darrylInterview questions

Full Name: Darryl James Slawson

Position: Senior Rock Engineer

Company/Organisations: Northam Platinum: Booysendal Division

Date and Place of Birth: 13 October 1987, Morningside, Johannesburg

Education: BSc Geology; BSc Hons Environmental Management

First Job: Pharmacy Assistant

Personal Best Achievement/s: Obtaining my Rock Mechanics Ticket

Philosophy of Life: Everything happens for a reason

Favourite Food/Drink: Pasta/Hansa

Favourite Sport: Rugby

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

I started my mining career at AngloGold Ashanti (Tau Tona Mine) in 2011 as a Rock Engineering MT.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Well, I think Rock Engineering chose me …. When I went for an interview at AngloGold Ashanti in 2011, I really had no idea what Rock Engineering was all about. After making it through the second round of interviews and a rather intense psychometric test, I was offered employment at Tau Tona mine. After having done some research about the mine, I automatically felt proud of being an employee of one of the world’s deepest mines. When I started working it was all rather overwhelming, which literally forced me to learn quickly. Within a few weeks of working at Tau Tona, I quickly gained a keen interest in mining and, of course, Rock Engineering. Since then, I’ve always tried to learn and gain as much knowledge as possible. I still have a huge amount to learn and am looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Study … study … study. Take the time to learn from experienced professionals. Never be too scared to ask questions.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

My career in Rock Engineering started on the 5th of April 2011 at Tau Tona Mine. Eight months later, I obtained my Strata Control Ticket. In 2013, I then joined Moab Khotsong Mine where I really learnt a huge amount about Rock Engineering from my peers and supervisors, which stood me in good stead for obtaining my Rock Engineering Ticket in 2014. I have currently worked at Northam Platinum: Booysendal Division for the past year as a Senior Rock Engineer.

4. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

With the current economic climate, and specifically commodity prices, our (Rock Engineering) role in ensuring safe production at the lowest possible cost will become of increasing importance.

5. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Study … study … study. Take the time to learn from experienced professionals. Never be too scared to ask questions.

6. Who is your role model/mentor?

Gary Dukes and Johan Oelofse have had the biggest influence on my career and gave me a huge amount of support and guidance with regard to working towards the Rock Mechanics Ticket.

7. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Never underestimate yourself ….

histSouth Africa is without doubt one of the best places in the world to study the entire history of the planet. Because of its particular, and perhaps unique, geological environment, situated as it is on one of the oldest and most stable cratons in the whole world, it has exposures of the earliest rocks on the planet, dating back almost to the very first quarter of the Earth’s existence, once the fireball had cooled down. They tell of the break-up of super-continents long before Gondwanaland ever existed – lavas spewed out in the depths of deep, ancient oceans, similar to those currently being extruded along the mid-Atlantic ridge and elsewhere.

South Africa’s not very much younger sediments, their deposition dating back to as much as three billion years ago, not only contain some of the world’s largest repositories of base and precious metals and minerals, but also trace the conversion of the hostile, oxygen-deficient environment of our planet to the more benign environment that we enjoy and that we are busy destroying today, together with evidence of the very first life-forms to appear; life forms that were in fact instrumental in the process of converting the atmospheric and terrestrial environment, paving the way for our own evolution. The exposure of this evidence close to surface was facilitated in part by one of the largest, and certainly the oldest, known meteorite impacts the world has evidence of. All of this evidence of the pre-history of our planet can readily be seen in numerous exposures situated within short walking distances of the centre of Johannesburg.

