Full 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.