Phil was a British citizen born in Jos, Nigeria, and grew up in Birmingham, England. His interest in mining came from his father who was a metallurgist. He has been a member at SANIRE since 1990 and served as vice chairman and chairman of the Eastern Bushveld Branch.
Phil’s first job was with the British Royal Navy as artificer apprentice in Marine and Mechanical Engineering, before he came to South Africa as a learner official in Hard Rock Mining for Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company from 1981 to 1985 in Randfontein. He was then promoted to shift supervisor at Westonaria Gold Mine between 1983 and 1986. Phil was later transferred to Anglo Platinum Union Section where he worked until 1988 as strata control officer. He was then transferred again to Joel Gold Mine in 1988 as a rock mechanics officer until he was transferred in 1993.
Phil then went back to Union Section as manager of Rock Engineering until 1999, when he decided to be a rock engineering consultant. During this time, he worked with MPD on a wetcrete contract. The innovation was essentially his, but MPD helped make his it a reality. The idea was to take the normal grout pumped underground for pack support, and adapt it to spray wetcrete on tunnel sidewalls.
In 2004 he took up a position in Lydenburg with Xstrata Alloys as rock engineering manager until 2014.
Throughout Phil’s career he worked on medium to deep single and multi-reef gold mines, and shallow to medium depth platinum mines, single and multi-reef, as well as open cast mines, coal mines, and conventional and trackless mechanised mining. He also dedicated a lot of time and knowledge to developing and implementing rock related mining systems to provide a safer mining culture.
Phil was very proud of the role he played at Xstrata Alloys. Initially he was in charge of creating a rock engineering function and department on the company’s Eastern Mines. He was responsible for all ground stability related aspects including portals, shafts, overall mine stability, surface subsidence and later ancillary and production sections on the mine. Mototolo Platinum, with two inclined shaft sections, was brought to full production in less than 24 months without any fall of ground related fatalities.
Later he started the Rock Engineering departments on the Western Chrome Mines and became part of the establishment of departments on the Eastern Chrome Mines and Eland Platinum Mine. He was appointed with legal responsibility on all Xstrata Alloys mines. The standardisation of systems on all mines and keeping support systems in as simplistic format as possible played a key role in this part of his career.
Phil developed, implemented, controlled, audited and drove the Trigger Action Response Plan (TARP) for Falls of Ground in 2006 on alloys operations, including seven chrome shafts, four platinum shafts, one coal shaft and up to seven opencast operations. It was his legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all employees involving rock related issues on all the alloys mining operations, both underground and on surface within South Africa and Swaziland. He achieved this through the implementation of sound rock engineering principles and practices, both old and new, and using the TARP system. The design and implementation of site specific mine design criteria was achieved through training, behavioural change, research, design and technology, passed on to people of all disciplines that may be involved or exposed to rock related hazards.
Phil also designed and implemented computer simulation training of hazardous situations which was later rolled out to sites identified as major hazards.
The best practices and systems he helped develop achieved records such as seven years without a rock related fatality on all Xstrata Alloys mines. These systems were seen as leading practices in the mining industry in South Africa and introduced on all major mines throughout the country.
In 2014, he returned to consulting. He designed sought-after training blocks, or models, for strata control that demonstrate key block failure, dome failure, jointing and normal reverse faulting, and was still making and designing these until his passing.
Phil will be remembered as an innovative thinker who approached problems and challenges from a practical point of view. He was liked and respected in the industry, and had an incredible ability to get along with anybody and everybody, from management down to the personnel on the rock face. He will be sorely missed by all of the colleagues and friends he made throughout his career. The rock engineering fraternity has lost an innovative and dedicated member.
Phil was a keen marathon runner in his free time. His greatest running achievement was completing the Comrades Marathon in 1990 with his colleague, Richard Galloway. He also enjoyed spending time camping, fishing and game driving with his family and friends, as well as making chilli sauce and cooking.
His studies included Marine and Mechanical Engineering in the British Royal Navy, a Higher National Diploma in Metalliferous Mining at the Witwatersrand Technical College, an Advanced Certificate in Rock Engineering and the Chamber of Mines Rock Mechanics Certificate, both at the University of the Witwatersrand, and lastly a Management Development Programme for senior managers at UNISA.
Phil leaves behind three daughters, Elise Garner, Joanne Taylor and Jayne Garner, a son-in-law, Barry Taylor, two granddaughters, Abigail and Chloe Taylor, and his recent partner, Cecelia de Waal, whom loved and supported him.