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.
RockTalk: 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.