by Viv Forbes, BSc App Geol, MAusIMM, geologist, mineral economist, farmer, company director and political gadfly

At a celebratory birthday dinner, in Brisbane, Qld, for the late F.A. Hayek, Saturday May 1st, 2004. L-R Ronald Kitching, Viv Forbes, Ron Manners

I first met Ron Kitching in 1966 — he took me to inspect a copper prospect called Mount Colin near Cloncurry. We struck a chord that day and since then our lives seem to have crossed many times over his long life. I never failed to learn something useful or interesting from him.

Ron was never luke warm — he was either engrossed and enthusiastic, or indifferent, or fiercely opposed.

He was engrossed and enthusiastic about exploration, drilling, soils, pastures, cattle, water, the principles of freedom, sound money, classical liberalism, the history of the universe and the battle for carbon sense.

He was fiercely opposed to inflationists, communists, socialists, alarmists and centralists. He believed that freedom, sound money, open science and protection of property rights would work miracles in solving the problems of the human race. He understood clearly how we were getting smothered in bureaucracy and weakened by taxation and debasement of the currency.

Ron started his working life at Mount Isa as a diamond driller when he was 20 years old. Four years later he became one of the founders of Glindemann and Kitching, a renowned Australian drilling company. Probably his greatest achievement was his pivotal role in developing the Universal Drill, now used for exploration drilling all over the world. He told me recently that these drills were being used on every continent on earth.  Ross Large Professor of Economic Geology at the University of Tasmania said:

Inspiring and dedicated people like Ron Kitching have been critical to the success of the mining industry in Australia. In the 1970’s Ron perceived a need for a better drill and worked tirelessly to achieve his goals. He carried a lot of people along with him and he showed us all what can be achieved with a clear vision and a determination to succeed.

Ron also enjoyed a good joke. The story of how he discovered a great new ore body under the Spear Creek sports ground, Mount Isa is recounted in his own words here.

Ron was often present and part of historic occasions. In 1954 he drilled what Geoffrey Blainey has called “one of the most remarkable drill-holes in the world”. This hole, to the south of the main lead-zinc operations at Mount Isa, penetrated 500 feet of amazingly rich copper ore. This drilling revealed the magnificent 1100 ore body which contained plus 180Mt of plus 3.5%copper, Mount Isa’s source of copper ore for over 30 years.

Ron once told me how the General Manager at the time (Sir George Fisher) came by after work every day to chat to Ron and look in amazement at the glittering copper core laid out after that day’s drilling.

He also drilled the discovery holes on so many other great Australian ore bodies, including Mary Kathleen uranium, McArthur River lead-zinc, Constance Range Iron, Blackwater coal, Warrego gold, Telfer gold and Mount Agnew nickel. For more of this history see here.

Ron also influenced world events, behind the scenes. He was a long time member of the Mont Pelerin Society and went to meetings they held behind the Iron Curtain. At one meeting in Moscow in Soviet days Ron took a port full of books on free markets and sound money. There were a few Russians who surreptitiously attended the meeting. After the meeting, Ron went into the aisle of the auditorium, opened his port and started giving his books away to eager Russian students. A few books went to one Russian who was later economic adviser to Gorbachev. Ron repeated these subversive activities later in China and influenced an economic adviser to Deng Xiaoping. Then he went to Chile and became a famous journalist and regular columnist for the leading Chilean newspaper.

One of his early notes from Chile was:

Chile is a great place, Viv. Explorers are heroes here and mining is not a dirty word.

With no degrees to his name, Ron understood Classical Liberal Economics and monetary theory far better that most university professors. He is the only bloke I know who read Human Action and Socialism from cover to cover and filled the texts with notes and underlining. He was a friend to Frederick Hayek and a great admirer of Ludwig von Mises. He initiated a tour of Australia by Hayek and I believe funded most of it.

Ron was a great supporter of the Yeoman keyline system of land conservation and pasture improvements. Using Yeoman’s principles he developed a magnificent Brahmin Stud at Tinaroo on the Atherton Tableland.

Ron was never afraid to stand alone or to support unfashionable causes that he believed were right. Causes like the Progress Party, the Foundation for Economic Education and the Carbon Sense Coalition. His great little book Understanding Personal and Economic Liberty has enlightened and delighted many readers. As Malcolm Roberts says:

His book changed my life. Any socialists who creep into heaven through the back door will need to be wary. He’ll quickly sort ’emout. Meanwhile, we’re the better for his earthly contribution.

At the same time Ron was a great family man and his numerous offspring are a great credit to the values he gave them. He spent his last few years in the Mount Morgan/Yeppoon/Rockhampton district, exploring, promoting the Rahco mining equipment and combating climate alarmism.

Most people in Rockhampton were probably unaware of the intellectual and entrepreneurial giant who lived among them. As John McRobert said:

The world is the poorer for his passing, but the richer for his having been.

Ron died quietly at his home in Rockhampton on 2 March 2011 aged 81.

(in order of appearance on
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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