“Setting achievable goals restricts performance and is only useful for performance appraisals. You achieve the incredible only by aiming for the impossible. Persevere,” advises Dr Nielen van der Merwe. Read on to find out more about this tenacious achiever.

Les Gardner has taken on the role of Sanire President. Here’s your chance to get to know a bit more about him.

Uli Vogler helped to provide a solid foundation for SANIRE and has spent a lifetime honing his rock testing expertise. He’s still at it and jokes that he was probably born to be an engineer: his birthday, 22/7, is also a way of expressing pi. Rock Talk asked this lively senior student a few questions.

Greg More O’Farrell is off to Vancouver, Canada, to serve as a rock mechanics manager for Wardrop Consultants. He looks forward to expanding Wardrop’s mining rock mechanics capacity internationally and looks back on slightly more than 15 happy and productive years in rock mechanics, mainly in Southern Africa. Here’s his farewell message to SANIRE members.

DaveMinney2David Minnie told Rock Talk a bit about himself and what Sanire has meant to him. Read about him here.

RT: When did you enter the mining industry?

DM: I started in 1974, working for De Beers at Oranjemund, doing a Geologist’s job.

RT: What attracted you to a career in mining?

DM: From my perspective, mining, farming, forestry and fishing are the foundations of any economic system. There are always opportunities in the fundamental industries.

In my degree course at Strathclyde University, we were given a strong foundation in Engineering Geology for Civil Engineering and Rock Engineering for the mining industry.

Mining site tours were always more interesting than the civil engineering visits and I bonded better with miners than civil engineers.

Once I had arrived in Africa, I started to network and gather information on where the opportunities lay. I started as a Strata Control Officer in Welkom in 1977.

The challenges of running a branch are many. Wouter van Aarde, chairman of Sanire’s Western Bushveld branch, offers some insights into how to give the “mandla” back to members.


Wouter van Aarde of X-Strata Alloys is heading up a Western Bushveld branch committee that is determined to bring positive change.
There’s a great advantage to belonging to a national organisation like Sanire. However, there’s an even greater advantage to belonging to one that is active at local level.

Ensuring that members get value for their membership locally is the challenge that faces every branch committee. The Western Bushveld branch is a case in point.

“Our biggest plan for 2010 and 2011 is to revive the Western Bushveld branch,” says Wouter van Aarde, the branch chairman.

Asking members

As a start, the committee took an opinion poll to provide an insight into issues affecting the branch’s success. It yielded some valuable information.

First on the committee’s agenda is to encourage non-members who are attending the meetings to become members by communicating the benefits to them.

The opinion poll got this drive off to a good start. The meeting was attended by 11 non-members, all of whom indicated in the poll that they would like to become members.

“We also want to provide a platform where the members can give input into the functioning of the committee and to ensure that there is more effective communication between the council and the branch members. In short, we want to give the ‘mandla’ back to the members,” Wouter says.

For instance, more junior members of the profession will be encouraged to interact with Sanire and maybe do presentations.

Such presentations are a major drawcard for Sanire meetings. At the first meeting organised by the current committee, William Youghin of SRK (Steffen Robertson & Kirsten) Consulting gave a presentation on Quantifying Rockfall and Rockburst Risk in Underground Mines. It was very well received.

Practical steps

Wouter goes on to set out more of the committee’s challenges: “The branch is struggling financially and is totally dependent on sponsorships for its meetings. This will change.”

The change will be two-fold.

Firstly, sponsors will get more for their money. “The aim is to reward sponsors by giving them branding space at the meetings, including their logos in all communication to members,” Wouter explains.

At the most recent meeting, a start was made on this. Dureset and New Concept Mining were thanked for their sponsorship.

Fund-raising will also enter the picture. “We are planning to host at least one golf day and to include as many of the members and suppliers as possible,” Wouter announces.

Serving members

Meet the Western Bushveld Branch committee:

• Wouter van Aarde, chairman

• Marc Henderson, vice-chairman

• Obed Tsetseswa, secretary

• Dave Gravett, suppliers’ representative

• Chris Rademan, treasurer

At present, there is no technical co-ordinator on the committee.

jjpicJeevan John told Rock Talk a little about what he gets out of being a Sanire member and what he gets up to. You can get to meet him here.

