Born in Amsterdam, Reg Gersteling migrated with his parents to South Africa at the age of eleven. After completing school, he enlisted in the South African Air Force and saw action as a tail gunner in a bomber over Italy and Yugoslavia. Bullet holes in his jacket proved how lucky he was to survive. At the conclusion of the war, he returned to South Africa and studied Geology at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. It was there that he met Sybil, and two years later they were married.
After graduation, Reg’s first job was as a mine geologist at the Tsumeb copper mine in South West Africa (now Namibia). Reg, his wife Sybil and their young family then moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), where Reg was employed as an exploration geologist for Rio Tinto. It was an exciting time and place to be a young geologist and Reg revelled in the challenges of setting up tent camps in pristine and barely inhabited areas. He loved the African bush and its wildlife, where he experienced charging rhino and lions prowling round the camps. In 1962, the family moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where Reg worked on several mines as well as on exploration projects. After Independence in 1965, he was recruited as a part-time member of the police anti-terrorist unit.
In late 1969, Reg and Sybil decided to make a move and Reg took a Senior Geologist job based in Sydney. It was a wrench leaving friends and family in Africa, moving from a small mining community to a large city, their situation exacerbated when the company folded. Undeterred, he soon joined the staff of CSR where he stayed until his retirement.
As Senior Geologist, Reg was involved in many of the company’s major projects. He played an important part in the Mount Gunson copper project in South Australia, the Yandicoogina iron ore project in Western Australia, and the Lebong Tandai gold project in Indonesia.
At a time when Australia’s mineral exploration industry was burdened with “gung-ho” attitudes, Reg, with his background in mine geology, insisted on rigour – in geological mapping, in core logging, in sampling, in resource assessment. He regarded the training of junior geologists as an important part of his job, providing sound advice backed up by reference to specific examples from his own experience. He encouraged his junior geologists to develop their exploration models and challenged them to produce the evidence to support their ideas. He never failed to include them when he was working with or briefing mining engineers and metallurgists on exploration targets and prospects.
Late in his career, after retiring from CSR, Reg spent some years working for Horizon Pacific and also for Cambridge Mining, based in Jakarta.
Reg was a highly sociable man, a great raconteur, always keen to share his experiences. And he loved a good argument – in fact, he sometimes seemed to take a contrary view just to see how others would react.
Reg and Sybil celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998, surrounded by their family. Reg passed away suddenly during October at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife, Sybil, their five children and 17 grandchildren. We remember him fondly as a true professional, mentor and friend.
– Ken Maiden and Rick West