Skip to main content

Robin John Batterham


He joined the CSIRO Division of Mineral Engineering as a Research Scientist in 1970, rising to the position of Chief Research Scientist in 1981 and Chief of the Division of Mineral and Process Engineering from 1985 -1988. As Chief he led a total of 240 scientists in 4 laboratories that collaborated directly with companies in the mining and metallurgical industries to achieve real gains in performance. The R&D carried out resulted in direct improvements in mining, mineral processing, coal processing and transport, agglomeration processes such as sintering and roasting, as well as major developments in iron making. In his role at CSIRO he was responsible for establishing and maintaining world-class capabilities in all areas of mineral processing. Groups under his direction achieved notable success, including the award of the prestigious Australia prize.

Post CSIRO appointments

Since leaving CSIRO, Robin has held the following senior positions:

Group Consultant then Vice President Resource and Processing Developments, CRA (later to become Rio Tinto) from Feb 1988 ‘ June 1994. These roles covered technical evaluation and development for all major, new CRA projects.

Vice President Research and Technology Development, CRA (later to become Rio Tinto), from June 1994 ‘ Dec 1999. Responsible for research and technology development within the Rio Tinto Group. This included both new process development as well as the improvement of existing processes e.g. mine planning and scheduling, the application of expert systems, mine automation, mineral processing, coal processing, pyrometallurgy, bauxite processing, aluminium production, the production of metals from various sulphide ores, the production of industrial minerals together with supporting technology based on computational fluid dynamics, stockpile modelling, coal process reaction engineering, bio-chemical processing and the like, aluminium smelting, and waste remediation.

The economic treatment of fine-grained zinc minerals was made possible by my leadership of work in ultra fine grinding and in agglomeration and roasting. The application of quantitative mineralogy to mineral processing was shown to be feasible and allowed optimal flowsheet development of several mineral deposits within the Group.

Managing Director Comalco Research and Technology Support from Dec 1999′ Aug 2001. Responsible for the corporate R&D team of approx 240. Personal leadership of the low energy aluminium production cell which achieved at full scale 12 Kwh/kg Al cf best industry performance of 14. Note Comalco was a 70% owned subsidiary of CRA, later to become Rio Tinto.

The scrubbing of gases containing fluoride species using toroidal fluid beds and the re-processing of aluminium smelter waste was brought to fruition under my direct leadership.

Rio Tinto, Global Practice Leader ‘ Innovation and then Group Chief Scientist (from 1999-2009). The role focused on delivery of major step change technologies into the operations through R&D (in-house and external), proof of concept and implementation. Innovation strategy for all operations is developed and progress reported to the Board. The two most significant research contributions in this period were the ongoing invention supporting the HIsmelt process (see the patents and note this is the first direct smelting process to be successfully developed since the Han dynasty) and the breakthrough in leaching of chalcopyrite without surface passivation (again see patents).

Melbourne University Kernot Professor of Engineering (from 2010). In this position Batterham is responsible for strategic leadership of major projects in energy. Current focus includes the application of force chain modelling as a key to energy reduction in comminution and the dewatering of biomass and low rank coals. Also, he is leading a project on the use of low temperature sintered titanium diboride as a paradigm shift in aluminium production technologies.

Science and Technology Leadership

Chief Scientist of Australia May 1999 ‘ June 2005

The Chief Scientist advises the Australian Government on all matters associated with science, engineering and innovation, is Executive Officer of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, is Chair of the Standing Committee of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, is a member of the Commonwealth, States, Territories Advisory Council on Innovation, the Coordination Committee on Science and Technology, the Cooperative Research Centres Committee, the Australian Research Council, the Science Prizes Committee, the Innovation Summit Implementation Group, (2000-2001), is Chair of the Consultative Panel on national research priorities, the Reference Group for the science and innovation mapping taskforce, is President of the National Youth Science Foundation and the National Science Summer School and is an advisor to the Australian Institute for Commercialisation.

The most significant activity has been a complete review of the science and technology base of Australia and charting the directions for science and technology in Australia over the next ten years. The review resulted in 20 major recommendations to Government, (see The Chance to Change) all of which were accepted. The Government has acted on the recommendations and invested over AUD$8.3 billion in further R&D, its commercialisation and the like. This is the most significant Government investment in science and technology in Australia for many years. Other major initiatives included a renewed emphasis on marine science (see Review of Marine Science) and the revitalisation of the CSIRO (see Flagship Review) which again resulted in major funding advances. The setting of research priorities for the country and setting up the research quality framework initiative are continuing influences on R&D in Australia.

President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering ATSE (2007 – )

ATSE is one of the four learned Academies in Australia and consists of order 800 eminent scientists and engineers. The President is a member of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council and takes a leading role in advising the Government and the wider public on matters to do with science, engineering and technology. Under Batterham’s leadership, ATSE has focussed its efforts on four topics central to Australia’s future, water, energy, climate and education. Significant symposia, reports and public events on all of these topics have had demonstrable impact. As well, ATSE facilitates international collaboration and Batterham has led delegations, often on behalf of the Government to China, Korea and India as well as hosting delegations to Australia.

