November 16, 1970 – August 10, 2018
This is a tribute to the journey of Peter Gunther, a wonderful person, family man, trusted colleague, professional and friend to so many people within the water and mining industries. He will be sorely missed, and the profession, industry and country will be so much the poorer for his untimely passing.
Peter’s story starts on November 16, 1970, the oldest of two sons to the Gunther family. Peter was born in the Western Cape where he subsequently grew up and attended school, matriculating in the Camps Bay High School class of 1988. He achieved his BSc in Chemical Engineering and then an MSc in Water Utilisation at the University of Cape Town in 2004. This, with a healthy love for sport, lead to Peter’s ongoing support of Western Province rugby for which we mostly forgave him.
Peter, having had an Anglo American bursary, then joined Anglo American Thermal Coal in 2004 in Witbank. He quickly illustrated his ability to lead. As Manager: Hydrology, a role he was to stay with till 2012, Peter was extremely involved in all aspects of the business and it was during this time that he solidified his position and began to shape the industry through his passion for sound technical implementation, engaged deliverables and making a difference. In 2007, the fruits of his labours emerged in the form of the eMalahleni Water Reclamation plant. This was the first of its kind in the industry, built on a collaborative platform, this water treatment facility was ground breaking in its application of technology, integration with multiple stakeholders and solution elegance in the South African Mining and Water Management Sectors. For many this is seen as Peter’s professional emergence, and a defining moment that is still to this day internationally recognized. This project received two Mail & Guardian Greening the Future awards, Nedbank Capital’s Green Mining awards, Global Mining – Sustainability Award (Africa), Lighthouse Project, Innovation Awards – Silver, and recognized as “Innovative Environmental Strategies that Improve Business Performance – Greening the Future Awards”. eMalahleni Water Reclamation Plant was also the only mining initiative to be endorsed by the United Nations Momentum for Change initiative at COP17.
Peter’s rise and growth did not stop there as he subsequently moved on to several senior management roles within Anglo American. In this, Peter also illustrated his diversity of strengths through his role as the Head: Safety & Sustainable Development – OMI, for Anglo American with operations mostly based in South America. In 2012 Peter again shifted roles to Group Manager: Environment for Anglo American – once again a global role that dealt with a variety of different cultures and people in different contexts. Here his ability to collaborate, engage easily with people regardless of rank, culture and profile and seek deliverables made him successful in shaping a difficult area.
In 2014, with the restructuring of Anglo American, Peter moved roles to Anglo American Platinum as Manager: Infrastructure (Water) a role once again close to his heart where he continued to champion the water and sustainability cause on an even larger scale. It is at this time that Peter, chasing solutions to the ever elusive zero brine treatment solution engaged with Prentec. Here I believe he saw an opportunity to spread his influence on a grander scale and took up a Managing Director role with Prentec in 2015. This allowed him to chase the implementation of the Eutectic Freeze Crystalisation process at a full scale, which was a result of a research programme he had championed at CoalTech with UCT for a number of years.
His commitment to the sector and water management extended beyond a simple day-to-day job however, always looking to paint a bigger picture and pull together threads beyond his normal role, Peter was actively engaged in a variety of additional activities, from Coaltech to WISA Mine Water Division – Peter was a committed and passionate participant. His drive for academic furthering of water treatment with the University of Cape Town placed him in the position of lecturer for a water course that would be offered starting next year. The list of his involvement is never ending and a true tribute to an engaged leader that was without ego.
But Peter was not just about work, through it all Peter loved sport, fast cars and a good whiskey. He was ever one to have some fun and his explosive laugh of mirth was a constant when mixing both socially and privately. As an active family man he loved spending time away on holidays with his family and he leaves behind two lovely children that will sorely miss him.
When asking friends and colleagues about what they remembered the most about Peter there were many great stories of him taking on projects, challenges and situations bigger than most thought he would handle. This epitomises Peter in a way, always up for a challenge, always willing to help and always manoeuvring to drive action where others waivered. “Tenacity gets things done…..”; and “Whatever you do, do your best” are words that frequently featured when Peter’s name was mentioned and for this we must thank him – he has set the bar high and started something big, which knowing Peter he surely expects us to do something with. So, in honour of Peter’s memory I challenge you all, look carefully at what Peter did, and seek to take it forward in a way that you would expect of the man himself, to the highest standard and with delivery in mind.