(...Australia's Largest Gold Mine (Newcrest Mining/ Newmont Australia Limited)
Discovered by Jean-Paul Turcaud
Jean-Paul Turcaud tests the metal of Midas
- in the Land of the 'Fair Go' -
...and finds it somewhat tarnished...
Fig.1. Pascale Hills, on the fringe of the Great Sandy Desert. Named by J.P. Turcaud for his sister. This nomenclature was refused, and later named as the Telfer Dome after A.H. Telfer, "old friend of R. Searls, Director, Newmont Australia", and retired Under Secretary of Mines and Consultant to the Minister for Mines. (imageCourtesy of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy)
Discovery and Ownership
Just 'Discovery' - what is it?
Newmont's 'discovery' (rs)
Newmont's strategy of severance
Newmont names Telfer
Newmont's legacy to Australia
Newmont's hall of fame
Koehn - who first sampled for gold
JP Turcaud - the hopeful immigrant
First at The Isa
The Great Sandy Desert
Study - University, Perth
A Frenchman in New York
The Government's position.
2010-10-11 R. Sheppard to DF
2010-06-10 C. Barnet, Premier, W.A. to DF
2010-06-01 DF to R. Kennedy, Director, State Admin.
2010-06-01 DF to C. Barnett, Premier, W.A.
2010-05-16 DF to R. Kennedy, Direcor, State Admin.
2010-05-12 C. Barnett, Premier, to DF
2010-04-23 DF to R. Kennedy, Director, State Admin.
2010-04-13 DF to C. Barnett, Premier, W.A.
2010-03-09 R. May, Staff secretary. to JPT
2010-02-17 JPT to Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister, Australia
2009-12-16 C. Barnett, Premier W.A. to JPT
2005-07-29 DF to David Tyrwhitt
2005-06-14 DF to David Tyrwhitt
2005-05-20 DF to G. Gallop, Premier, W.A.
2005-05-10 G. Gallop, Premier, W. A. to DF
2005-04-08 J. Philippe to Aust. Embassy, Paris.
2005-03-22 DF to G. Gallop, Premier, W.A..
2005-03-19 DF to Aust.Ambassador, Paris.
2005-03-01 JPT to Aust. Ambassador, Paris.
page in development
Jean-Paul's Turcaud's discovery of the Telfer gold-copper ore body is recounted in the following publications:Tyrwhitt's is a short, personal recollection' embedded within the larger account of the development of the mine, and funded by Newcrest (Newmont) who owns the orebody. Sheppard's 268 page account was researched over a period of four years and collated from interviews with people involved at the time, and is much more comprehensive. It is funded by a local independent publishing house specialising in recording the history of Western Australia.
1995 David Tyrwhitt, Desert Gold, the Discovery and Development of Telfer, Louthean Publishing, Perth, 56pps. ISBN 0 646 22979 6. David Tyrwhitt was Newmont's exploration manager at the time and wrote the book on Newmont's (later Newcrest's) behalf in an attempt to record an official account that would refute Jean-Paul's claim to the discovery. Publication supported by Newcrest Mining Ltd.
2002 Bob Sheppard, The Golden Rule, The True Story of the Discovery of Australia's Telfer Gold Mine, 268pps. ISBN 085905 311 3. Bob Sheppard is President of the Prospectors' Association of Western Australia and wrote this account after hearing a different story from the people involved at the time. He researched the matter for two years following his interest in recording those ore deposits discovered by propectors v. those discovered by proprietary companies.
My own recollections of this story derive from the early- to mid-seventies when I worked for a short time in that most inhospitable region directly consequent on the rumours spreading from Turcaud's discovery. A whole new area for exploration was opening up, and as one fortunate enough to carry out that work with the support of a major exploration company I was awed that a prospector working alone without support, should undertake to do as we were in such a remote area. I still feel, as Bill Brook, Consulting Geologist for Newmont Australia, and manager of their field office in Marble Bar did when interviewed by the ABC National Radio for this story in 1999, that it was hardly credible that anyone would undertake such an enterprise.Bronwyn Adcock: Bill Brook says he was stunned by his meeting with this young French prospector.
Bill Brook: Well I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was quite amazed that a Frenchman was out there doing what he was doing. I thought he was fairly naive and I thought he was fairly stupid trying to do what he was doing. I thought he was probably endangering his own life.
