Ilmars “Bill” Gemuts exemplified a successful international exploration geologist. Fluency in English, Spanish, German, French, and Latvian served him well in his mineral exploration evaluations in North and South America, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa during his 40-year career. Bill’s death in Putnam County, New York, on April 25, 2003 came as a shock to his family, friends, and geologic colleagues. Although many were aware of his on-going battle with liver cancer, diagnosed in 2000, none were prepared for his rapid demise. A number of professional associates visiting Bill at the March 2003 Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada Convention in Toronto found him hardy and looking forward to the next field season.
Bill was born in Pope, Latvia on March 30, 1939, and in 1944 the Gemuts Family had to flee Latvia due to the Russian army occupation. For five years his family lived in refugee camps in Germany. In 1949, the family was granted emigration to Australia. With hard work, Bill’s father was able to purchase a 10-acre farm located 50 miles north of Sydney. Bill was an avid reader with excellent language skills that ultimately helped him earn a scholarship to Sydney University.
Bill’s geologic career commenced in 1962 with the Geological Survey of Western Australia (GSWA) after graduating with honors from Sydney University. He completed his Master of Science in Geology in 1966 while working at the GSWA. Later that year, he joined Anaconda Australia, Inc. to begin almost 20 years of Anaconda employment throughout Australia and the United States. During this period, Bill was involved in the discovery of a number of major gold, nickel, and base metal deposits, including Kidston (Au), Six Mile Well (Ni), Mt. Morgans (Au), Illinois Creek (Au), and Johnson Creek (VMS) ore deposits. As Australian exploration manager, he organized both grass-roots programs and assessment of known deposits throughout the continent. During the five years he was assigned to Anaconda Minerals Company in the United States, he managed major Alaskan exploration/evaluation projects, and served as Director of Anaconda’s joint exploration-research program with the Atlantic Richfield parent company. From 1985 to 1993, Bill was a partner in a consulting firm, Annapurna Exploration, which brought him to Nevada, Australia, China, and Latin America.
Bill Gemuts had the ability to combine diligent and persistent fieldwork with regional tectonic concepts aided by potential-field geophysics and satellite remote sensing. This big-picture approach offered him success during the last 12 years of his career, spent in the South American Andes discovering key epithermal gold and porphyry copper prospects for several companies, including Newmont Mining Corporation, Australian-based A.M.D. (Argentina Minerals Development), and Arminex of Vancouver, B.C. While often times presenting a “crusty” exterior, Bill had a soft spot for those who focused on fieldwork. His ability to serve as mentor to young geologists generated enthusiasm and commitment, especially to those beginning their careers.
Bill will be missed by many, especially those he cared for as a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He is survived by his wife, Liga, and daughters Aina and Gita, along with sons-in-law Erik Lismanis and Todd Rossman and grandchildren Ingus, Anna, Didzis, and Namejs. The Gemuts Family has established the “Ilmars Gemuts Memorial Scholarship Fund” to encourage Latvian students to pursue careers in geology. Contributions may be made in the Fund’s name and sent to 90 Hillside Trail, Mahopac, New York 10541.
Prepared by Art Barber, Sandra Perry, and Bob Casaceli