Digital Issue 7

Obituary: Michael John Brenz Kriewaldt – 1933-2020

  • By Sami El-Raghy FAusIMM

Michael was born in Adelaide, South Australia on 21 June 1933 and after a short illness peacefully passed away in the company of family members on 17 August 2020.

Michael John Brenz Kriewaldt

1951 was a pivotal year in Michael’s life. Not only did he commence studying for a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Adelaide, which would lead to him becoming a geologist, but also his father Martin, who was both an alumni and lecturer in Law at the university, was appointed an acting Judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory. This appointment was made permanent the next year and Martin served as a distinguished judge in that court until his death in 1960. Michael was also fortunate that in the first two years of his undergraduate studies the geology department was headed by the great Australian geologist and Antarctic explorer Professor Sir Douglas Mawson.

After graduating in 1953, Michael’s exploration and resource finding skills were refined through his work as a geologist in both the mineral exploration industry and the government Geological Survey of Western Australia, leading to his involvement in IPOs of exploration and mining companies.

Michael gained valuable experience in the art of mineral exploration while being employed by International Nickel, Broken Hill South and Mt Isa Mines, working with teams of geologists and prospectors mentored by legendary mineral explorers and bush characters.

In 1961, Michael joined the Geological Survey of Western Australia and helped map 12 1:250,000 geological sheets and published a number of professional papers on geology in the state. Michael received a Master of Science degree from University of Western Australia in 1969, with the basis for his thesis built on original observations made during his innovative mapping of the Kalgoorlie sheet, where he highlighted the Archean rocks in the context of Quaternary units. Later regolith studies instigated by CSRIO on the goldfields used his map as a reference.

In 1968, he resigned from the Geological Survey and joined Asarco, continuing his association with Mt Isa Mines, which had been developed into a major mine by that company. During his time at Asarco he mentored many young geologists, some proceeding in later years to float their own exploration companies. Michael was instrumental in introducing Asarco to the Wiluna gold mining district and the discovery of additional gold reserves around the old Wiluna gold mine, leading to the IPO on the ASX of Asarco Australia in 1988.

After resigning from Asarco, the next phase of his career led to the IPO’s of mineral exploration companies with his old colleague from Asarco, Sami El-Raghy, culminating in the mining of the Sukari gold deposit in Egypt.

Eon Metals NL was floated and went on to reopen and increase the reserves of the (Mt Wilkinson) Matilda gold mine in Western Australia, which they had purchased from Chevron in 1989. 

Their next venture was the incorporation of Pharaoh Mines NL in 1993, later taken over by Centamin Egypt in 1999, after they recognised the potential for a world class gold mine at Sukari in Egypt.

Michael was instrumental in conducting the grass roots exploration on Centamin’s Sukari gold mine and taught the young Egyptian geologists and mining engineers the ‘Australian’ methods of exploration and processes of developing a mine. It was due to Michael’s perseverance and management that the Sukari gold mine came into being. It has been estimated that production from Sukari for 2020 will to be in excess of 500,000 ounces, with current resources of more than in 15 million ounces of gold, placing it among the top 20 gold producing mines in the world.       

He had a wonderful knowledge, keenness of mind, patience, understanding and penchant for accuracy and observations, and many geologists owe their successes to Michael’s tutelage. Michael had a thorough understanding of the intricacies of the mineral industry and his way with words and experience were the foundation of many reports. Michael’s influence was also far reaching on a personal level. On a recent trip back to Sukari, he was thrilled that the Bedouin cook he had employed years ago was still working on the job, saving to fund his daughter through university. This was just one of many stories illustrating the way Mike enriched the lives of many people who came into contact with him. 

Michael decided to semi-retire in 2005 and settled close to his daughter Lyza in the beautiful seaside town of Merimbula, New South Wales. Although his house was filled with his eclectic ever growing library of books and he had a panoramic view of the both the Merimbula Lake and the Pacific Ocean, he was still lured away by his love of rocks and the bush. He drove on many excursions back to special outcrops of rocks and old mining centres, the locations of which had been locked away in his memory for years. Even in recent years it was never a surprise to hear that he was driving across Australia to come to WA and have a look some area that he thought need further investigation.

The memory of Michael’s mentoring lives on through the ‘Michael Kriewaldt Scholarship’ which was established in 2018 in recognition of his contribution to the re-emergence of mineral exploration and development in Egypt. The scholarship is awarded to outstanding geology students wishing to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Alexandria in Egypt.

Michael was a long time fellow of the AusIMM, Society of Economic Geologists and a member of the Geological Society of Australia and the Australian Institute of Geoscientists (AIG). He was one of the original members of the AIG joining in 1981 with membership number 43. He was a generous, regular supporter of the AIG Education Foundation.  

He was a wonderful friend, mentor and listener, his dry humour and quick wit will be sorely missed.

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