Most would agree that discovery resulting from the sort of individual effort that Turcaud undertook should be held as a special realm of endeavour; ...and recognised when successful, not trashed, ignored, and generally denied as in this case. Denial and otherwise distortion of facts to gain self-interest, particularly when done by the powerful to the powerless is abhorent, and should be exposed and shunned wherever it occurs. And as a community we need to protest at the way individuals get sacrificed on the alter of truth for taking the trouble to expose injustice, as Turcaud has done over the years.
...In Kalgoorlie, on Sunday, April 8th, 1975, at a meeting of the Prospector's Union, Sydney Graham, a prospector, reported to me a conversation he had with Tyrwhitt, Newmont's Manager for W.A. Here are his words: "What about Jean-Paul? Is he going to get anything from his Paterson Range find? Tyrwhitt's answer was "Because of all the publicity he has made, HE WILL GET NOTHING!" (JPT in a letter to Ian Jones, Secretary, Telfer Branch of the AWU, 9th October, 1981)
Turcaud came to Australia in 1966 as a young man with no English. He was then 26 years old. He was a model immigrant, throwing his whole energy into his hopes for a new life, in this new land - 'Australie' - the Land of the Fair Go, which he quickly learned to love. He learned the language to a high degree of competence in very short time, worked at various manual jobs (unloading corn trucks; truck driver and crane driver in the Snowy Mountains; tree planting) whilst training as a pilot, gaining his unrestricted private and later commercial pilot's license. He moved to Mt Isa and worked as a percussion driller for a year, then underground as a diamond driller in order to pay for more flying hours. Being unable to find flying work in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth (crop-dusting) he then moved to Newman in Western Australia, where he worked again as a driller, and learned about rocks and minerals. This was iron ore country and prospector Lang Hancock had just made a fortune from capitalising on his recognition of the value of the Mt Newman Iron Ore deposit. If Hancock could do it, perhaps others could too. Turcaud bought a small volkswagon and went prospecting at weekends, then later a short wheel-base Land Rover to go further afield. One fortnight's holiday in the heat of midsummer (January) he spent with a dogger, "to see the ways of the Australian Bushman". And thus, coupled with his military service experience In the Sahara, he was prepared to venture eastwards to the Rudall - Paterson areas on the fringe of the Great Sandy Desert.
It is not easy to convey to the reader unfamiliar with this landscape the vastness of this 'desert spinifex country', its inhospitability compared to the mulga and eucalypt expanses to the south, and the feelings of isolation engendered by the monotonous flatness, punctuated by dunes; the harshness, where almost everything that grows has a spine or a thorn, and almost everything that moves a bite or a sting, ..and often both; ...where the trails of snakes and centipedes etched in the sand by night are erased by day by the sweep of the spinifex, ..their engravure a reminder that although unseen by day their presence at night is disconcertingly everywhere. ...And the ants. ..And the relentlessness of no shade by day (and insects by night). And few (if any) sticks for a night-time fire, ...and the isolation, ..the heat, ...the flies, and the dust, and the monotony. .................
Nevertheless its openness does facilitate orientation. Turcaud wrote:-"Concerning the prospection in the Paterson Range, the comment could be that the progression was slow, but it must be understood that all the prospecting was done on foot and the car was used only as a mobile base (to save petrol and avoid damage). As showed in the photocopy of the original map, the progression was in criss-cross pattern. When I got out of the Paterson Range, I thought that I had found a very large Copper Deposit, ...another Mt Isa. The area which I considered of interest and prospected as best as I could was about 20 by 40 miles."
For Turcaud's detractors who deny his discovery of this orebody on grounds that he did not recognise the gold, Newmont (2004) estimated that it contained just 27 tonnes of gold against 30,000 tonnes of copper, mineable each year into the future for 24 years. It is quite clear where, by one thousand times, the weight of metal in this orebody, visible to the prospector, lies, and that Newmont's hairsplitting that Turcaud might have recognised the orebody on account of the copper, but not the gold, and therefore did not 'discover' the orebody, is exactly the sort of misrepresentation and distorsion that might even yet attract a fine legal argument. For thirty years Turcaud has claimed discovery of the Telfer orebody, and protested Newmont's claim to the contrary made on the basis of 'gold'.
