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