RT: How long have you been a member of Sanire?

JJ: I have been a Sanire member for more than a year now. I attended Sanire meetings even before becoming one.

RT: What’s the greatest personal benefit you have experienced from being a member?

JJ: The greatest benefit is the networking opportunity. I have met and formed good relationships with a lot of rock engineers at the meetings. Apart from that, the information and knowledge sharing and presentations have helped me widen my horizons.
Jacques Lucas is the new Sanire president, but in another life, he would ave been an actor. ROCKtalk asked him some straight questions and got straight answers about good whiskey, distant holidays and quantifying risk.

Rt: How long have you been a member of Sanire?

JL: Since the SANGORM days in 1994, when I was transferred to St Helena mine in Welkom by Gengold

Rt: What’s the greatest personal benefit you have experienced from being a member?

JL: The interaction between all levels of rock engineers, researchers, academics and suppliers during branch meetings, seminars and workshops has aided my development as a rock engineer. The platform that Sanire creates serves both the individual and the industry.

Rt: What are your and your council’s plans for the coming year?

JL: We have realised that the old reasons for Sanire’s existence may not be totally applicable anymore. Organisations and individuals have to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Sanire not only has a huge role to play in the South African underground, surface and civil industry, but also in the training and education of our members.

Other than having a longer-term perspective, I think council’s biggest challenge is to gauge what will be required by our members in the future.

The council has also started to compile the history of the organisation. I believe the younger generation does not always understand and value the input that some of the legends have had in developing the discipline of rock engineering in South Africa or, for that matter, the world.

Rt: What’s the greatest challenge rock engineers face in SA today?

JL: To quantify risk in our industry. I believe the balance between safe and economic design rests squarely on the rock engineering practitioner.

Rock engineering has progressed past the “gut feel” or engineering judgement days. We need to quantify our results and recommendations. With our experience, we need to develop new methodologies and tools to adequately quantify the risk to enable management to make proper decisions. There is no better mining engineer than a rock engineer.

Rt: Tell us about your day job.

JL: I am a director of Brentley, Lucas and Associates (BLA) Mining Consultants based in Welkom in the Free State. I have been with BLA for 12 years and really enjoy the challenges every day brings.

The best and most rewarding feeling comes from knowing that your input, technical or otherwise, has made a difference. My motto has always been: when you get involved – make a difference.

The worst thing in my line of work is people management. Unfortunately, people management is neglected during engineering studies and training. It only rears its head when you move into a management role.

Rt: Where did you study and what’s the best memory you have of being a student?

JL: I completed a BSc Mining Engineering at Tukkies in 1992, and then an MSc at Wits. My best memories are of the mining engineering tours and field visits. Usually these were very interesting and entertaining.

Rt: Moving on to life after hours, tell us about your family.

JL: I have been married to Catrin for 14 years and I am the proud father of a son, Kyle (12), and a daughter, Cara (10).

I love sport and watching TV, and will do just about anything except things involving heights. Since I’m moving on in age, I’m focusing more on golf, fly fishing, snow skiing, cycling, hunting and scuba diving.

Rt: If you could have chosen any other career, what would it have been?

JL: In my matric year, I was convinced that I would make a good actor. Who knows, I could have had a major role in 7de Laan!

Rt: Where’s your favourite holiday destination?

JL: In South Africa, it’s Mossel Bay and Cape Town. However, I prefer Scotland as the ideal breakaway with my wife. The castles, monsters, single malt whiskeys and golf courses are absolutely amazing.

Rt: Which sports team do you support?

JL: In rugby, I am a Lions’ supporter so I tend to know how to lose, except when we play the Bulls. In soccer I support Pirates locally and Arsenal in the Premiership. Other than that, I support all the South African national teams.

Jacques at Stonehenge in England

At Glenfiddich in Scottland

At St Andrews in Scotland