 1916 Hills joined the Australian Imperial Force and in May embarked as lieutenant with the 4th Australian Tunnelling Company. He transferred in France to the 1st Tunnelling Company and was appointed M.B.E. in 1919.

In 1919-23 as government geologist and director of the Geological Survey, Tasmania, Hills had much to do with the comprehensive survey of the State's coal resources. During this period he attracted criticism and encountered problems created by the clumsy administrative structure of the Department of Mines (later restructured). His discountenancing of exploration for crude oil brought him under public attack by his minister E. F. B. Blyth, director of a company involved in the venture. Though a public service commissioner's inquiry into Hills's suitability to administer the Geological Survey found in his favour, the commissioner received hostile representations from the staff of the Department of Mines. The post of director of the Geological Survey was abolished and Hills was subordinated to a non-technical departmental head, the secretary of mines. Hills resigned.

In 1924 he received the first science doctorate awarded by the University of Tasmania, and the David Syme prize, University of Melbourne, for original scientific work. In 1923-37 he was a consultant geologist and occasional broadcaster. Mineral exploration took him to the Fiji goldfields and various parts of Australia. In 1938-46 he was chemist and chief chemist, Commonwealth Department of Supply, in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and worked on munitions production during World War II. In this period he altered his name to Clive Loftus-Hills.

After the war he returned to Tasmania and took up mineral exploration in the west where he had made a major impact on mining in the Zeehan and Renison Bell fields; his work now led to further activity there. His estimates of ore reserves in the Read-Rosebery and Fijian goldfields, once ridiculed in the contemporary mining press as excessive, have been proved conservative. In 1946-65 Loftus-Hills was active as a consultant geologist and mining entrepreneur. He stood successfully for the Hobart City Council in 1950 and served on a number of committees. 'Of good address and physique', he was noted for his stamina, climbing Mounts Darwin and South Darwin in western Tasmania in his sixties. About 1950 he was received into the Catholic Church. He died on 13 December 1967 in Melbourne and was buried in Springvale cemetery. His wife and two sons survived him.

Loftus-Hills was a thorough, accurate, imaginative geologist who suffered at times for his integrity. He suffered also for seeming over-ambitious and would have made a greater contribution had he been more tolerant. Nevertheless he greatly advanced knowledge of the ore deposits of Tasmania.

Select Bibliography

  • Mercury (Hobart), 16 Dec 1967
  • C. Loftus-Hills file (H1/144), MIN 21/2, 22/1, 23/1, 24/1 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Maxwell R. Banks, 'Loftus-Hills, Clive (1885–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/loftus-hills-clive-7221/text12499, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

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