Full name: Kevin Richard Brentley.

Position: Rock Engineer.

Company: Brentley, Lucas and Associates.

Organisations: SANIRE, ISRM, SAIMM.

Date and place of birth: 22 August 1960, Born in Johannesburg.

Full Name: Buntu Bantu Tati

Position: Rock Engineering Officer

Company/Organisations: Impala Platinum

Date and Place of Birth: 29 June 1988

deonInterview questions

Full Name: Deon Louw

Position: Unit Manager – Rock Engineering Beatrix 3#

Company/Organisations: Sibanye Gold

Date and Place of Birth: Born in Bellville, Cape Town, on 4 March 1960

Education: Matriculated at Bothashof, Salisbury (now Harare)

First Job: Learner Official Mining, Buffelsfontein Gold Mine, Genmin

Personal Best Achievement/s: The design and actual early extraction of the Beatrix 3# Shaft pillar

Philosophy of Life: Too much of anything is not good. Live a balanced life.

Favourite Food/Drink: A good Irish whiskey (Here, I ignore my philosophy). I love chicken – braaied or grilled – with Portuguese spice.

Favourite Sport: I work only because my golf is not good enough.

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

Following the completion of my military service in 1980, I started off at Buffelsfontein Mine as a Learner Official and later became production Shiftboss, mostly at Orangia Shaft. In 1987, a neck injury in rugby forced me to assist the Rock Engineering Dept for 6 months, while I could not go underground. This was the first time that I was really exposed to Rock Engineering and I immediately became very interested in the subject. Shortly after my return to underground, I applied for the position of Strata Control Officer and Joined the RE Dept. I obtained my COM Cert in 1990 and moved to Beatrix mine in the Welkom area in the same year. During the next 10 years, I toured the Welkom Goldfields, working at Oryx Mine, St Helena and back to Beatrix again, working for the same company. (Genmin, Gengold, Gold Fields). In 2002, I joined Brentley, Lucas and Associates, and was based at Bambanani Mine until 2011. It was an interesting 9 years, with Bambanani experiencing serious problems in their orepass systems, and eventually scaling down to a shaft pillar extraction. During this time, I also did a lot of consulting work on smaller diamond mines, as well as at the Afrikander Lease operation in North West. In 2011, I was offered the position of Chief Rock Engineer at Beatrix mine and moved back there, saw the unbundling of Goldfields and the creation of Sibanye Gold, and am still quite happy in my role as Rock Engineer at Beatrix 3#.


“Confidence. You need to show confidence”                            “Confidence sells!”


2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

I was very fortunate to be exposed to RE early in my career and to then be able to make the career change to Rock Engineering. It is probably the most interesting, challenging and exciting discipline in the mining industry. No two days are the same, no two problems are the same, and no two people are the same. Every day, there is something new and you keep on learning and gaining experience every day.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Covered in 1.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

I think our biggest challenge currently is that our design function is under threat. There is a tendency that we shouldn’t design support to suite, but rather to design for the worst case; if one operation utilises a system, it must be implemented throughout, whether it is relevant or not. It is no longer a case of designing out or reducing the risk in the mining of a block ground, but rather that if there is risk, abandon it. We can only overcome this by educating the prescribers and enlightening them in the principles of Rock Engineering.

5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

I believe we will be required and that we need to play a much larger role in the ongoing planning of workings. The expertise is no longer there, as it used to be, and once again, we need to coach and educate.

6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Confidence. You need to show confidence: when you present a plan, or when you motivate a new support system, mining sequence, whatever. Confidence sells! Even if you yourself are not too confident in what you propose, propose it with confidence.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

I cannot single out one person. There are too many people that I came into contact with in my career who all contributed in my life, whether big or small. Each person has something to offer which will benefit you in some way.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

It’s a golfing tip – Aim high, don’t set a low target because then you will hit the ball low. And it is the same in life, set your goals high.


darrylInterview questions

Full Name: Darryl James Slawson

Position: Senior Rock Engineer

Company/Organisations: Northam Platinum: Booysendal Division

Date and Place of Birth: 13 October 1987, Morningside, Johannesburg

Education: BSc Geology; BSc Hons Environmental Management

First Job: Pharmacy Assistant

Personal Best Achievement/s: Obtaining my Rock Mechanics Ticket

Philosophy of Life: Everything happens for a reason

Favourite Food/Drink: Pasta/Hansa

Favourite Sport: Rugby

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

I started my mining career at AngloGold Ashanti (Tau Tona Mine) in 2011 as a Rock Engineering MT.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Well, I think Rock Engineering chose me …. When I went for an interview at AngloGold Ashanti in 2011, I really had no idea what Rock Engineering was all about. After making it through the second round of interviews and a rather intense psychometric test, I was offered employment at Tau Tona mine. After having done some research about the mine, I automatically felt proud of being an employee of one of the world’s deepest mines. When I started working it was all rather overwhelming, which literally forced me to learn quickly. Within a few weeks of working at Tau Tona, I quickly gained a keen interest in mining and, of course, Rock Engineering. Since then, I’ve always tried to learn and gain as much knowledge as possible. I still have a huge amount to learn and am looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Study … study … study. Take the time to learn from experienced professionals. Never be too scared to ask questions.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

My career in Rock Engineering started on the 5th of April 2011 at Tau Tona Mine. Eight months later, I obtained my Strata Control Ticket. In 2013, I then joined Moab Khotsong Mine where I really learnt a huge amount about Rock Engineering from my peers and supervisors, which stood me in good stead for obtaining my Rock Engineering Ticket in 2014. I have currently worked at Northam Platinum: Booysendal Division for the past year as a Senior Rock Engineer.

4. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

With the current economic climate, and specifically commodity prices, our (Rock Engineering) role in ensuring safe production at the lowest possible cost will become of increasing importance.

5. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Study … study … study. Take the time to learn from experienced professionals. Never be too scared to ask questions.

6. Who is your role model/mentor?

Gary Dukes and Johan Oelofse have had the biggest influence on my career and gave me a huge amount of support and guidance with regard to working towards the Rock Mechanics Ticket.

7. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Never underestimate yourself ….

DF MalanFull Name: Daniel Francois Malan

Position: Senior Rock Engineering Consultant, Part-time Professor

Company/Organisations: Sibanye Gold, University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand

Date and Place of Birth: 4 November 1968, Bethlehem, Free State

Education: PhD (Mining), COM Rock Engineering Certificate

First Job: Chamber of Mines Research Organisation (COMRO)

Personal Best Achievement/s: ISRM Rocha Medal, Surviving a Fish River Canyon hike!

Philosophy of Life: Best summarised in the Gladiator movie: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

Favourite Food/Drink: Red Wine, Roasted leg of lamb

Favourite Sport: Lifting weights in the gym

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

COMRO gave me a bursary to study engineering and I joined them on a full-time basis in 1993. I am currently the Senior Rock Engineering Consultant at Sibanye Gold, but I also do part-time work at both Tuks and Wits where I supervise a number of postgraduate students.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

It was not really my choice, as the Chamber of Mines gave me a bursary to study electronic engineering, provided that I moved into rock engineering after completion of my studies. Of course, my plan at Varsity was never to move into rock engineering! Luckily, I started at COMRO when famous rock engineers, such as John Ryder, Tony Jager, John Napier and Steve Spottiswoode, were still walking the corridors. I immensely enjoyed interacting with these gentlemen and the rock engineering research we did. As a result, I have never looked back.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

COMRO (it later became CSIR Miningtek) provided a good introduction to rock engineering and it gave me the opportunity to do a PhD. I eventually also became Programme Manager of the Rock Engineering Division there. The drawback of this academic environment was that the youngsters who started there never got enough experience “on the face”. Our ability to do research was also questioned by industry practitioners, as many of us never attempted the COM Rock Engineering Ticket examinations. This started to worry me and I joined Groundwork Consulting in 2004. There, I eventually passed my ticket (it took two attempts to pass the practical!). Groundwork taught me much about surviving as a consultant (not easy) and gave me wonderful exposure to platinum rock engineering. Gold Fields approached me in 2011 to join their ranks and this is how I ended up at Sibanye.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

A huge challenge we currently face is caused by the limitations of some of our design criteria. An example I can mention is the difficulty of designing bord and pillar layouts in areas where weak layers intersect the pillars. This has led to spectacular collapses in the recent past. Some of the criteria we use to design deep layouts in seismic areas can also be questioned. It is very disconcerting that no organised research is currently being conducted to improve these criteria. When Prof Nielen van der Merwe wrote his SAIMM paper on Coalbrook in 2006, he asked the question: “Is it conceivable that the most important lesson from Coalbrook, namely that in order to be effective at all, knowledge has to be generated before it is needed, was not learnt?”

