Obituary: Dr Robin Curtis


A true gentleman, Dr Robin Curtis found peace on the afternoon of 14 November surrounded by family at his home in St Ives Chase, after a lengthy battle with cancer.


Robin Curtis was born and attended school in the Welsh mining town of Cwmtillery. He graduated Bachelor of Science from the University College of Wales in Cardiff in 1956. Robin served with the British Antarctic Survey and achieved the memorable feat of having Curtis Island named for him. His detailed studies on the petrology of Graham Land, West Antarctica, formed the basis of his Doctor of Philosophy. He returned to the University of Birmingham and completed his thesis in 1960 before taking a two year appointment as a geologist with the Geological Survey of the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu. In December 1963, during his subsequent employment as a lecturer in geology at the University of Sydney, Robin was informed by the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty that the Queen had bestowed upon him the Polar Medal for geological services to the British Antarctic Survey during the 1957-58 season.


Robin commenced his long career in the minerals industry in 1965 as senior geologist for Forsayth Exploration. This was followed by appointments as Regional Geologist and Chief Geologist with Placer Exploration between 1967 and 1972, Exploration Manager for International Nickel during 1973 to 1974 and Exploration Manager for Amdex Mining during 1974 to 1978.


Most of us will recall shared professional experience with Robin as the Principal of R. Curtis and Associates, highly regarded independent geological consultants serving the industry during the years from 1978 until Robin became constrained by his tenacious efforts to ward off the debilitating stages of cancer. The company’s list of clients includes numerous major oil and mining corporations, junior explorers, individuals and financial institutions.


The commodities covered by Robin’s consultancy included precious and base metals, tin, mineral sands, uranium, clay, sandstone, coal, oil, oil shale and more. His expertise covered ore reserve measurement, resource interpretation, financial valuations, project audits, reporting to banks and financial institutions, geological interpretation, exploration planning, as well as staff training and motivation. The company worked throughout Australia and in New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Canada and the United States.


Robin was a Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, a Fellow of the Geological Society of Australia and a member of the Mineral Industry Consultants Association. He served on the Board of M.I.C.A. for 6 years and edited the newsletter for many years. He was a strong supporter of the Sydney Minerals Exploration Discussion Group. It was always a pleasure to sit down with Robin and Dorothy at a Mining Club lunch or on the SMEDG-AIG Harbour Cruise and share a glass of red wine and a chat about historic exploration projects or current trends in the industry.


What we also remember with great admiration and affection is Robin’s mode of operation as a professional geoscientist. He was a very traditional geologist, dignified, conservative, experienced, wise and honest. He retained the skills of graphical analysis of ore reserves, based on meticulous hand compilation of geological cross sections. During the early days of computer assessment of ore reserves, when geostatistical methods were evolving, Robin provided a solid reliable alternative with highly credible and explainable demonstration of the parameters of every polygon employed in the summation of reserves.


Robin’s style focused on calm, confident and gentle persuasion, coupled with an easy smile and cheerful humour. Following a lengthy review of gold targets in Japan, Robin sent in a detailed memorandum of fees and services, listing six topics of consultation. The invoice explained that the mutual exchange of ideas was such a pleasure for him that he made a substantial discount for enjoyment. As a result the invoice total shows a credit to the company of one dollar. He could be very firm, as the young geologists on Lihir Island found when Robin was sent in to calculate reserves for the Lienitz deposit. The pop music blaring across the geology office attracted the immediate response: Well now, I am only here for a limited time to get a serious job done, so you can turn that racket off right now. The sections were constructed and the calculations made in an appropriately peaceful calm. Robin was a wonderful mentor to exuberant young exploration geologists, adding his pragmatic experience to their conceptual optimism. He was always available to provide emerging consultants with advice on wide ranging technical and business matters and so contributed to the professional and ethical practices of many of the next generation of geoscientists.


We will always remember a talented scientist, a most ethical man, a dear friend and advisor, and a fine example to everyone of lesser years who came in contact with him. The minerals industry is much the better for the keen insights, precise evaluations, clear interpretations and motivational stimulation provided by our good mate Dr Robin Curtis.


Mike Smith


November 2006