Jim's working career of over 50 years spanned a period of great development in coal preparation, and Jim has been a significant contributor. All who came in contact with Jim during this period were impressed with his enthusiasm and work ethic, which continued up until the very day he retired on his 70th birthday.
Like many in the coal industry, Jim's training, and first contact with the coal industry, came through BHP. From 1950 to 1960, Jim worked at the Newcastle Steelworks, firstly as a trainee chemist/chemical engineer, and then as a technical assistant/foreman, in the coke ovens, coal preparation plant and by-products operation. From 1960-1972, he worked with a number of engineering companies that supplied equipment and designed/constructed coal preparation plants; these included A E Goodwin, Thomson & Carroll, United Development Corporation and Sala Australia. He was involved with projects at Coal Cliff, Moura, Lithgow, South Bulli, Wollondilly, Gretley, Avon, Yellow Rock, and Liddell State.
Jim then returned to operations as the Manager of the TPM Moura Coal Preparation Plant (1972-75), and during this time the first dense medium cyclone plant in Australia was installed. For the period 1975-84, he was Manager Coal Preparation & Marketing for the Peko-Wallsend Coal Division and in this role he had technical responsibility for all coal preparation activities, including operations, upgrades and new plant construction, as well as attending to technical marketing, quality control and coal supply logistics. From 1984, Jim operated his own engineering and design consultancy - James C Donnelly & Associates. Some notable achievements were the design/engineering of plants such as Rix's Creek, United and Burton. In 1999, James C Donnelly & Associates merged with QCC, and he subsequently retired in 2001.
Jim has made an outstanding contribution to the Coal Preparation Society. In the early days of the NSW Society, he was on the Committee (1967-72), serving as secretary from 1969-71. He rejoined the committee in 1977 and was Chairman from 1981-83; overall Jim was on the NSW committee for 11 years. He lectured at Introductory and Advanced Courses from 1976 to 1996. During his period as Chairman, the NSW Branch was incorporated and the first introductory textbook was produced. However, Jim's greatest legacy to the Society was his leadership in organising the First Australian Coal Preparation Conference in Newcastle, 1981. It was a resounding success and has set the standard for every conference thereafter. Australian Coal Preparation Conferences are a feature of society activities providing great opportunities for technical and social exchanges, and the proceedings are a valuable source of technical information.