A further challenge we face is the loss of expertise needed to write our own boundary element codes for solving tabular mining problems. South Africa was a leader in this field in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, we are now relying on imported codes.

Philosophy of Life: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

We are currently experiencing a low in the commodity cycle and the mines will probably struggle to remain profitable for the next few years. Our role to assist with the profitability of marginal mines will become much more important in future. Unfortunately, this will make our lives more difficult, as safety cannot be compromised in the process.

6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Every career has its ups and downs. It is important to have a vision and then to persevere if things do not always go your way. Something that is also becoming increasingly important in modern society (and I still struggle with this) is to maintain balance in your life. Your family and fun activities are the treasures of life.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

Prof John Napier has been my mentor since I joined COMRO as a student in 1987. I am fortunate to still interact with him, and his mathematical abilities and insight into rock engineering problems are simply awesome. In spite of his brilliance, he has always been a humble man. I have always admired this.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Dr Guner Gürtunca, Director of Miningtek, came into my office in 1995 and all he said was: “Tomorrow I want you to go to Wits and register for a PhD”. Up to that point, I was unsure whether I could successfully complete a PhD. The important lesson is not to fear failure if these opportunities come your way. I am still grateful to Guner for giving me this unsolicited “advice”.


MG BarnardFull Name: Matthew Gary Barnard

Position: Shaft Rock Engineer

Company/Organisations: Anglo American Platinum, Union Mine (Spud Shaft)

Date and Place of Birth: 30th of March 1987, Johannesburg

Education: BSc Geology & Geography (UJ); Honours Geology (UJ); COMSCC; COMRMC

First Job: Rock Engineering Trainee (Anglo American Platinum)

Personal Best Achievement/s: Firstly, my recent marriage to my incredible wife; thereafter comes the various awards that I received during University, most notably achieving Cum Laude, one of the ‘Top 10 Students in the Faculty of Science’ and the ‘Best 4th Year Student Award’ from the GSSA during my Honours Year.

Philosophy of Life: “Take every challenge in your stride. If you think you have it bad, someone else has it worse.”

Favourite Food/Drink: Sushi and red meat.

Favourite Sport: Love watching all sports; golf when it comes to playing a sport.

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

It all started with getting a bursary from Anglo American Platinum at the end of my matric year. Did an exposure year in 2006, and here we are now, almost a decade later; honours degree in Geology and Rock Eng ticket under the belt; Shaft Rock Engineer at AAP Union Mine, Spud Shaft.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Funny story there, actually. Second round of bursary interviews in 2005, the first question that the panel asked me was “Why did you choose Rock Engineering?”; fair question, although I was under the impression that I was there for a Geology Bursary. During the exposure year, my passion developed for the Rock Engineering discipline, and has just grown since then; although I will always be a keen Geologist at heart.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Well to summarise, I have been with Anglo American Platinum for the past decade. My entire post-matric life started with receiving the bursary at the end of 2005, with the condition of first completing the practical exposure year prior to commencing with tertiary studies. Completed my Geology Bachelors and Honours at the University of Johannesburg from 2007 to 2010. From there, I’ve gone from a Rock Engineering Trainee to Shaft Rock Engineer in the past four-and-a-half years. During this time I have worked at a number of the mines within the group, both conventional and trackless.

“Take every challenge in your stride. If you think you have it bad, someone else has it worse.”

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

To be honest, operationally, I think that the biggest problem we are facing as the Rock Engineering fraternity is the poor compliance with standards and procedures; and the associated shift from a design to more of a policing function, resulting from the pressure from the DMR.

5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

With the ever-increasing depth of platinum mining, I believe that understanding the seismic nature of the rock mass and the associated design process will become more important than possibly it has been in the past. And personally I believe that the development systems and support units that are less operator-dependant will be required in order to combat non-compliance.

6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Both the journey and the destination are tough, but the reward of knowing that you make a difference in preserving health and safety is well worth it. It is not an easy career, but nothing worth doing ever is; so persevere and do it.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

Personally, my father has always been my role model and mentor. In my professional life, Graham Priest and Linden Skorpen have been great mentors to me; assisting me to grow within the industry and Rock Engineering discipline.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

A wise man once taught me the premise of ‘stop’, which is vital as an operational Rock Engineer. “(1) Is it to standard? If not, stop; if so, proceed to (2), is it safe? If not, stop; if so, continue.” It may seem obvious, but this advice has aided me in staying firm on health and safety decisions.

temogoFull Name: Temogo Itholeng

Position: Rock Engineer (Unisel and Joel, Welkom, Free-State)

Company/ Organisations: BLA Harmony

Date and Place of Birth: 1983 May 01

Education: BSc Hons Mining-Wits University

First Job: Leaner Miner Rustenburg Townlands shaft

Personal Best Achievement/s: Getting to sign that legal appointment you realise "this is it".

Philosophy of Life: "Surely it can't be that difficult"

Favourite Food/Drink: Some braaivleis and beer

Favourite Sport: Not really into sport, but enjoy some superbike racing

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
It began when I got a scholarship with Wits to do mining engineering in 2002, and 13 years later I am the appointed Rock Engineer at Joel and Unisel shafts.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Actually unplanned and purley coincidental, Anglo-platinum was in a drive to recruit for their Rock Engineering Dept, ran by Dougall Fraser, they gave presentations at Wits as part of the drive and I attended one of those presentations and was interested since then.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
Started off as a leaner miner at Townlands shaft as part of a requirement for the Mining Eng Degree, and realised soon enough I was not cut out for to be a "miner", following completion of my degree (under Rock engineering dept, ADC), started as a trainee in 2006 pursuing my SCO cert. Became SCO at Boschfontein and then moved to Free-State to work for BLA in 2008. Two years later I acquired COMREC in 2010, appointed Rock Eng at Target 3 shaft 2012 until its closure in 2014.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
Being in the operations and all the associated responsibilities we tend to lose touch with the technical side associated with the Engineering. We have become guards against DMR in our attempts to keep complying. Unlike Geotechnical consultants whom are only involved for a part of the project(design phase).

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
As mines become depleted, commodity prices falling, mines getting deeper, difficult and more dangerous and DMR getting stricter we need to look at what can the Rock Engineers do to assist in the survival of the industry.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
All I can say is "surely it can't be that difficult", butt on the chair type approach has worked for most people (committed studying).

