Robert (Bob) Agar, who died on 19th March in Perth, Western Australia, was born in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, studied geology at Liverpool, and completed his PhD on the monzonitic rocks of the Coastal Batholith of Peru, and associated mineralisation, in 1978.
Bob and Hilda arrived in Zambia, working from 1978 for the Minex Department of Mindeco, the state mining corporation. His main achievement with Minex was a synthesis of emerald mineralisation in Zambia, and the discovery of new emerald deposits. In 1979, Bob moved to the Geological Survey Department in Lusaka, where he mapped the geology of a large area in the Eastern Province, followed up a major airborne geophysical survey and set up a computerised GIS mineral database.
Bob and Hilda moved to Saudi Arabia in 1981, working at the Directorate General for Mineral Resources as part of a team recruited and managed by Watts, Griffis and McOuat (WGM). WGM, a Canadian company, had discovered that geologists with experience of working in Africa adapted to the Saudi working environment much better than Canadians, and recruited two ex-directors of the Zambian Geological Survey, plus a deputy director and many other geologists.
Bob worked with a team of WGM/DGMR geologists mapping the eastern parts of the Arabian Shield, using basemaps produced by USGS, derived from Landsat MSS imagery. He was an active member of the 1390 Cricket Club (name derived from the Islamic date of it’s foundation) along with Tony Hall, our Australian Chief Geologist and John Smith, one of our senior geologists. Bob’s first experience of airborne scanner imagery was in the Samran area, where Mohammed Tawfiq, the new chief geologist, had commissioned Huntings to do a Daedelus ATM scanner survey, and thought that Bob might be interested in possible applications for lithological mapping. Probably neither of them realised at the time how important this technology was to be later in Bob’s career.
Bob left WGM and Saudi Arabia in 1986, and moved to Egypt, where he managed field operations for Minex Minerals, a subsidiary of Greenwich Resources, and was instrumental in the discovery of significant VMS and gold deposits. He then moved to Australia in 1987, and spent three years as Exploration manager for Carr Boyd Minerals, based in Perth. He managed exploration programmes in Australia, the USA and the Middle East, using a combination of airborne remote sensing and regional geochemistry, successfully locating new gold mineralisation and developing joint venture projects.
In 1990 he became General Manager of Geoscan Pty, providing airborne remote sensing services to the minerals industry in Australia and developing projects for gold, base metals, diamonds, oil and gas and geothermal energy exploration in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Peru and the USA, greatly expanding and developing applications of airborne remote sensing using specialised scanners.
There is a story, possibly apocryphal, about Bob joining Carr Boyd. He was hired by the General Manager for his technical expertise and experience, but also for a shared love of cricket and whiskey. When he was interviewed by the GM, he was offered a glass of a supposedly rare and special malt whiskey, of which the GM has just bought a very expensive case. After one sip, Bob told the GM that he had been tricked, and that this was a very basic whiskey. His honesty created a great impression!
Bob decided to go independent, and in 1994 set up Australian Geological & Remote Sensing Services (A.G.A.R.S.S. Pty. Ltd.), a geological consulting company specialising in the use of spectroscopy, remote sensing and GIS technologies to applications in the mining industry, with headquarters near Perth, WA.
AGARSS became the dominant independent company in Australian geological remote sensing, managing exploration campaigns using Landsat and ASTER imagery, airborne scanners and spectroscopy, in Peru and elsewhere in South America, the USA and Australasia, and contributing to many important mineral discoveries. AGARSS worked with many international mining groups, including Newmont, Noranda and AngloGold, and eventually had an interest in mineral properties in Peru. Bob visited mines all over Australia and south America as part of his work, and became an authority on gold mineralisation as well as on geological remote sensing. Bob was the GRSG representative in Australia, and a member of many professional organisations.
Bob and Hilda’s three children, and now also numerous grandchildren, settled near them in Western Australia, and Bob took great delight and pride in his family and wide circle of friends. In the fifteen months from the initial diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumour, the support of their family to Bob and Hilda was a great comfort, and Bob was able to meet his second granddaughter and fifth grandson during his final months.
Bob was a towering figure in geological remote sensing, a larger than life individual with an infectious sense of humour and almost boundless optimism. The motto often quoted at the end of his emails “with an eye in the sky and feet firmly on the ground” says it all! During the social evenings of annual GRSG meetings, the noisiest and most hilarious group usually had Bob at it’s centre, leading the group in (occasionally obscene) geological student songs. Although successful in a competitive business, Bob was always generous with advice and suggestions based on his own deep experience.
He will be greatly missed.