On Wednesday morning, Australia lost one of its greatest citizens. Sir Arvi Parbo died at his home in Vermont South in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. He was 93.
The last time I chatted to Sir Arvi at any length he was shrouded in sheaves of paper. The ageing mining knight was coursing through drilling data offered to him by one of his family of Western Mining Corporation proteges.
The geological data revealed nothing to me. But the great man’s eyes flitted from line to numerical line, drawing knowledge from data as they danced past the numbers. As he flipped back the last interlinked page of print out, he smiled encouragingly and said: “We still have a long way to go then.”
The first time I had extended time with Sir Arvi, he was in his pomp. It was 1989 and he was, at once, chairman of Western Mining Corporation, Alcoa of Australia and of the Broken Hill Company Pty Limited. This was a unique combination of honours born of extraordinary times.
BHP had emerged shaken, stirred but secure from a three-year long volley of takeover challenges issued by Robert Holmes a Court when Sir Arvi was invited to join its board of directors in August 1987. A BHP board in need of stability and leadership through a period of transition found a rock in the man who made the modern WMC. By May 1989, he was BHP’s chairman.
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