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.