It is with great sadness that we report the recent passing of our great friend, mentor, and worldly industrial mineral geologist Dr Ian Wilson in mid-June 2023, just weeks away from his 80th birthday.

Without a doubt, Ian was one of the legendary geologists and communicators of the industrial minerals world and made long-lasting friendships wherever he went, which seemed to be everywhere!

He stood out, not only because of his expert knowledge, affability, willingness to mentor, and frankly, great company, but because he was able to professionally disseminate with seeming ease, clarity, and in equal high measure, both the technical and commercial aspects of any industrial mineral he was working on.

Such a skill is crucial to understanding the supply/demand challenges underpinning the industrial minerals business, and notably, Ian was most generous in his sharing of this knowledge.

To that end, Ian has a prodigious back catalogue of papers, articles, reports, and conference presentations.

He never hesitated to impart kindly advice and information to this author throughout his career, when as Editor for many years of the former Industrial Minerals magazine (to which Ian contributed outstanding articles), and in supporting the founding of IMFORMED in 2015.

In recent years, although his work rate somewhat relaxed he nevertheless kept active with projects in Mongolia, China, Australia, and the USA, contributing articles, and was a mainstay at IMFORMED’s MagForum conferences.

IW at MF22

At MagForum 2022 Noordwijk: Ian in customary full flow presentation mode, and then enjoying repartee with clients and friends from Turkey (l-r: Altuğ Çakmur, Müslüm Karaman, Taha Öksüzogu), and a sundowner with conference chairman Mike O’Driscoll.

Ian’s speciality mineral interests included kaolin, special clays, calcium carbonate, magnesite, talc, and barite, and right up until very recently, he remained in high demand as consultant or advisor to many leading players producing and/or developing projects in these fields.

In 2020, for example, Australian kaolin and silica sand explorer, Suvo Strategic Minerals Ltd, appointed Ian as non-executive director to help accelerate development of its Western Australian kaolin project, on which he worked through 2022.

Two classic trademarks to Ian’s well-received conference presentations were the sheer amount of detail and information imparted, along with a generous, and usually pictorial, acknowledgment to any local assistance, usually complemented by mention of some relevant cultural aspect, be it cuisine, drink, landmark, or personality. This naturally made for a highly informative and entertaining talk every time.

Having last taken the stage at MagForum 2022 in Noordwijk, Ian was due to make a presentation at this year’s MagForum 2023 in Baveno, Italy, late May. Although he was desperate to attend, he was unable owing to illness, and sadly died two weeks later.

Professional to the end, Ian still found time to send in his presentation for the delegates: 120 slides crammed with all you need to know about brucite, huntite, and hydromagnesite…plus squeezing in an illustrated note praising the famous Lanzhou beef noodle dish of Gansu province!

IW USA + CHina

Ian “in situ”, ie. doing what he enjoyed most, out in the field inspecting industrial mineral deposits surrounded by willing and like-minded colleagues. Left: Ian (3rd from left in both pictures), checking out either a kaolin deposit, probably in Maoming, Guangdong province, or calcium carbonate deposit, Anhui province, China early 1990s (Courtesy Helen Lloyd); Right: more recently, underground with Andre Zeitoun (far right) inspecting Ionic Mineral Technologies’ halloysite, Eureka, Utah, USA (Courtesy Andre Zeitoun).

Talking of China, one of Ian’s great loves was of course travel, along with family, geology, tennis, and field hockey (he was still playing at 76! He was President of Cornwall Hockey Association 2006-2020; a couple of times I had to reschedule Ian’s speaking slot to allow for his travel to an England veterans tournament somewhere).

Since his first visit to Cornwall in 1964 Ian loved the south-west of England, and he and his wife Kate lived there for 47 years before moving to Hertfordshire in 2020 to be nearer their children (Helen and Richard) and grandchildren.

However, his professional career at ECC/Imerys (see below for Ian’s CV) saw Ian seconded to Brazil for three years, and to Spain for a year. But during that time and throughout his career as a consultant he inspected mineral deposits and projects in all corners of the Earth (90 countries visited by 2018).

China in particular featured highly on his travel agenda, both under ECC and for many years as an independent consultant. So much so that he maintained an apartment in Shenzhen to help facilitate his extensive visits around the country – Ian’s traveller’s tales were legendary, as was his knowledge of Chinese mines and minerals.

Ian’s friendly and expert presence among the global industrial minerals fraternity will be sorely missed. But his legacy of well-researched papers, articles, and presentations, and above all our fond memories of him, will live on.

IW Qingdao & Krakow

Always smiling: (left) Ian wowing conference delegates in Qingdao, China, 2001 with his skills in the ancient art of balancing shot glasses on his head while drinking beer – final count was about 10 glasses I think!; (right) enjoying a joke – probably one of Ian’s traveller’s tales – at the MagForum 2017 reception in Krakow, Poland, with Richard Flook and Mike O’Driscoll.