Who is your role model/ mentor?
I think Deon Louw, particularly his laid back demeanour in times of heightened stress.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
If you are confident that you did what can possibly be expected of you, by your peers and critics then you don't have to worry.

heinFull Name: Heinrich Greeff

Position: Rock Engineer

Company/ Organisations: New Concept Mining

Date and Place of Birth: 23 September 1984, Parys (Freestate)

Education: Tertiary level Physics and Mathematics, Rock Engineering Certificate

First Job: Assistant Strata Control Officer at AngloGold Ashanti Moab Khotsong Mine

Personal Best Achievement/s: Still have to achieve something of note

Philosophy of Life: Good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement – Jim Horning

Favourite Food/Drink: I think it's a tie between biltong and wine gums

Favourite Sport: Anything that takes you into nature

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
I started working as an Assistant Strata Control Officer at AngloGold Ashanti on Moab Khotsong mine in 2009. Worked in the deep level gold mines till 2013 and then relocated to the diamond fields under De Beers Consolidated Mines. Currently working as a Rock Engineer for New Concept Mining.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Lourens Scheepers came to recruit Physics students at the Northwest University in my final year of studying. His passion for the discipline was contagious and there was opportunity to further develop the science through research. I joined because I wanted to make a difference and be part of that development.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
Most of my time in Rock Engineering was spent on deep level gold mines. I've learned to understand stress and rock movement there a lot better than I imagined to be possible anywhere else. I enjoyed linking theory and actuals and that made it apparent to me that there is room for improvement in our current understanding. Moving away from the gold mines to the diamond fields unearthed my understandings because all of the sudden stress was insignificant and gravity called the shots. Looking back over the few years I've been part of our fraternity, I am excited over what the future might hold.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
Our mines are some of the best laboratories (worldwide) for research and exploring our understanding of mining, however, the Rock Engineering guys on the mines are often consumed by the amount of paperwork that they are responsible for. This halts them from having the time and energy to explore and be creative in their understanding. It is a challenge to not let work obstruct you from doing your work...

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
I believe that in future we will come to understand stress and rock movement better and that this will drastically change the way we perceive quasi static and dynamic events. I believe that Rheology will come into play and that there will be a distinction made between what portions of each occurrence was related to stress stimulus and what was just a result of rock mass movement.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
Don't take shortcuts, just study the entire syllabus – it's worth it.

Make time to look at and monitor the small things in your mining environment. Make time for those interesting trips just to remind you of how cool mining actually is.

Who is your role model/ mentor?
Johan Hanekom is my role model and I strive to have his understanding of physics, mathematics and how to apply this every day.

I have had many mentors through my career this far, but none as influential as Gary Williams. He forever changed the way I look at mining and the role we play in it.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
You have two ears, two hands and one mouth; use them in that ratio

lucilleFull Name: Lucille Cilliers

Position: Rock Engineer

Company/ Organisations: Open House Management Solutions

Date and Place of Birth: 7 September 1968, Welkom Free State

Education: COMRE, AREC

First Job: Clerk at Senwes Cooperation, Klerksdorp

Personal Best Achievement/s: Obtaining my Rock Engineering qualifications in 7 years (of which 2010 was a gap year after I have obtained the COMRE certificate, and 2012 I looked after my father who suffered brain cancer and passed away in the same year. Strictly speaking 5 years of studying)

Philosophy of Life: Respect other people's way of thinking. 6+3=9, but so does 5+4 also produce the same answer. Your way of doing things is not necessarily the best or only way it can be done.

Favourite Food/Drink: Anything that my mother dishes up! Especially if it is oxtail!

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
My career in the mining industry started on 21 August 1990 when I was appointed as clerk at the Trade Accounts Department of Hartebeestfontein Gold Mine. I worked in various sections of the mine's Accounts Department, but was then retrenched during 1999 when the mine downscaled just before DRD closed down. At the very same time of my retrenchment, a new door opened at the Rock Engineering Department where I started working as Secretary in October 1999. In February 2000 Open House Management Solutions was established and the mine's Rock Engineering department was outsourced to the newly founded company. I just transferred as secretary to the new company and then acted as Personal Assistant to Koos Bosman, the then Managing Director of Open House.

Working in the same position for almost eight years eventually became non-challenging and started to frustrate me. After complaining to Koos about my frustration, he encouraged me to start studying and directed me in the direction of becoming a Rock Engineer. On 7 August 2007 I undertook my first "experimental" underground visit and this was the beginning of a new life to me.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Rock Engineering chose me! I do believe that this was directed by God who opened new doors and who also gave me the strength to start and to prevail in this career.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
My Rock Engineering career started when someone else believed in my abilities - that I could do it, even before I thought so myself. I remember 6 August 2007 very well. I once again was complaining about my frustration and Koos suggested that I should consider a career in Rock Engineering. An hour later an underground visit for the next day was organised. After returning from the underground trip the next day, with a: "en was dit nou so erg?", Koos, handed Jager and Ryder's handbook to me. This posed an exciting challenge that I grabbed with both hands.

Since then I studied on and worked in different mining environments such as deep level gold mines, multi reef chrome mines, and open pit mines. I obtained the Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificate in 2009 and the Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate during 2014. I'm currently part of the consulting team at Open House.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
In my opinion South Africa faces some of the most severe rock engineering challenges in the world with ageing mines and new developing mines creating a diverse scope of rock engineering demands. This ever-changing landscape requires people who are pro-active in their approach, and therefore Rock Engineers should be encouraged to equip themselves with unceasing knowledge in order not to stagnate - especially those on shafts who have become accustomed with what they have been doing for so long.

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
I do believe that technology and new or better modelling programmes will become increasingly advanced and that the future of any professional rock engineer will depend on how technologically advanced his approach to design development will be.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
Making a career change took hard work, dedication, determination and a positive attitude and I must admit that I wouldn't have achieved this if it was not for those who stood by me. Ensure that you have relatives, friends and colleagues that support you! People made a difference - people who believed in me, people who gave me the chance and supported me. This also makes me believe that I can make a difference in other people's lives.

Who is your role model/ mentor?
Koos Bosman CEO of Open House Management Solutions. If it was not for his understanding, positive support and motivation, not to mention the Saturdays and public holidays he sacrificed helping me with the studies, I would most probably still be complaining about the disheartening office work.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
From my father – budget and don't buy on credit

rock starFull Name: Thokozani Sidwell Habile

Position: Senior Rock Engineering Officer

Company/ Organisations: AngloGold Ashanti

Date and Place of Birth: 1986 04 30, Piet Retief, Mpumalanga

Education: BSc Honours Computational and Applied Mathematics (Wits)

First Job: Promoting Saturday Star at Clearwater mall (Roodeport)

Personal Best Achievement/s: Achieving my honors degree at Wits and Rock engineering ticket.

Philosophy of Life: Limitations are those you set in your mind, or permit others to set up for you.

Favourite Food/Drink: Pap and braai meat with gravy and spinach

Favourite Sport: Soccer, Cricket

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

My career began at Wits University (2004-2008) where I completed my applied maths degree. In 2009 I started in the rock engineering department as an assistant strata control officer where I was doing the numerical modelling for west wits mines and doing instrumentations for projects in place. Then I felt a need of underground exposure which then directed me to Nostrada Rock Mechanics in the Rustenburg where I was working as a Strata control Officer for a year. A year later I moved to BLA (Harmony Kusasalethu mine) which was my first time working as a Rock mechanics officer in a Gold mine, I learned a lot there I must say. Due to personal and reason and moving closer to my family in Mpumalanga, year later I joined Great Basin Gold and by that time I just passed all my 3 Rock mechanics papers. I got retrenched after a month of working there then I returned to AngloGold Ashanti in October 2012 where I got my Rock engineering ticket after 5 attempts. I was appointed as Senior Rock Engineering Officer in 2015.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Rock engineering is technical and it involves lot of mathematics for most decision made in the industry, so that makes it easy for me to understand the concepts used.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

My career journey from high to university was nice and smooth, it started challenging when failed my practical 4 times and that frustrated me a lot because it never happen in my life. But that never stopped me from becoming a rock engineer in fact I became a better rock engineer because I started reading articles and researching about mining. Failing has helped me not only understand my mine but understand the principle of rock engineering so I can be able to apply my knowledge at any mine.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

There are 3 challenges I think rock engineering is facing.