Admittedly, there then follows a short billion year gap in the South African record, during which time the trilobites ruled the planet and nothing much else happened, until one is once again able to trace the course of history in the sediments of the Karoo sequence, and follow the evolution of fish, plants, insects and reptiles, starting in a frozen wasteland and progressing through the most luxuriant rain-forests the world has ever seen, to arid desert conditions just before the onset of the eventual break-up of the Gondwanaland super-continent into the land masses that we are so familiar with in the southern hemisphere today. Even the conversion of some reptiles into our mammalian ancestors can be witnessed during the latter stages of the life of this super-continent. This entire record, including evidence of the break-up, can be readily traced during a short three-hour drive from the seaside of the Natal coast to the mountains of the Drakensberg range. Nearly 200 million years of pivotal history in space of only a few hours, right here, under our noses!

hist1If this were not enough, our own evolution from apes to something perhaps only slightly more intelligent and upright is traced in the detritus of world-renowned archaeological cave sites dotted around the country. Admittedly, one would perhaps need some form of vehicular transport, like a bicycle, to get to some of these exposures in less than a day from central Johannesburg. Even evidence of our progress in learning to at last be able to harvest the bounty of the seas, which began about 150 000 years ago, and which is not recorded anywhere else in the world, and the world’s oldest decorated tools for creating works of art more than 75 000 years ago, are to be found locally (albeit you might have to catch the train from Johannesburg – assuming that they still run in the new South Africa) in the caves of our Cape coast. We may even have the direct descendants of these ancient people living amongst us today – although, of course, their hunter/gatherer lifestyle is under enormous threat and is likely to disappear, together with the rhino, elephant and other endangered species, in the not too distant future.

Moving on to relatively more recent times, the remains of settlements and of pre-historic and historic tunnelling and mining operations by our ancestors are to be found all over southern Africa, including Johannesburg itself where, for example, stone-age hearths and foundries for the production of ironware are battling to be preserved in some of the koppies surrounding the city.

The history of modern mining in South Africa is inextricably tied up with the more recent history of South Africa itself, or, perhaps more correctly put, the history of the country as a whole since the middle of the nineteenth century, which has been dominated and determined by the history of its mining activities. Although early mining ventures in the colonies, such as the exploitation of copper deposits around Springbok, and even the much later gold rushes of the Barberton and Pilgrims Rest areas, did not have a profound effect on the development of the country, it was the discovery in 1869 of the volcanic source of vast diamond reserves, centred initially around what became the Northern Cape town of Kimberley, which paved the way for the conversion of the country from a rural and pastoral backwater into the industrialised powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa, and which set the stage for the economic, social and political transformation and expansion of the country. The discovery seventeen years later in 1886 of the world’s largest repository of gold in the conglomerate rocks of the Witwatersrand ridge adjacent to what was to become Johannesburg, one of the largest, richest, and most influential cities on the African continent, sealed its fate and changed the course of the country’s fortunes forever. The exploitation of these deposits, together with the concurrent working of abundant coal seams and the later discovery of other important metal and mineral reserves, has had, and continues to have, an overwhelming effect and fundamental impact on the broad economic environment of the whole of the southern African region, and has profoundly influenced the historical course of events in the sub-continent.

It seems fitting, therefore, that the introduction and development of our rock mechanics discipline in South Africa during the course of the last century should also have played out against this vast and vibrant historical, economic, social, political and mining backdrop.

dave This story was written by Dave Arnold.
Please feel free to contact Dave with any historical stories for the next edition.    


As most anyone in the Bushveld sphere of rock engineering (RE) will know (unless being exposed to the epiphanies of daylight is elusive), a broad-reaching project to equip RE practitioners in risk based support design was initiated through the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), facilitated by SRK Consulting and Open House Management Solutions (OHMS) in 2015. Two phases of the project have been carried out, viz SIM120201 in 2012 and 2013 and SIM140201 in 2014 and 2015. On completion of the programmes, some 100 practitioners in the industry have received training in the technology. These include rock engineers, strata control officers, strata control observers and a limited number of geologists.

The purpose of the project is two-fold:

(i.)            To promote and revive technical research and scientific solutions to rock engineering challenges within the industry; and

(ii.)           Encourage practitioners to apply a risk based approach to support design.

The project is was completed in November 2015.