The industry remembers

A very sad day for us all, an end of an era. It won’t seem the same without Ian around, we worked together on numerous clay projects and even checked each others reports sometimes for individual work.
Frank Hart, First Test Minerals Ltd, UK

Over the past 15 years, I had the privilege of learning from the world’s foremost expert in Halloysite. Ian’s vast knowledge and expertise were invaluable, but it was his friendship and continuous words of encouragement that truly shaped my journey. Ian, your influence and expert guidance is the reason I stand here today, driven by your wisdom and fuelled by your encouragement.
Andre Zeitoun, Founder & CEO, Ionic Mineral Technologies, USA

Such a loss of our wonderful colleague.
Murray Lines, Managing Director, Stratum Resources, Australia

Ian was one of the foremost authorities in the Kaolin Industry across the globe. He joined the board early in the company’s life providing invaluable guidance as Suvo progressed from explorer to the only hydrous kaolin producer in Australia. All of this would not have been possible without you Ian, the industry has lost a true pioneer.
Suvo Strategic Minerals Ltd, Australia

Incredibly sad. Ian was a mentor and a legend to us all. A moving, accurate and fitting tribute to Ian. I began my career over 17 years ago in the minerals business writing for Industrial Minerals magazine with Mike at the helm as Editor. Ian – a true geologist, ex ECC and Imerys, and expert minerals consultant – was one of the first people I was introduced to and he was genuine, expert and a guiding hand as I approached an industry I knew nothing about. From helping me to pronounce “Liaoning” on stage at a conference not to embarrass myself ( I did that in other ways) to many lovely dinners and drinks in the most random places known.
Simon Moores, CEO, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, UK

I had the privilege of working with Ian on a number of projects in Brazil and elsewhere when we were with ECCI/Imerys. He will be sorely missed.
Pedro Bottesi-Neto, Mining & Industrial Minerals Executive, Brazil

One of the great characters of the clay world, he will be greatly missed.
Stephen Hillier, Professor, The James Hutton Institute, UK

This is very sad news. Ian wrote the magnesia piece in our June issue of Mining Journal and was an excellent source of knowledge. He’ll be sorely missed.
Siobhan Lismore-Scott, Group Mining Finance Editor, Mining Journal, UK

Very sorry to hear this. Ian and I worked together on the Roskill calcium carbonate and kaolin reports back in the day. What he didn’t know about the subject matter wasn’t worth knowing. A huge loss.
David McNeil, Senior Analyst, Fastmarkets Metals & Mining, UK

A great guy who will be sorely missed.
Nick Wilshaw, Chairman, Grinding Solutions Ltd, UK

Very sad news. Ian was a great guy, a fountain of knowledge and tremendous fun to be with (I have some stories!). A true industry legend!! RIP Ian.
Neil Gawthorpe, CEO, Tungsten West, UK

A big loss for the mineral world. His last public work was a presentation about brucite, huntite and hydromagnesite for which we were in close contact. My condolences to his dear ones. May he rest in peace.
Henk Don, Managing Director Europiren BV, Netherlands

May his soul rest in peace… He has been a great mentor for our company…
Altug Cakmur, CFO, Turkmag, Turkey

Ian’s passing is a great loss to the industrial minerals community. My condolences to those closest to him.
Markku J. Lehtinen, Senior Geologist & Mineralogist / Owner at GEOMIN & MATERIALS CONSULTING, Finland

We met in Bilbao in Spain, in 2019. He taught me how to start a presentation and his kind voice is still in my mind. Very good man, Very sad news.
Vincent Wong, Director of Refwin E-trade, Refractories Window, China

Very sad to hear this news. Thank you Mike for a great obituary summarising a full and wonderful life. Ian was no doubt a truly global expert in industrial minerals but a superb human who willingly shared his knowledge and enthusiasm. RIP Ian and condolences to family and friends.
Jeff Elliott, Chairman, Red Terra Investments, Australia

We were very good friends for years since ECC time, what a professional and human being ! We will miss him.
Harry Talans, Manager, Talamac, Brazil

I am so sorry about Ian Wilson’s death. Henceforth, the world magnesite sector will be orphaned without him. My condolences and patience to you and the Industrial Minerals group.
Hüseyin Gürcan, Chemical Engineer (former General Manager, Kümaş), Turkey

So sad – an excellent scientist and a first class fellow!
Chris Spencer, Consultant geologist, France

PLEASE NOTE: More tributes appear at the foot of this post under “Comments”, please scroll down.

Dr Ian Wilson – a career in geology & industrial minerals

Dr Ian Wilson was an independent industrial minerals consultant based in the UK.

After service in the British Army and a short teaching career, Ian studied Geology at University of London (Kingston College of Technology) for his BSc, followed by geochemical research at the University of Leeds for his MSc and PhD.

Three years service as Senior Scientific Officer with the Institute of Geological Sciences, Geochemical Division (now British Geological Survey).

Ian then joined English China Clays (now Imerys) where he worked for 28 years in many countries of the world both as a geologist and in establishing new kaolin and ground calcium carbonate (GCC) operations. He was General Manager of ECC do Brasil from 1981-1984 (kaolin operations) and Joint Managing Director of CEDESCA (JV English China Clays and CAOBAR in Poveda de la Sierra, Spain) in 1985. Ian then became Project Manager for ECC Ground Calcium Carbonate Plants in Sweden and China in the 1990s.

On retirement from Imerys in 2001, Ian worked as an independent industrial minerals consultant with particular emphasis on kaolin, barite, calcium carbonate, talc, bentonite, magnesite and other industrial minerals. Ian was a regular contributor to Industrial Minerals magazine and other publications, to Roskill multiclient reports, and had many papers published by professional associations such as the Mineralogical Society of London (Clay Minerals Group – to which he was formerly Secretary) and The Ussher Society; he also presented regularly at industry conferences including those of Industrial Minerals, IMFORMED, Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration, and International Conferences for Clay Minerals.

In 2009 he was awarded the Hal Williams Hardinge Award by the SME for services to industrial minerals (one of only four British recipients of the award since 1959; the award recognises outstanding achievement which has benefited the field of industrial minerals – more details here).

Professional memberships:
MIMMM Member Institution of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3)
C Geol Chartered Geologist
C Eng Chartered Engineer (as member of IOM3)
FGS Fellow of the Geological Society of London
CSci Chartered Scientist (as member of IOM3)