Publications and patents

Robin Batterham has 20 refereed publications, 20 patents, 95 confidential publications and reports, 118 lightly refereed publications and has made 350 open presentations.

Honours and awards


2000 Fellow, Australian Academy of Science
1988 Fellow, Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (Councillor 1988-93; President 2007- )
2004 Foreign Member, The Royal Academy of Engineering
2004 Foreign Associate, National Academy of Engineering (USA)
2002 Corresponding Member, Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences
2001 Fellow, The Australian Institute of Company Directors
1999 Fellow, The Australian Institute of Management
1999 Fellow, The Institute of Engineers Australia
1998 Fellow, The Institution of Chemical Engineers
1989 Fellow, The Australasian Institution of Mining and Metallurgy
1982 Fellow, The Iron and Steel Society of America
1973 Fellow, The Institute of Instrumentation and Control, Australia


2004 Officer of the Order of Australia
2004 Named in Top 100 Australia’s Most influential Engineers by Engineers Australia in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011
2003 The Chemeca Medal from the Institution of Chemical Engineers
2001 Centenary Medal of Australia
2004 Doctor of Laws (Honoris Causa) Melbourne University
2006 Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) Sydney University of Technology
1993 The President’s Medal of The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
1996 The Kernot Medal of the University of Melbourne
1992 The Esso Award of Excellence in Chemical Engineering
1968 CSIRO Post Doctoral Fellowship

Named lectures

2008 The Arthur LePage Memorial Lecture, Sydney, 23rd October, 2008. Coal ‘ the bridge.
2005 The Lubbock Lecture (by invitation), Oxford University, 13 May 2005. On sustainability
2004 The Bridgewater Symposium (by invitation), Cambridge University, 1 October 2004 Sustainability ‘ the next chapter.
2004 The Presidential Address, The Institution of Chemical Engineers, London, 7 May 2004. Sustainability.
2004 The Lewis Jacklin Lecture, The University of Utah, 16 Jan 2004, Sustaining humanity in an acceptable manner.
2003 The Danckwerts Lecture, The Institution of Chemical Engineers, London, 25 Feb 2003. Ten years of sustainability ‘ where do we go from here?
2001 The Sir Harold Wyndham Memorial Lecture, Macquarie University, 16 Oct 2001. Science, vital for the future, but what of literacy?
2001 The Essington Lewis Oration, The Australasian Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, 20 Sep 2001. A vision for mining in the 21st Century.
2001 The Wolfsohn Memorial Lecture, La Trobe University, 29 Aug 2001. Science, Arts and Humanities: survive in your own way or thrive in a textured environment.
2001 The Alfred Deakin Lecture, Melbourne, 13 May 2001. The isolation of Australian Science.


2005 – 09 International Network for Acid Prevention (Chairman)
2001 – 04 Mineral Industry Research Organisation (UK)
2002- Trustee, Sir Ian McLennan Achievement for Industry Award, Australian Mineral Development Laboratories
1999 – 2001 Australian Mineral Industry Research Association
1999 – 2009 Southern Copper, Gulf Minerals and Metals alternate
1998 – 2009 Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation
1997 – 2001 Board member of Australian Mineral Development Laboratories (AMDEL)
1994 – 2009 HIsmelt
1993 – 97 Chairman, GK Williams Cooperative Research Centre
1989 – 92 Advanced Diamond Composites
1988 – 91 Thixomat
1988 – 95 Cooperative Research Centre for Adaptive and Robust Control Systems
1985 – 87 Strategic Industries Foundation alternate

Committees and other positions held

2011 Member, Minister’s Task Force on maximising the innovation dividend of Australian R&D
2011 Chair of the Review of Geothermal Energy in Australia
2010 Member, Advisory committee of the Queensland Tropical Health Alliance
2010 Member of the Executive of the OECD project on Science and Technology for Global Challenges
2010 Member of the Review of Energy R&D for the UK Research Councils
2010- Chair of the Australian Learned Academies Council (ACOLA)
2009- Chair of the Advisory Panel of the Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF)
2008- Chair of the Expert Group on Science for Energy of the International Energy Agency
2007- Co-Chair of the Selection Committee for the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science
2005- Vice Chair of the International Mineral Processing Council
2004 President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers
2004 – 06 Member, Advisory Committee, National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS)
2003 Vice President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers
2002 – 10 Member, Victorian Innovation Economy Advisory Board
2001 – 08 Member Queensland Smart State Research Infrastructure Fund
1999 – 02 Member, Australian Minerals & Energy Environment Foundation (AMEEF)
1999 – 2005 Member, Commonwealth State & Territory Advisory Council on Innovation
1999- Member, Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council
1998 – 2009 Chairman of the International Network for Acid Prevention
1997 – 2006 Member, Co-Operative Research Centres Main Committee
1989, 2010 President of the International Mineral Processing Congress (twice)
1997 – 2006 Member of the Cooperative Research Centres Main Committee


Batterham RJ, 2011, Personal communication

Smith A, 2003, ‘Batterham, Robin John (1941 – ), Chemical engineer and Mining engineer’, Encyclopedia of Australian Science