The first objective is in line with requirements of the Mining Charter which was brought into being in 1996 as a collective assignment between mining stakeholders to promote transformation in the industry. Following on from the 1996 agreement, an addendum in 2002 further required that research outcomes be adopted within the industry to promote skills development and improve performance within the mining industry. In view of flagging attention and committed resources to this kind of output, it is especially encouraging to have had the funding for this initiative.

The second objective is where the programme becomes more meaningful for us as rock engineers. That is: how do we achieve risk based support design in the tabular underground mining environment and what does it actually mean?

Risk based support design

First, we need to understand what the risk based approach actually means and why we should apply it. The risk based approach is essentially a quantified risk assessment of the consequences associated with falls of ground (FoG).

PN1We could ask ourselves, “why not base the support design on the 95% fallout thickness?” Or better yet, using a FoG hazard distribution such as JBlock? These are indeed valid approaches; however, there are distinct limitations. The most obvious limitation is the question, “so what?”, i.e. if a keyblock falls and there is no loss of production and no injury to a person, then does it matter? Or alternatively, what is the potential for a keyblock to result in a significant consequence to the operation? And lastly, what is a significant consequence?

This is where RiskEval is applied, to quantify the consequence of keyblock failure in terms that are meaningful and relevant to the operational decision-making, i.e. personal liability (safety) and cost (finance).

A detailed explanation of the risk evaluation process is not given in this summary; however, for reference, the publications of Joughin et al (SAIMM vol 112, February 2012) can be sourced online from the SAIMM.


Following the first phase of training in 2012 (SIM120201), the format of the second phase (SIM140201) was revised to accommodate an increased number of RE practitioners and promote the completion of each phase before continuing to the next.

Without labouring the training programme, it is worthwhile to mention that practitioners were exposed from all of the major mining houses, including Anglo, Lonmin, Impala, Northam, XStrata, Hernic and Aquarius in both the western and eastern platinum limbs (inset: training venue, Northam Platinum – Booysendal).

RE practitioners engaged in the principal components of the process as follows:

  • Characterisation of the geotechnical setting (joint sets) by structural mapping and processing the results in DIPs and MSExcel
  • Applying the joint set data in JBlock to evaluate a FoG hazard distribution
  • Translating the FoG hazard distribution (JBlock outputs) into a quantified safety and economic risk by applying consequence data to the hazard estimates using RiskEval.


All of the RE practitioners participated in carrying out the risk evaluation process, and several completed reports have been received in which the process has been applied successfully. However, a number of challenges were encountered, both on a technical level and in terms of resource availability and resource capability (software limitations).

pn3Technical challenges

It’s no mystery that the principal focus of operational RE practitioners continues to be diverted to day-to-day troubleshooting of production-related challenges with the result that development of basic skills such as interpretation of joint orientations and manipulation of spreadsheet calculations is frequently compromised.

This became particularly evident during mapping and processing of results obtained using different tools such as clinorules, compasses and electronic measuring devices (EMD, i.e. iPhone or Android or similar). Interpretation of joint orientations may be rotated up to 90° if the practitioner did not have a clear sense of the true underground orientation.

Risk based support design is best carried out by an experienced rock engineering practitioner with a CoMCRM. Constituent elements such as joint mapping and geotechnical data processing using DIPs and JBlock are well-suited to the capabilities of strata control officers (holders of a CoMCSC). However, strata control observers should be coached and trained to correctly collect the required geotechnical (joint set) information. Geologists with an engineering geology background were able to collect and interpret joint set data suitably well, while the construction and interpretation of FoG hazard and risk evaluation was left to the RE practitioners.

pn4Resource availability

Sharing of resources presented somewhat of a challenge during the courses in that several practitioners did not have access to hardware (notebook computers) and software (application licenses). Several operations are in possession of limited software licenses due to the sporadic use of these applications which does not justify the purchase of a license per user. Strategic planning of resources helped in some cases to overcome the resource shortage; however, several operations were unable to secure the necessary software with the outcome that they could not satisfactorily complete the project.

pn5Software limitations

Several limitations within both JBlock and RiskEval were encountered that warrant further development. However, in spite of these limitations, FoG hazard estimations and risk evaluations were successfully carried out using the applications by tailoring the format of input data to suit the structure of the applications. A particular example, is the input of steep-dipping joint sets that “wrap-around” the stereonet plot (inset) with the effect that two distinct joint sets had to be defined in order for JBlock to correctly interpret the variability in dip direction within the joint set.

