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Mining legend dies at the age of 93

Sir Arvi Parbo
Sir Arvi Parbo

One of the mining industry’s biggest contributors died on May 1.

Sir Arvi Parbo, who helped found the nation’s aluminium and nickel industry, passed away at the age of 93.

Parbo devoted much of his life to working for Western Mining Corporation (WMC), which he joined in 1956 and worked his way up to managing director 15 years later and executive chairman after another 15 years. He was later chairman at Alcoa of Australia and chairman at BHP before returning to WMC as a non-executive chairman.

The Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA) will remember Parbo, who served as the association’s president between 1976 and 1978, as a “remarkable and very generous human being”.

“Sir Arvi Parbo will be fondly remembered as the most influential 20th Century figure of the Australian resources industry,” AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said in a public statement.

He revealed Parbo was a European refugee and only arrived in Austraia in 1949.

“Sir Arvi fled war-torn Estonia in 1944 and spent time in a refugee camp in Germany, before emigrating to Australia. Just six years later he graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Adelaide,” Knott said.

Former prime minister John Howard described Parbo as a “towering figure of the industry”.

“A man born in Estonia, worked in the mines of Germany, came to Australia without speaking much English. He became a giant in the mining industry, ran WMC as chairman and ended up chairman of The Big Australian (BHP),” he said at AMMA’s 2018 centenary gala dinner. “He epitomised that generation that did so much to build the modern Australia. He was an outstanding example of the sort of entrepreneurs that the mining industry of Australia produced.”

Federal Resources Minister and Senator Matt Canavan commended Parbo for helping to improve the lives of thousands through his role in major projects like the Olympic Dam Copper-Uranium Mine and Kambalda Nickel Mine.

“The resources industry will sadly miss the remarkable life and contribution of Sir Arvi Parbo,” Canavan told the Australian Associated Press.

Parbo is survived by his wife, Lady Saima Parbo, and his three children.

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