  • Rock engineers in the shafts don't have enough time to research and design as shaft work require them to do underground visit and routine rock engineering work. We rely too much on work done by previous rock engineers.
  • There is a lack of transfer of knowledge from experienced rock engineers to the new up and coming ones.
  • The Strata Control Officers having to write reports for the Rock Engineering Practical with content, which they are not exposed to on daily basis.

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

  • Understanding seismicity and Modelling will be more important as the mines are becoming deeper.
  • The legal responsibilities will be stricter as government is heading for zero harm in the mine industry.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Do not take a decision that you won't be able to defend when problems arises in future.

Who is your role model/ mentor?

Mr Gary Dukes

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

"When in doubt say no".

noelInterview questions

Full Name

Noel Delphin Fernandes


Group Rock Engineering Manager

Company/ Organisations

Impala Platinum Mines

Date and Place of Birth

1961/12/24 Virginia OVS


Barberton High School

First Job

Onsetter School Holidays, Electrical Apprenticeship Sheba Gold Mine in Barberton, then started as a learner official mining at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine.

Personal Best Achievement/s

Establishing a great rock engineering department which has stayed together for so many years. When rock engineers were travelling around following all the best paid jobs the Impala team stayed together. We fight a lot but all for the right reasons.

Philosophy of Life

If you don’t like it don’t do it. Life is too short to do something you don’t like to do.

Favourite Food/Drink

Typically porra, perri perri prawns and Coke

Favourite Sport

To watch Rugby and Athletics and did karate for many years. Now I get “milt steek” watching sport on TV.

Philosophy of Life: If you don’t like it don’t do it.
Life is too short to do something you don’t like to do.


1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

Started as a learner official mining 1983 and joined rock engineering in 1985 as an observer.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Did not have the “balls” to do mining and asked for a transfer to rock engineering.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Not a nice story to tell but let me give it a shot. I was asked to leave the apprenticeship training facility at Anglovaal because of an argument with my trainer Mr Murning. Fortunately there was a vacancy for a mining learner official at Buffeltsfontein Gold Mine Gencor. Did not enjoy production and got into trouble for always arguing with my line management, was then transferred to the rock engineering department and have never looked back. Left Buffelsfontein Gold Mine in 1989 to join Vaal Reefs as an SCO, then joined Bafokeng South Platinum Mine (Impala Platinum) as a Rock Engineer stayed with them until 1996, joined Rustenburg Platinum from June 1996 to December 1997 and then returned to Impala Platinum end of 1997. Was appointed as the Rock Engineering Manager for Impala in March 1999 and was appointed Group Rock Engineering Manager for Implats in 2008.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

Firstly a lot of people have passed their rock engineering certificate lately and been pushed into rock engineering positions without the necessary experience, but this is a South African problem and we see it happening in the mining fraternity as well. Secondly the youngsters are getting involved with the setting of the examinations and practical exams. I believe here we lose a lot of the practical, hands-on issues that don’t get mentored to the newer generation. We need to blame the older generations as we don’t want to get involved enough and it will be nice to see them getting more involved again. Thirdly because the rock engineering fraternity is used by management and to a small degree the DMR to act as “policemen” to measure compliance, it is now becoming the responsibility of the rock engineering department to insure compliance. Compliance needs to stay the responsibility of line management.

5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

Historically Rock Engineering departments were small, but are getting larger and one will need to learn the skill to work with people.

“Surround yourself with people with different skills and people you can trust.” 


6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Be honest with yourself and with management, never shy away from telling the truth. It will at times cause constellation, remember rock engineers will never win a popularity contest with line management.

7. Who is your role model/ mentor?

I have been very fortunate to have worked with great leaders in the rock engineering. The first to come to mind is Roger More-O-Farrell, he was phenomenal with the rock engineering principles and he has the ability to surround himself with strong rock engineers who understood mining as well as rock engineering. In mining I worked for Senior Managers who were outstanding in their jobs such as John Smithies and Pieter Anderson but I must mention Mr Paul Visser who helped develop my management skills on how to get the job done and to trust the people working with me. Lastly Tinus Gericke has brought back the passion for the “job”.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I have ever been given was “Surround yourself with people with different skills and people you can trust.” I have been blessed to be surrounded with great hard working people of whom many have better skills than I have.

9. Who has influenced my life the most?

It might sound cliché my wife Anrea has really turned my life around, taught me to be more patient and caring. My team will testament to that, they say I have changed a lot and for the better. My daughters, they keep my feet on the ground, ready to tell me if I have messed things up.

andreasInterview questions

Full Name:

Andreas (Andre) Petrus Esterhuizen


Rock Engineering Manager - Eastern Bushveld

Company/ Organisations:

I am employed byOpen House Management Solutions, and I am a member of SANIRE and SIAMM

Date and Place of Birth:

I was born in Klerksdorp on 14 April 1981 – the same day as the Lincoln assassination and the day the Titanic struck the ice berg. (Apparently not the luckiest day of the year?)


After a brief stint at university I obtained my COM Strata Control and Rock Engineering Certificates. Following that, I obtained an Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate from Wits.

First Job:

Computer programmer for a company focused on modernising the agricultural sector.

Personal Best Achievement/s:

Professionally- to date the quality and success of the rock engineering function at Two Rivers Platinum mine, which has since become leading practise, is something that I am very proud off. As with everything, I can’t take all the credit for the success of the system, but I played a large part in the early development.

Personally, I hold black belts in three different styles of Karate and represented South -Africa internationally.

Philosophy of Life:

The saying “You don’t find yourself, you create yourself” comes to mind. I firmly believe that we are not born for a specific purpose, but that our lives obtain meaning through what we do and how we affect world and those around us.

Favourite Food/Drink:

I love shepherd’s pie and pasta and a good red wine.

Favourite Sport:

I am an avid Sharks rugby supporter and enjoy boxing and all forms of martial arts.

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

I started off working in the Seismology Department at Harties in 2001, which lasted for 8 months. The following year I transferred to the Rock Engineering Department and obtained my SCO ticket. I was transferred to Two Rivers Platinum near Lydenburg in 2005, where I obtained my Rock Engineering Certificate and AREC. I am currently managing the largest department (by number of employee) within OHMS, and I am responsible for on-site contractual as well as consulting services for mines situated within Mpumalanga, Limpopo and most recently also Zambia.

‘Never present problems without solutions.’ 

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

What attracted me most in the beginning of my career was the opportunity to work in a young developing field of science. I love to read and research just about anything in an effort to continually better myself and my general knowledge, and this field suited my personality perfectly. There are no quick fixes, in order to be successful you must have a passion for understanding what you see around you, and aim to find practical solutions to real problems.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

I started off in OHMS’s Seismology Department as a Seismic Processor at Harties. During this period I was exposed to- and became interested in Rock Engineering, as both departments were managed by our company. When a vacancy opened up in the Rock Engineering Department I requested to be transferred and became a Learner Strata Control Officer. I obtained my SCO ticket 4 months later. After that I was transferred to the Eastern Bushveld where I matured into a qualified Rock Engineering Manager. I have been very fortunate in my career to date to be associated with both fantastic Rock Engineers and Mine Managers who had significant influences on my career.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

The level of competence within the fraternity is definitely increasing and we are producing competent engineers. However, I recently became aware of the fact that most rock engineers have very limited exposure. Whilst they might be experts on their specific mines and environments, they falter as soon as their environments change. This leads to complacency and stagnation. I am in favour of a system whereby all qualified rock engineers are required to refresh their qualification on a set and regular basis.  

On the flip side, the level of competence in the mining industry – especially on the production front, is decreasing rapidly. This results in rock engineers spending more time policing, and less time on actual design work, which obviously influences job satisfaction.

"Philosophy of Life: The saying “You don’t find yourself, you create yourself” comes to mind. I firmly believe that we are not born for a specific purpose, but that our lives obtain meaning through what we do and how we affect the world and those around us.”


