Oliver Warin

1931 – 2008


Oliver Noel Warin was a geologist, and also an accomplished musician and artist. He spent his childhood in Goldhanger. His father died in 1934 and he was raised with his brother Jack by his mother who was the respected and well liked headmistress of the village school from 1939 to 1969. They lived in a tiny cottage provided by the Parish for the headmistress at No. 10 Head St. which was the former village Poorhouse.

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No.10 Head St



village school


There does not appear to be any recognisable photos of Oliver in the village archives, however as his mother was headmistress of the school and Oliver would have been six at the time, it is highly likely that he was one of the children in this Coronation parade in the Square.

After attending the village school Oliver went to Maldon Grammar school, and following national service, won a scholarship to St John’s College, Cambridge, where he gained a degree in Natural Sciences, specialising in geology. Even at an early age Oliver was a talented pianist and could frequently be heard playing his mother piano, while occasionally playing the organ in St Peters Church. Some recall that when he came home from university he would begin by playing a piece of well known classical music and then evolve it into a one of his favourite jazz pieces.

He left home in 1955 and spent the next seven years field mapping with the Australian Bureau of Mineral Resources. In 1962 he joined Utah Development Company as senior geologist, and was in charge of their research into iron ore and tin deposits in Australia and their search for phosphate throughout the world.


at Cambridge


at Cambridge


in Australia


In 1980 he was asked to lead the worldwide mineral exploration activities of the parent company Utah International, in San Francisco, and he continued in that role when that company was acquired by BHP. He successfully led BHP’s global exploration team until his retirement.






In 1994 the Australian Academy of Sciences awarded Oliver the Mawson Medal, recognising his outstanding contribution to earth science in Australia. The citation for the award said:  ‘Since taking over Utah International and under Warin’s direction, BHP has become one of the most successful of all mineral exploration companies’. He gave the Mawson Memorial lecture at the Australian Geological Convention in Perth in September in that year. Here are extracts from the beginning and end of the lecture...


12th Australian Geological Convention
Perth, Western Australia
26 September 1994

Exploration in a changing world - 2000 and beyond
Oliver N. Warin
BHP Minerals Exploration, 550 California St, San Francisco, CA

Pity the poor ageing Exploration Managed!  Not only is he physically not up to it any longer; finding himself stumbling, slow and short of breath when it comes to climbing hills with the younger geologists - but he is mentally not up to it any longer; finding himself stumbling, slow and short of breath as he tries vainly to climb the geological, geochemical, geophysical hills they seem to scamper up with ease. Then, to add insult to injury or perhaps to kick a man when he is trying to lay down, he gets asked to give talks and lectures with imposing titles - on the basis, I suppose, that anyone that has been around that long must have acquired sonic wisdom, some knowledge worth imparting.

But what can he talk about? I decided long ago that the most dangerous topic for an Exploration Manager to talk about is “Success in Exploration" and a close second are subjects like "How to Organize Exploration Teams", etc.

"Success" is a beautiful and very attractive but very easily frightened, creature; if you have actually managed to coax her out of the shadows you need to be very careful not to make a noise or any sudden movement if you are not to frighten her back into the shadows again! This time to stay hidden for years.

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I would like to urge on you as you take on this role of front runners for your companies and in the process, front runners for the market economy, for entrepreneurialism and even for democracy, that you carry with you an awareness of how you will be viewed.

You will be judged in Uzbekistan and Ulan Bator, in Alma Ata and Audra Pradesh, Ouagadogou and Timbuctoo, in Zimbabwe and Zambia, in Punta Arenas and Tierra Del Fuego both as individuals and as representatives of your company, your profession and your culture.

I feel bound therefore to offer two words of advice. Those two words are:


If you are an alert and alive human being willing, as were Mawson and his companions, to travel and explore this magnificent world, you will find, I guarantee, more than 90 percent of what you see will be interesting. And essentially interest is always what dispels discomfort.

And you will find much that you see and have to deal with is different.

It is, perhaps, an unfortunate trait of our Westernized upbringing that we feel, in the interests of efficiency and progress, we must make mental judgements and we must pronounce them essentially as soon as they are made.

All I can say is that you will find yourself welcome everywhere if you can just take to heart the simple phrase.

"not better or worse - just different".

Thank you Mr Chairman.


It was said: “without doubt the most creative phase of Ole’s career was running BHP’s exploration program out of San Francisco. Copper, diamonds and gold were some of his success stories”...”Oliver paved the way for the discovery of the Bowen Basin coal deposits, the Cannington zinc-lead-silver deposit in Queensland, Kalimantan coal, Syama sulphide gold deposit in Mali, Escondida Copper in Chile, Reko Diq Cu-Au (gold-copper) in Pakistan and the Ekati diamond field in Canada”.

In retirement Oliver pursued his interest in art in several forms...

Warin, Oliver 2.jpg

Warin, Oliver - own bust.jpg

Oliver Warin passed away at his home in San Anselmo, San Francisco, California in 2008.

 some of the information and photographs here are taken from...

oliverwarin.com   and    obituaries-australia/warin-oliver-noel

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