Some might say that in pegging the ground Newmont did legally gain title, and if their spinning of words at the time was somewhat questionable then that was a secondary affair, a 'par-for-the-course', 'devil-take-the-hindmost' expectation of business dealings anywhere. And again, others may take the view that legalities that are sourced in lies and deceit that are deliberately intended to mislead (as was the opinion of the Shadow Attorney General at the time in calling for a Royal Enquiry into the affair) are by definition not legal at all. With the support of successive (perhaps in part credulous) governments Newmont has managed to maintain its official version. However with the publication of Sheppard's (2002) independent account this is certainly not how posterity will view things. The question then is, how long must Turcaud wait for posterity to re-write Newmont's version of this story, ..for the 'official historical version' to be told? And what (legally speaking) might that mean for Turcaud's claim, when hardly a month, ..a week, and latterly a day has passed but Turcaud has brought this injustice (most recently via the internet), to the attention of the world at large?
The answer to these questions turns on the relationship of law to justice, for the question is more than just one of credits and kudos. It falls to few individuals in their lifetime to contribute to the wealth of the community on the scale that Turcaud's discovery of the Telfer orebody has done - the largest gold mine in Australia. And although certainly it is by the labours of many that wealth is realised, the value of discovery is of itself commensurate with the thing discovered. The two are tied: the more the value of the thing discovered is revealed, the more the value of discovery itself increases.
This then is the situation that Newmont (Newcrest) now faces through having denied Turcaud in the beginning, and there is some irony in the way that history self-corrects. In "Mines and Men of Newmont, a Fifty Year History", Ramsey (1973) wrote the history of the company to that date. It is almost entirely a glowing testimony to Newmont's geological founder, Fred Searls Jr., both for the respect accorded him as a man and for his judicious choice of prospects that secured for Newmont its fortunes well into the future. His son Robert J. Searls however warrants only two index entries, only one of which refers to Australia and is limited to the cryptic comment: "In Australia, Newmont Proprietary Limited continues under the direction of Robert J. Searls, the son of Fred Searls Jr."
|Turcaud in New York (1983): ...As we sat down in his office, we spoke in French and Jacques Leroy clearly and pointedly commented on Searls' managerial competence, referring to the latter's inability to resolve such a small afair." "I cannot understand that!" he said.|
In R.J. Searls' almost savage, punishing repudiation of Turcaud, it is difficult not to conclude some jealousy in the way he denied Turcaud's claim to discovery. One is left to wonder what sort of man he was and what motivated him, the son of the father, .. from his position of priviledge and power and without compunction, to crush the prospector as he did. And what sort of 'men' were those in New York who backed him in overruling an authorisation by Leroy, the International Legal Counsel, and Plato Malezomoff, Chairman, to pay Turcaud $60,000 as an overall sum for full and final settlement of the dispute, when others had surely been far more grandly remunerated, and $15m would later be paid to Potter Partners as a fee to underwrite the share float for the flagship, Newmont Australia Ltd.
We seem to be left with an impression that factions were at work within the company, between those of the Chairman (Malozemoff), and those of 'The Son' (Searls), ...with Turcaud the meat in the sandwich. And for what? $60,000 - an amount calculated by Turcaud, and requested of Newmont as such, to further his education at roughly $8,500 a year for seven years - an initial science degree, then hopefully a PhD in chemistry. Hardly more than a meal ticket! But DENIED, ..in his new land of the fair go, by those most able to show their mettle! And more questionable from an Australian perspective, what was it that, then and even now, motivated governments to so readily go along with Newmont? Sheppard got at part of the truth three decades after the fact, but how much more easily would it have been at the time to set the record straight! But then who, at the time, was interested in doing so? And at what cost? The Shadow Attorney General had raised questions in Parliament, and called for a Royal Enquiry, but this call was thwarted first by the Government of the day, then by an election that saw them reinstated, and then later by his premature death.
"It seems that in political circles everybody would rather be friends with the powerful Newmont, either the Government or the Opposition, and I am tired of the politicians' sympathetic smiles and of their pharisaic buck-passing. The fact of going to court and proving my case is completely above my means and obviously I can't force you into being fair." (Turcaud by letter to Searls, Director, Newmont Australia, on 13th September, 1974)
Turcaud's 'Quit' agreement in New York in 1983 was designed by Newmont to end forever Turcaud's claim against the company. However the events surrounding Turcaud's signature of that document, framed against the promise of a Royal Enquiry in Australia, and the possible questionable legality of the document in any event as a "Fair Contract" were such that Turcaud later observed with a mixture of icy resolve and desolate despair: "I would have signed for a dollar!".