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Dr Ralph Holmes

Chief Research Scientist


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Ralph Holmes obtained a BSc in Physics from the University of Melbourne in 1967 and a PhD degree from the same university in 1972 for development of a new electron microscope system and its use in electron diffraction studies of the structure of barium titanate.

Ralph joined CSIRO Mineral Physics in November 1971 to work on the application of nuclear techniques to the on-stream analysis of iron ore and subsequently other mineral commodities including coal, and successfully developed a range of nuclear techniques for on-stream and bulk analysis of ores and coal. This precipitated a major involvement for Ralph in the sampling of mineral commodities, because of the need to calibrate on-stream analysers against accurate conventional analyses. Consequently, he has also been involved for many years in the development of ISO and national standards for sampling mineral commodities and represents Australia at ISO meetings dealing with sampling of coal, iron ore and copper, lead, zinc and nickel ores, concentrates and smelter products.

Over the last 30 years Ralph has been involved largely in mineral processing research and has managed CSIRO’s iron ore processing research for more than 20 years. He is currently a Chief Research Scientist in CSIRO Mineral Resources and is recognised throughout the Australian and overseas iron ore industries as an expert in iron ore processing and sampling. The research being conducted by CSIRO spans ore characterisation, comminution, beneficiation, agglomeration and quality control for both iron and manganese ores, as well as coke making. Ralph has successfully built strong relationships with key companies, industry bodies and R&D groups, particularly BHP Billiton. Ralph has also been instrumental in initiating and growing CSIRO’s engagement with China and India in minerals R&D, and has facilitated relationship development between Australian iron ore producers and both Chinese and Indian R&D groups and steelmaking companies.

Ralph received an Australian Clunies Ross National Science and Technology Award in 1998 and an inaugural Standards Award from Standards Australia in 1993 for his outstanding contributions to the development of mineral sampling standards. Ralph also received the inaugural Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy (AusIMM) Mineral Industry Operating Technique Award in 1987 for developing “Ironscan” for the on-line analysis of iron ore on conveyor belts. More recently, Ralph received a Pierre Gy Gold Medal in Bordeaux, France, in June 2015 for “Excellence in Teaching and Application of the Theory of Sampling” and in October 2015 received a CSIRO “Lifetime Achievement Award” for sustained and meritorious achievements over a CSIRO career spanning more than 43 years in the field of mineral processing and international standards development both as a research manager and practitioner benefitting both CSIRO and Australia.

He has published over 100 papers through international journals and conference proceedings and is the author or co-author of hundreds of limited-circulation reports to industry companies, and was recently the Guest Editor of a special issue of Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy (TIMM C) on “Iron ore processing” published in September 2016. Ralph is an Honorary Fellow of the AusIMM (Chartered Professional – Metallurgy), a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Physics and a member of the International Mineral Processing Council (IMPC). For decades he has been the Chair of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) subcommittees ISO/TC 102/SC 1 and ISO/TC 27/SC 4, which are developing international standards for sampling iron ores and solid mineral fuels (coal and coke) respectively, and Convener of ISO/TC 183/WG 9, which is developing international standards for sampling copper, lead, zinc and nickel ores, concentrates and smelter residues. He is currently the Convener of several Working Groups under both ISO/TC 102/SC 1 (Sampling) and ISO/TC 102/SC 3 (Physical testing) involved in the revision and development of ISO Standards, including ISO 3082 (Iron ores – Sampling and sample preparation procedures), ISO 3085 (Iron ores - Experimental methods for determining the precision of sampling, sample preparation and analysis), and the development of a new ISO Standard for determining the Transportable Moisture Limit (TML) of iron ore fines and concentrate bulk cargoes. He also recently conducted a minor revision of the ISO standard for sampling copper, lead, zinc and nickel concentrates, which is currently progressing through the ISO approval process prior to publication. Ralph also played a key role in the development of both the ISO and Australian standards (AS 2806) for sampling aluminium ores. Furthermore, Ralph frequently conducts audits of sampling systems and procedures used by industry both in Australia and overseas, the objective being the development and implementation of world-best sampling practices.

Ralph has also been very active in organising technical conferences with The AusIMM and has chaired six international iron ore conferences (Iron Ore 2002, Iron Ore 2005, Iron Ore 2007, Iron Ore 2009, Iron Ore 2011, Iron Ore 2013 and Iron Ore 2015) in Perth and Fremantle, the Second World Conference on Sampling and Blending on the Sunshine Coast in 2005, Sampling 2008, Sampling 2010, Sampling 2012 and Sampling 2014 in Perth, as well as IMPC 2010 (International Mineral Processing Congress) which was held in Brisbane in September 2010. IMPC 2010 was a landmark international event in the history of IMPC as it celebrated its Silver Jubilee. It was a great success and attracted close to 1,000 registered delegates from 40 countries around the world. More recently Ralph chaired the Eighth World Conference on Sampling and Blending held in Perth on 9-11 May 2017 and Iron Ore 2017 held in Perth on 24-26 July 2017, and played a leading role in establishing the International Pierre Gy Sampling Association of which he is the inaugural Chair.

In addition to his CSIRO duties, Ralph was appointment as an Adjunct Research Professor at the University of South Australia in Adelaide in July 2013 to assist the University to build up its capabilities in iron ore processing.

Current Roles

  • Portfolio Leader
    Carbon Steel

  • Chief Research Scientist
    Iron Ore Processing

Academic Qualifications

  • 1964

    Melbourne University

  • 1972

    Melbourne University

Professional Experiences

  • 1971-1990

    On-line Analysis

  • 1971-2018

    Iron Ore and Non-ferrous Mineral Processing

  • 1980-2018

    Sampling Mineral Commodities

  • 2008-2018

    Coke Making

Achievements and Awards

  • 1987

    Mineral Industry Operating Technique Award
    The AusIMM

  • 1993

    Standards Award
    Standards Australia International

  • 1998

    Clunies Ross National Science and Technology Award
    Clunies Ross Foundation

  • 2015

    Pierre Gy Gold Medal
    World Conference on Sampling and Blending

  • 2015

    Lifetime Achievement Award

  • 2018

    Honorary Fellowship
    The AusIMM