5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

As mining continues to advance deeper and deeper, we need to obtain a better understanding of rock mass behaviour to stress. Stable pillar design also has a lot of room for improvement. As a gadget lover, I would love to see more research and the introduction of more electronic technologies such as digital image processing, pattern recognition and more sophisticated means of measurement.

6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. Work hard, be meticulous, and be interested in what you do. My three favourite quotes are:

  1. You are the product of your environment, so choose carefully the environment that will best develop you toward your objective.
  2. Never present problems without solutions.
  3. You don’t always get what you deserve, but you always get what you work for.

7. Who is your role model/ mentor?

I have a lot of role models. There are many of my friends, family members, colleges and even subordinates that I look up to and who’s opinion I regard very highly.

My mentor, and without doubt the largest influence in my professional career, is Koos Bosman, who has instilled in me a deep love of rock engineering, research, knowledge and red wine.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Distinguish between what is important and what is urgent” and my favourite: “Own your mistakes, and then move on”.


Mbulelo Ngwenya, a younger rock engineer, chatted to Rock Talk about his career thus far. Read on to find out more about him and his ideas.

Mbulelo Ngwenya PhotoRockTalk: How did your career in the mining industry begin?
Mbulelo: My career in the mining industry began through a training scheme referred to as Management In Training (MIT) by AngloGold Ashanti in 2006. A year and few months later, I joined Goldfields, where I continued with my rock engineering training until I obtained a Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificate.

RockTalk: What got you into rock engineering?
Mbulelo: The desire to take up challenge, to venture into a field where minds constantly look up for better ways to mine and to contribute meaningfully in the interest of safe production.

RockTalk: What are some of the qualities needed to do what you do?
Mbulelo: Be a team oriented worker, deliver beyond expectations and be firm in decision making.

RockTalk: You initially worked as an appointed rock engineer on a hard-rock deep level conventional gold mine. What are some of the triumphs and challenges that you experienced in this environment?
Mbulelo: The triumphs that stand out for me are: I have always retained pride in my work. I make sure that the value of rock engineering is realised, right from management level to the guy who works in a stope. I have worked on projects with renowned leaders in the industry. I was fortunate to work on a large-scale operation (by employee corps size and production volume) and the deepest shaft of the Driefontein Mine, Goldfields.

I think challenges I had to deal with involved people who don't easily adapt to a new or right way of doing things and fail to acknowledge that times are changing, technology is evolving and therefore a mindset change is inevitable.

RockTalk: You then left deep level mining to take up a similar role on a shallow hard-rock mechanised platinum operation. Why the move?
Mbulelo: The move was solely influenced by a need for diversification of skills; and to learn new mining techniques applied to shallow hard-rock platinum operation – for instance, to gain exposure to mechanisation.

RockTalk: What are some of the striking differences between a conventional deep level gold environment and a shallow incline/decline platinum environment?
Mbulelo: The work culture is different. Conventional mining at deep level is considered the norm, but in a shallow mine where a shaft will have a mix of conventional and mechanised mining taking place, conventional mining is perceived as "hard work" and the latter "smart work" and mostly preferred.

RockTalk: Who or what motivates you?
Mbulelo: Jerry Wienand. His knowledge of rock engineering practice is invaluable and he brings out the best in people.

RockTalk: What role has mentorship played in your growth as a rock engineer?
Mbulelo: Mentorship has helped me a lot. No matter how smart you are in the game, you still need the veterans to tell you the dos and the don'ts.

RockTalk: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Mbulelo: Don't mistake a calm spirited person for a weak person.

RockTalk: What advice would you offer people aspiring to go into rock engineering?
Mbulelo: Rock engineering is an interesting science and a good profession, but if you aspire to be a rock engineer, remember to carry peoples' lives in your heart because these depend on the decisions you make.

RockTalk: In your opinion, what are some of challenges facing young rock engineers?
Mbulelo: Not being given enough exposure to high level projects and working with managers who act clueless about your duties and responsibilities.

RockTalk: How do you unwind?
Mbulelo: By spending quality time with my wife, Mmapula, and my daughter, Karabo.

A few questions elicited a wealth of information from Dr Michael Roberts, whose definitive doctoral research yielded the the 95% fallout height criteria. Find out what he had to say about this and other issues.

Dr Michael Roberts PhotoRockTalk: What is your educational background?
Mike: BSc (Hons) Geology, Wits. 1974.
MSc in Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics. Royal School of Mines, Imperial College, London. 1977.
COMREC Number 63.1981
PhD in Mining Engineering, Wits. 1999.

RockTalk: How did your career within the mining industry begin? What got you into Rock Engineering?
Mike: In my second year at Wits, 1971, I was lectured by Dr Nick Gay on rock deformation, stress strain etc. and I have been hooked to this day. In order to specialise in rock engineering in those years, I had to go to the UK where Imperial College, London offered an MSc degree over a year, lectures 9 am to 5 pm every day plus a thesis. I did the Structural Geology and Rock Mechanics option. The thesis was on the state of stress in the granites of the Cornish tin mining district in SW England. I was supported by my wife at this time. She worked in London courtesy of dual British/South African citizenship.

I joined Randfontein Estates Gold Mine, a 650 000 t/m mine in the JCI group, in 1977 and was appointed Rock Engineering Manager in 1981 after getting my Rock Engineering Certificate. I had a staff of ± 12 persons. (Sounds young at 31 years old but Andy Haile was 26 when he was appointed Rock Engineering Manager for Kloof Gold mine).

Randfontein Estates Gold Mine was a moderate depth gold mine, but large portions were mechanised, with seam heights of up to 20 metres and multiseam mining. Crush pillars and elongates replaced grout pack support in the conventional mining sections. Any poor layout was immediately penalised by stress.

After 8 years on the mine, in 1985, I joined the Chamber of Mines Research Organisation and began a career in research that lasted 23 years. I authored or co-authored 54 papers, portions of three rock engineering books and many research reports in that time, and was an NRF rated researcher. All this time I was available as a consultant and undertook a lot of such work in many different commodities and countries. Over a four-year period, I was the Programme Manager in charge of all rock engineering research at COMRO, later MININGTEK, with a staff of between 70 and 90 rock engineers. Difficult to manage, but what talent! I remember Ray Durrheim, Matthew Handley, Andy Haile, Debbie Self, Marianne Macellari, Francois Malan, Arno Daehnke, John Napier, John Ryder and Steve Spottisswoode, among many others.

In 2008 I joined TWP as Head of the Rock Engineering Department with the brief to build up the department, which was done very enjoyably; I was also involved in some very challenging projects and got to further understand the Northern Cape manganese mines. TWP is now known as Worley Parsons TWP, as it was bought by Worley Parsons in early 2013. I formally retired in October 2013, but have been retained by WorleyParsonsTWP as a Rock Engineering Consultant Principal.

RockTalk: Which mining environments have you worked in?
Mike: All underground mining environments are familiar to me, however I have done only a small amount of work on coal. I have always preferred the hard rock mines.

RockTalk: What are some of the highlights of your career
Mike: In the 1990s and up to about 2003, there were teams from COMRO/Miningtek who went into recent rockburst sites in order to understand the physics involved when a rock burst occurred. Recent meant no disturbance at the site except to retrieve those injured. Each one of these investigations was written up. These reports still exist within SIMRAC and I have copies, as does Professor Ray Durrheim. A lot of the understanding gained is in current textbooks.
For about 20 years I was fortunate to travel and observe the world's mining industry first hand. I went underground in India, China, Canada, and Australia many times, as well as in other countries such as Finland and Mexico. It is a truism that all mines can be dark, damp and uncomfortable, independent of their geographical location.

RockTalk: Who or what has motivated you over your career span?
Mike: Tony Jager, Dave Ortlepp and Nick Gay

RockTalk: Would you say the Rock Engineering discipline has changed over the years?
Mike: No, you still have to make the call based on incomplete data and you have to use engineering judgement wisely.

