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Anthony Brandon Mills 1925 - 2009

Tony Mills, eldest son of Horace and Jessie Mills, was born at Wallasey, Cheshire on February 19 1925 . He was educated at Birkenhead School, Cheshire (1934-42) and at Liverpool University (Civil Engineering 1942-43). Military service (1943-46) Middlesex Regt. Army Education Corps, ranked Sergeant. He attended Wigan Mining College (1946-49) in Intermediate Science and took the External BSc Hons. Engineering Degree, London University (1949-51).

Tony joined the National Coal Board Opencast Executive in 1952 and was posted to its No 4 North West Region as a Prospecting Officer based at Manchester. In 1956 he transferred as PO in charge, to the Cumberland Area at Maryport, supervising a staff of four geologists, four to six drilling rigs and a pitting gang. Production sites were just beginning to operate and expansion of prospecting for future production was required.

However in 1961 NCB policy required a cut-back in Opencast Executive operations, which meant that national opencast production was to be restricted to the production of anthracite and specialist coking coals. Further development in the Cumberland Area was abandoned, and he was transferred to No 7 South Wales Area at Swansea.

In 1964 NCB policy regarding opencast mining was reconsidered with an expanding demand for low cost output and prospecting operations were again needed in all Regions. Tony was appointed to No 2 Northumberland and Durham Region taking charge of two geological staff and two to three drilling units at Newcastle, and was later promoted to Regional Opencast Manager (Development). As well as maintaining continuity of the large site production in Northumberland, prospecting operations were recommenced with additional staff and drilling capacity in the Durham coalfield and also in west Cumberland.

He was responsible at this time for teams of geologists operating under four Area Geologists, and up to 35 staff. The search for future resources was extended into the detached Tyne Valley coalfields and also into the Lower Carboniferous Limestone Coal deposits in the Alston and Scremerston areas. His responsibilities entailed the supervision of drilling contracts for this purpose and at peak, some 30 drilling units and borehole logging teams were in operation in the Region. His other responsibilities included research projects into shallow depth seismic and ground-resistivity techniques and automated borehole logging.

He was a founder Member of the Association for the Promotion of an Institute of Professional Geologists (APIPG), which eventually led to the creation of Chartered Geologist status under the Institution of Geologists (IG) and eventually, the Geological Society.

Tony married Pamela Leslie Lane at Birkenhead in October 1955 and they had two sons, Nigel Brandon and Robin Perry. In leisure he was very much an outdoor man, a keen walker and Member of the National Trust and most holidays were spent walking in Scotland. He was an authority on Wainwright and owned an extensive library of his books, as well as making a comprehensive collection of British stamps and books.

Tony retired in 1986 but continued to take an interest in Opencast Mining despite deteriorating health which caused loss of mobility in his later years. He died in March 2009.

Thomas Gatenby