Sanire has a strong focus on educational issues affecting rock engineers. Read on to find out what has been happening in this sphere.

Focus on education is paying off

Examination administration

Unisa will handle the administration of the Chamber of Mines (COM) examinations until May 2011. The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) will then take over this task.

Candidates must pass the both the theory and practical examinations of the Strata Control Certificate before they can register to write the Rock Mechanics Certificate (RMC) examination.

Examination results

Poor pass rates remain a major concern against the backdrop of skills shortages in the industry.

Progress with the MQA

A few learning packs still need to be completed for the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 4 qualification. Certain training service providers are already offering the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications. The implementation of the Level 4 certificate as the replacement for the COM Strata Control Certificate is likely to commence in 2012 or 2013 at the latest.

Transition to tertiary qualifications

Advances are being made on the transition of Rock Mechanics Certificates to tertiary qualifications. There is general agreement that the COM Rock Mechanics Certificate will be replaced by a suitable qualification pitched at NQF Level 6 and that the COM Advanced Certificate will be replaced by a suitable qualification pitched at NQF Level 7.

In both cases, there will be both a formal academic programme (stage 1 qualification), followed by an experiential learning component (stage 2 qualification), to facilitate anticipated professional registration.

Two progression routes are likely to be provided – a “certificate” route for people already employed on mines who wish to study part time and a three-year Bachelor of Engineering and Technology degree.  

The first intake of candidates for the new qualifications should be in January 2013. The last COM certificate examination is likely to be in November 2015.

Professional registration

Initial discussions regarding large-scale professional registration of rock engineering practitioners have been held Johan Pienaar of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). Only those with qualifications on an NQF level 6 or higher will possibly be required to register.

Further discussions have been postponed until such time as the learning pathway, replacement qualifications and transitional arrangements have been concluded.

Learning material

Writing and editing of the learning material sponsored by the MQA started in July 2010. The process is expected to take 18 months to complete. Learning material will be made available to candidates as it is completed and Paper 1 material should be available in the first quarter of 2011.

Examination guidelines

Guidelines for the COM rock mechanics examinations has been reviewed and updated. A copy is available on the Sanire website. Major changes include a provision for the once-off grandfathering of experienced surface mining practitioners and a change to the pass rate and format of the RMC practical examination.

Proposed changes to the regulations

A letter of concern suggesting alternative wording for the Mine Health and Safety Administration regulations has been sent to the Department of Minerals and Energy in September 2009. No reply has been received as yet.