RockTalk: Your PhD work is renowned for developing support design criteria; the 95% fallout criterion for rockfalls and the 95% ejection thickness criterion for rockbursts. What prompted you to do this research? Was it easy to get the mining industry to adopt your criteria?
Mike: I was always interested in support design. When I joined COMRO, it was to head up the research in the support section. With respect to getting the mining industry buy-in, it was easy in a sense that no credible criteria existed before – difficult to believe, but true.

RockTalk: Over the years, the criterion has been misinterpreted and/or abused, what were your original objective and conditions for the criteria?
Mike: The 95% fallout criterion (for rockfalls) and the 95% ejection thickness criterion (for rockbursts) were proposed in my PhD after my analysis of a large rock related fatal accident database developed within the SIMRAC project GAP032. In this study, it was found that the inclusion of 95% of all fatal accident data, actually just excluded the remaining 5% of those fatal accidents where the mining layout had a big impact on the fall of ground or rockburst ejection thickness. As would be expected, the largest falls were often affected or created by the poor mining layout and would thus be seen as controllable by layout modification rather than by support. There was never the intention to design to only 95% of all falls of ground or ejection thicknesses; rather this would represent all possible falls of ground or ejection thicknesses not influenced by layout.

I have noticed the misinterpretation of such data over the years, but perhaps less than perceived. I have always assumed that a certificated rock engineer will recognise that a 95% fallout thickness criterion based on a fatal accident database will be different from a 95% fallout thickness criterion based simply on fallouts that occurred on the mine and would determine his criteria accordingly.
Ultimately, the legally responsible rock engineer must be able to defend his determination of criteria used to design support systems. Don't get this wrong, the ultimate bad scenario can be as bad as cross-examination by a hostile lawyer with an expert witness by his side at a fatality inquiry, leading to negligence charges, so any rock engineer would be foolish to leave himself/herself exposed in this way.

RockTalk: In your opinion, is the level of rock engineering related research these days the same as it was in your heyday? If there are any gaps, what do you think can be done?
Mike: The rock engineering research capability in the mining industry is poor and the CSIR must accept some blame in this respect, around decisions made about eight to 10 years ago.
A big research gap is further understanding of flexural slip thrust faults (domes) in the Bushveld Complex. They have killed untold numbers of people over the years.

RockTalk: What two rock engineering issues do you think remain unresolved in the South African mining industry? How can these issues be addressed?
Mike: How to use Excess Sheer Stress for design credibly; and
What is the physics involved in the path to failure when a rock falls out of the sidewall or hangingwall? We have all seen this, a rock falls out of the hangingwall after two weeks (months) of exposure. What is the physics of time-dependent failure?

RockTalk: What are some of challenges facing younger rock engineers today?
Mike: Don't get railroaded by managers or project managers. Say it how it is; don't compromise technically.

RockTalk: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Mike: Believe the physics. If the physics says it will collapse or stay stable, it will.

RockTalk: What advice would you give the younger generation rock engineers?
Mike: Get underground at every opportunity and make sure you know all mining methods intimately.

RockTalk: When you're not working, how do you unwind?
Mike: I enjoy reading

Koos Bosman co-founded Open House Management Solutions thirteen years ago. RockTalk caught up with him recently. Join our chat.

Koos Bosman PictureRockTalk: When and how did your career within the mining industry begin? What got you into rock engineering?
Koos: I started as a Learner Official, Mining, on 1 January 1987, at Hartebeestfontein Gold Mine. At the instigation of Roger Dixon, I changed career paths in March 1990, and I've never looked back. I jumped fence for nine months to work for Anglogold, but went back to Harties. I started Open House Management Solutions with Andy Brown in January 2000.

RockTalk: What is your educational background?
Koos: I started off with a National Diploma (Metalliferous Mining) at Wits Technikon, followed by a National Higher Diploma (Rock engineering) under Dave Ortlepp. I completed the Anglo Advanced Certificate with lectures by Essie Esterhuizen. I did GDE and M.Eng at Wits under Prof Ozbay, Prof Budavari and Prof Stacey.

RockTalk: What are some of the qualities needed to do what you do?
Koos: A passion for rock engineering, patience, commitment, and focus.

RockTalk: You co-founded a rock engineering firm, Open House Management Solutions. Where did Open House Management Solutions come from?
Koos: Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD) purchased Hartebeestfontein in 1999. They did not employ rock engineers at any of their other operations, as they outsourced the rock engineering function to Andy Brown. In the latter half of 1999, Andy and I got together, formed OHMS and started to provide rock engineering and seismology services to DRD.

RockTalk: What is the key principle or philosophy that has contributed to the success of your organisation?
Koos: The successes that we have had over the past 14 years can be attributed to excellent team work and a focus on making a real contribution to the operations of our clients. Dedication, hard work and honesty also play a large role.

RockTalk: What are some of the highlights of your career?
Koos: I have had many highlights. The one thing that I consider the most significant is the brilliant people that I have had the good fortune to work for and work with. At the hazard of excluding somebody, some of the most important are Dave Ortlepp, Dave Arnold, Danie Ras, Dion Booyens and Gerrie van Aswegen. These individuals shaped me in many ways, not just technically.

RockTalk: Who or what has motivated you over your career span?
Koos: I think that a desire to understand is the principle driver of my motivation to do good work. I hate quick fixes, gut feel and rules of thumb.

RockTalk: Would you say the rock engineering discipline has changed over the years? If it has, what are some of the distinct changes that you have noted?
Koos: The discipline has changed a lot during my short time in rock engineering. Some changes have been good and some bad.

Some of the good ones relate to the technical level at which we operate today. I believe we have a lot more to use in terms of methodology and design principle. We understand many things a lot better. The focus on making a difference in the safety of workers in the underground environment has also improved significantly, in my opinion.

On the negative side, I believe that practising rock engineers are not being offered sufficient time to perform sound design work. The need to participate in endless meetings and the continuous (almost obsessive) deployment of rock engineers as auditors of standard practices is slowly eroding our ability to perform real design work.

RockTalk: Which two rock engineering issues do you think remain unresolved in the South African mining industry? How can these issues be addressed?
Koos: It is difficult to isolate just two issues. I believe the dynamics behind the sudden violent response of a stressed, brittle, rock mass is still not well understood, despite some really good improvements in the knowledge base.
The contribution of time in the failure process is perhaps also an issue that we do not understand very well.

RockTalk: Within the rock engineering discipline, which are some of the areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future?
Koos: With the turmoil in economies and mineral prices, I foresee mine owners increasing the degree of scrutiny of rock engineering designs at all levels to justify the safety, cost and efficiency. We will be required to think a lot more out of the box; to provide safe designs that improve efficiency and decrease cost.

RockTalk: You qualified for your Rock Engineering Certificate in 1991. In your experience, is the ticket a good system or do we need to system like the ECSA Professional Registration system?
Koos: No qualification will ever be perfect; therefore I do not think that the current system is perfect. However, I believe that the current system behind the COMREC is vastly better than it used to be. There are still improvements to be made, however there very passionate people out there driving this and therefore I have no doubt that the certificate and the system driving it will improve even further. The , advent of detailed syllabi and excellent learning material are huge improvements.
The certificate will never be sufficient means to establish whether an individual is fit to practise. The practical assessment is aiming at establishing this, yet it has not proven to be sufficient. More must and is being done to improve this part of the certification.
I believe that proper mentoring is lacking at this time. There is a strong case to be made that up-and-coming rock engineers are not sufficiently guided in the art of practising as a rock engineer.
The shortage of certificated rock engineers and the need for Management to appoint a certificated person has unfortunately resulted in persons being appointed that have not had sufficient exposure at the right levels.

