Whittle an icon of mining

NEARLY 40 years ago, at a Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) event, an American mining engineer told an incredulous computer programmer and one-time physicist from Melbourne his mine optimisation software wasn’t going to cut it – certainly not in the US of A. “My granddaddy showed me how to mine, and that’s good enough for me,” Jeff Whittle recalled hearing all those years ago, and added: “Now you can’t argue with that.”

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Changed the face of mine optimisation: Jeff Whittle literally rewrote mining's NPV calculation code

But Whittle has been arguing for the value of computerised mine planning and optimisation ever since and sees industry and broader accolades, such as his recent Australia Day Honours award, not to mention countless international software sales, as evidence that he's been right all along.

The humble, brilliant, ardent and retired-but-still-busy 85-year-old was honoured to get the Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia recognition for services to mining and the IT industry. But also quick to deflect attention.

"I see it as an award for optimisation in mining as much as anything," he said ahead of a tribute dinner to be held in Melbourne, where he's lived with wife Ruth and their family since 1961. The Harwell physicist packed up and left England with his then young fami...