RockTalk: What are some of challenges facing younger rock engineers today?
Koos: Perhaps this is a question that should be directed at the younger Rock Engineers. It may be good to listen to what they have to say. In my opinion, being given the space to do proper design work and not get bogged down in day-to-day issues is a big challenge.

RockTalk: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Koos: I have received a lot of good advice over the years. The first piece of advice that I received as a learner official was that one should avoid slipping up. A persons slip-ups will live with him a lot longer than his successes. It is human nature to remember another person's blunders rather than their successes.

RockTalk: What advice would you give all the generations of rock engineers?
Koos: Never stop reading and questioning, always improve your understanding.
Remain humble and grow from the criticism, advice and mentoring from your seniors.
There is power in numbers, never underestimate the power of working in a team.

RockTalk: How do you unwind?
Koos: I am an amateur photographer and pursue all aspects of nature photography. Birds are a favourite subject. I also like playing with lightning, star trails, and time lapse photography.

William JoughinKeeping up the good work and making SANIRE even better – that's what William Joughin, SANIRE's new President, hopes to achieve in his two years in office.

As a strong team player, William Joughin is looking to his fellow SANIRE Council members to help him achieve great things for SANIRE while he is in office.
He says: "As SANIRE President, I intend to steer our council to maintain and improve the current functions our institute provides."
Several components will come together to achieve this:

  • The rock engineering examinations (Yolande Jooste);
  • Developing the future education of rock engineers (Jody Thomspon);
  • Communication through the website (Jaco le Roux) and newsletter (Lawrence Rwodzi);
  • Compiling the history of rock engineering (Dave Arnold);
  • Administration and finance (Friedemann Essrich);
  • Maintaining close ties with sister organisations (Robert Armstrong), such as the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), South African National Committee on Tunnelling (SANCOT), the South African institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE) Geotech division, the South African Institute of Engineering Geologists (SAIEG) and the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA);
  • Liaison with the Chamber of Mines (CoM) Rock Engineering Technical Committee (RETC) (Les Gardner, Riaan Carstens and Dave Arnold) and the Mine Qualifications Authority (Dave Neal);
  • Monitoring rock engineering research activities and influencing the direction of research (Jannie Maritz);
  • Maintaining links to the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) (Jacques Lucas);
  • Placing increased emphasis on young members (Jannie Maritz); and
  • Continuing to recognise outstanding rock engineering practitioners through the SANIRE Awards (Michael Du Plessis). A new award for the best paper by a young professional, the Dave Ortlepp award, will be introduced.

Exciting developments

William continues: "I personally liaise with the SAIMM as an elected council member and play an active role on the Publications Committee (SAIMM Journal) and the Technical Program Committee, which organises conferences and seminars. During my term, we plan to organise and host three international conferences: SARES 2014, Slope Stability 2015 (Chairman – Robert Armstrong) and AfriRock 2016. AfriRock 2016 will also be the first African rock engineering symposium (ISRM regional symposium) and we are bidding for it to be recognised as the ISRM international symposium in 2015."

He is pleased that the process of grandfathering of surface mining rock engineers with the purpose of awarding CoM Rock Engineering Certificates has commenced. Glen McGavigan and Gerhard Keyter imitated it to ensure that existing qualified and experienced open pit rock engineering practitioners are recognised as legally competent.

A committee will be established to develop a framework of rock engineering competency, which will be led by Glen McGavigan. Guidelines for levels and areas of competency in rock engineering will be established.

Sound base

William is encouraged by the fact that, during the past four years, the SANIRE financial reserves have increased significantly. He explains why: "We intend to use the current surplus of funds to the benefit of our members. Video lectures on important and interesting rock engineering topics are to be created, which will be freely available to all members through the website. Also, the Salamon and Dave Ortlepp awards will include an overseas trip to a relevant international conference to present the winning paper."

In conclusion, William says: "I am fortunate to have a very strong and dedicated SANIRE Council and I look forward to working with them over the next two years."

Meet William

William Joughin is a Principal Mining Geotechnical Engineer and Partner of SRK South Africa. He is a South African professional engineer with over 20 years' experience in mining and rock engineering. He holds a BSc Mining Engineering, MSc Engineering, CoM Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate, and a Mine Manager's Certificate of Competency, all from the University of the Witwatersrand.
William gained operational experience on the deep South African gold mines before joining SRK in 1998. He has subsequently provided consultancy services for mining projects on five continents, with various orebody geometries and rock mass characteristics, exploited with a wide range of mining methods.

A specialist in geotechnical investigation, numerical modelling, seismic risk analysis, rockburst and rockfall risk analysis applied in the design of underground mining excavations, William has over 40 publications in journals, books and conference proceedings in the field of rock engineering. He has received an SAIMM gold medal and the Alec Wilson Award for outstanding papers.

He and his wife, Sharon, have two sons, Michael (10) and Brandon (12). They love getting outdoors, into nature, and often spend time hiking, particularly at Retiefskloof in the Magaliesberg.

William also enjoys taking the boys mountain biking and regularly enters cycling events such as the 94.7 Cycle Challenge.
When he takes a moment to sit still, he enjoys watching rugby or the Tour de France and reading, particularly popular science publications and Terry Pratchett novels.

George Brinch

Working beyond normal retirement age has enabled George Brinch to enjoy overseas family get-togethers and to mentor others. He says: "I enjoy my work by helping others. I have always said I will work while my health allows it, while I still enjoy it and while I feel I am being compensated enough. In my work I will always strive to improve mining and mine design, as well as mentor as many as I can. I'm a non-conformist, so I question numerous rock engineering principles".

George Brinch started out as a learner official in 1966, but soon moved into rock engineering. He says “I got frustrated with mundane production. I found it to the same thing over and over as a shift boss. I heard about rock mechanics and was interested. It took me a year to obtain a post as a strata control officer at the end of November 1972.” His career has been punctuated by his obtaining qualification after qualification, culminating in a Graduate Diploma in Engineering, Rock Mechanics, through the University of the Witwatersrand in 2001. George returned to production four times during his career to enable him to advance further in the mines, but was always drawn back to rock engineering. “Chasing money and higher positions did not ever pay off for me,” he states. “I am a rock engineer, and a good one.” His involvement in SANIRE goes back to the earliest days and he values being involved in regional committees and meetings. “I enjoy hearing and seeing other mines’ presentations and attending seminars in South Africa. These provide a forum where I can gain experience and knowledge to assist me in providing an improved service; as well as a means to question the norms or principles.”
Picture: George and Pat went on Western Mediterranean cruise in June 2011 and visited the northern most tip of Malorca


In fact, achieving and questioning the more rigid rock engineering principles is what George enjoys most about his job as a rock engineering manager at Great Noligwa Mine for AngloGold Ashanti. He particularly enjoys proving some of the principles not quite true. “For instance, there’s the 45 degree over stoping /distressing rule; can you develop immediately ahead of an abutment – yes; can you develop beneath a pillar within the normal critical middling – yes, depending upon the size of the pillar, it varies in each region (West Wits to Vaal River to Free State),” he enthuses. George is concerned that there seem to be “no ‘old timers’ like me left to mentor the ‘younger’ generation”. He feels the new generation is relying on theory and computer modelling too much. “Yes, it is the safe approach, but not always correct and a lot of gold and platinum could be lost as a result.” George senses that our mining industry is slowly shrinking and says: “It is a challenge to ensure that we have enough qualified people. The future may not be in South Africa, as it was in the South African mining industry’s heyday.”

Near disaster

In 1987, George’s rock engineering career was nearly cut short. “A rockburst buried and killed eight labourers and I was initially blamed for it. I was eventually exonerated by SRK Consultants, but immediately after the event a number people from Head Office said my management and the group rock engineer should fire me,” he recounts. Apart from that, he experienced a fall-of-ground incident that caused a few stitches. He jokes: “I could be construed as a bull in a china shop – but a bull that has had no catastrophes that can be placed behind my name!”

Soul mate

George says he takes his hat off to his lovely wife, Pat, and to their three daughters. “They had to bear all my moving form mine to mine and job to job.” He says Pat has remained his soul mate throughout, and he could not love Shelly, Julie and Lyndell more. Shelly is an SAP consultant and lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters, Julie and her two daughters live in Johannesburg and Lyndell lives in Essex with her husband, daughter and twin boys. George and Pat love travelling, in South Africa and overseas. They plan to spend July visiting England and Switzerland and enjoying a Rhine cruise to Amsterdam, and Christmas in the United States. George also enjoys watching sport, particularly rugby and football, which Pat dislikes.

Shaun MurphyFrom his birth in Springs in 1957 to the present, mines and mining towns have provided the backdrop to Shaun Murphy's adventures and achievements. He shares some of these for you to read here.

Springs, Stilfontein and Klerksdorp were the towns where Shaun spent his schooldays as a swimming addict, representing Western Transvaal on numerous occasions. He credits his swimming coach with teaching him about perseverance, blood, sweat and tears on the road to success.

Like the rest of his generation of white South African men, he then headed off to do his military service, which provided him with an experience he will never forget.

"Visiting a water hole in the Caprivi Strip, we got out of our vehicle to find a good hiding place," Shaun relates. "One of the guys said, 'Here's a lion print... Oh! Look how the water is still running into it. The lion must be close by.' Just then, the lion roared. We were all suddenly back in the vehicle and racing away as fast as possible. I didn't realise until that moment that you can make a diesel truck move like a sports car."

Steady climb

Shaun then worked for Anglo American Corporation (AAC) from 1977 to 1985 as a Learner Official and a Shift Overseer. He gained a National Mining Diploma from Wits Technikon in 1984.He was retrenched, which prompted him to move to Buffelsfontein gold mine and start his rock engineering career. Rock engineering attracted him because he had formed an interest in computer science.

It was also during his time at Buffelsfontein that Shaun joined Sanire, which he has found to provide an environment in which he can socialise and discuss work issues with his peers.

Shaun didn't see Buffelsfontein gold mine as likely to have a long-term life, so he moved to Impala Platinum, where he gained his Rock Mechanics Certificate from the Chamber of Mines in 1993. However, the potential for promotion was low, so he left to join AAC again. There, he gained an AAC advanced Rock Engineering Certificate and a Graduate Diploma in Mining Engineering– and he was indeed promoted, to Senior Rock Engineering Officer.

After two years, Shaun was transferred, with promotion, to the position of Rock Engineering Manager at Tautona Mine. During this time he obtained a Graduate diploma in Business Practice. After 11 years at Tautona, he accepted a secondment to Integrated Seismic Systems International (ISSI), where he worked as a rock engineering consultant.

He then returned to AngloGold Ashanti as a Manager, Rock Engineering Research and Design. In 2010, he was promoted to Vice-President, Geotechnical.

"What I enjoy most about my current job is the contact I have with rock engineering personnel. I admire their ability to overcome obstacles and win in the end," says Shaun.

His career has provided its share of dangers, the most dramatic of which resulted from a seismic event. "I was lying on my back in a stope studying the hanging wall, when movement of the footwall lifted me about 15 cm into the air," Shaun says.

As for the future, he reckons he has probably reached one of the top rock engineering positions in the mining industry and is likely to move into consulting.

Current concerns

Shaun sees the shortage of rock engineering staff, which we discuss elsewhere in this issue of Rock Talk, as one of the major issues affecting the present and future of rock engineering in South Africa.

He says: "The number of qualified rock engineers has decreased because of a lack of interest in a mining career among the youngsters of today, people retiring and the attraction of emigrating to Australia. In addition to a reduction in the recruitment of young people in the late 90s and early 2000s, we have lost a generation of talent (the 30 to 45 age group)."

He also pinpoints the increase in the average depth in mining and the technology needed to mine at such depths as a major issue for the rock engineering industry.

Family and future

Shaun is married to Louise and they have two children, Roxanne (26), who is a qualified doctor, and Shane (23), who is a fifth-year medical student. In his characteristic wry tone, Shaun says: "When my children were younger I always insisted that a matric was not good enough and they must do a BSc after matric. They then decided "What does Dad know? We'll do medicine!"

At least he can comfort himself in the knowledge that his dream of ensuring that his children can look after themselves in the future is well on the way to realisation. Then he can concentrate on his next life goal: growing old disgracefully.

In pursuit of this, he is obsessively collecting water features to put in the garden Louise so avidly tends, watching motor sports, going to gym, going off-road with a 4x4, walking the dogs and spending time with his family and friends.

He also rides his motorcycle, despite having come close to death in a motorcycle accident. "It made me rethink how important it is to enjoy every day and appreciate the world that God has given to us," he says.

Maybe that is what led to him articulating his philosophy in life: "To have fun and to remember that if I'm not having fun, then it's my fault, because I'm letting it be so."

rickandWillieTwo South African Sanire members who are part of the Homecoming Revolution told Rock Talk about their experiences overseas and their reasons for going, and then returning. Read on to find out what Rick Ferreira and Willie Snyman have to share with you.

Rock Talk: When did you emigrate, and where did you go?
Rick: In October 2008, just as the waves from the global financial crisis began to rock the world markets in earnest. It was unforeseeable, of course, but in hindsight it was probably the worst time for a family to embark on such an endeavour. My wife and I, along with our two small boys, moved from Carletonville to the city of Perth in Western Australia. I took up a position with a large consultancy firm.
Willie: I emigrated to Queensland, Australia in January 2008.

Rock Talk: What is your current job and how does it compare with the job you held at the time when you emigrated?
Rick: I'm a Rock Engineer, specialising in Mine Seismology. Although my job now involves a number of additional mines in the Gold Fields stable, in a centralised structure, the role profile is essentially the same as before.
Willie: I am Chief Rock Engineer at Khuseleka Mine. I was Senior Rock Engineer with BLA in the Free State.

James Dutchman is spending some time in South Africa while in pursuit of his BEng (Hons) in Engineering Geology. He chatted to Rock Talk about his reasons for coming here and his experiences thus far.

JamesDutchmanwebJames Dutchman, a Consultant Intern (Engineering Geology) at SRK Consulting, hails from Hastings on the South coast of England, in the county of East Sussex.
"As part of my four-year university sandwich degree course (Engineering Geology and Geotechnics) at the University of Portsmouth, we are encouraged to take up an industrial placement with a company in the field of Engineering Geology as part of our third-year studies," he told Rock Talk.
"Having already worked in the UK for four years with a ground investigation contractor, I felt that I needed to broaden my experience, so I took a conscious decision to look for placement opportunities outside of the UK. I applied to a number of consultancy companies both in Australia and South Africa."

rogerjohnsonRoger Johnson's enjoyment of his job is based on the people he works with; the diversity in terms of commodity, geographic location and mining method; and the challenges and opportunities to introduce new technology, better practice and improved solutions. Here, he shares some of his ideas and experiences with Rock Talk.

Roger Johnson (56) had more of an interest in sport, the outdoors, music and social activities than in academics in his time as a scholar as La Salle College on the West Rand, but that was no predictor of his future.

Today, he has a slew of degrees and other qualifications to his name, covering the sciences, engineering and even theology. The latest of these is an MEng (Mining Engineering from Wits, which he gained in 2011. He is also a fellow of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) and a Sanire member.

Still, he modestly points out that he is the only one of his immediate family not currently studying. His wife, Caroline Tuckey, is completing her PhD in ethics; his son, Matthew (23) is doing an MSc in physics at Wits and his daughter Naomi (20) is in 3rd year medicine at UCT. "I do plan to learn Spanish" he says, even though he is taking a break from formal study for now.