Going forward

Final results for the project were submitted in November 2015 to the MHSC in a report which is available through the MHSC.

A large body of RE practitioners representing a broad selection of the platinum industry now have the technical tools to provide engineered risk-based solutions for rock engineering challenges on the operations.

pn6Thanks and acknowledgements

In spite of all of the challenges that were encountered, it was truly inspirational to be part of the enthusiasm and willingness with which the RE practitioners engaged in the technology transfer process. Thanks to the facilitators from Impala, Lonmin and Northam for making underground and training sites available, without whom the programme would never have been able to happen. Acknowledgements go the MHSC for funding and the SRK and OHMS teams for presenting and managing the project. Looking forward to continued feedback and suggestions for improvement and applicability of the technology.


Article by Jeanne Walls, SRK Consulting

jacoFull Name:                  Petrus Jacobus (Jaco) Le Roux

Company:                   Brentley, Lucas & Associates

Designation:               Principal Rock Engineer

Qualifications:             N.Dip. Metalliferous Mining, Advanced Certificate in Rock Engineering, Graduates Diploma Engineering (GDE), MSc. Mining Engineering

Contact Details

Telephone:                  0574524405

Facsimile:                   0866105279

Cellular:                      0829299400

E-mail:                         jaco.leroux@harmony.co.za

The South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions (SACNASP) now requires its members to renew their membership every 5 years. Renewal acceptance is based on your continued professional development, measured by the CPD points system. Points are allocated to various professional activities, and the accumulation of the required points will ensure the renewal of your registration. The creation of the CPD culture is to ensure that all registered persons maintain their competence throughout their period of registration.

How it will work?

The allocation of CPD points is based on the system currently in use by ECSA. Once the build-up phase (discussed below) is complete, each member will reapply for registration every five years, when his or her application must be submitted three months prior to membership expiration. During the five-year period, each member must accrue a total of 25 CPD points with no less than three points per year; additional points can be carried over to subsequent years and all accrued points must be submitted on a yearly basis. As per the build-up phase, renewal cycles will depend on your first year of registration.

In November 2015, the COM metalliferous practical for the platinum industry was hosted by the SANIRE Eastern Bushveld Branch at Ivanplats Mine, Mokopane Office. A total of 22 candidates attempted the practical of which 18 attempted the portfolio section, 17 the conventional section, and 11 the bord and pillar section. Overall, it was a successful day and I (Adam Cooper) would like to thank the Ivanplats staff for assisting with the venue arrangements; the Eastern Bushveld Committee for assistance in setting the exams, and especially Andre Esterhuizen for his contribution with respect to candidate applications, and the examiners for their commitment, time and effort.

I would like to congratulate Tati Bantu on obtaining the COM Rock Mechanics Certificate, as well the following people for outstanding achievement in specific sections of the practical examination:

  • Craig Slement – Portfolio
  • Tati Bantu – Portfolio
  • Obed Masinge – Conventional
  • Gordon Rabey – Conventional + Bord and Pillar
  • Omberai Mandingaisa – Bord and Pillar


Adam Cooper

Closing date for Rock Mechanics practical examinations will be 15 January 2016 and NO late entries will be accepted.

SANIRE 2015 Seasons greetings

We wish you a joyous holiday season and all the best for 2016 from SANIRE



Please join us for our year end function next week Thursday 3 December at the Groundwork offices.

Time: 10:00 am for 10:30am

Technical Visit: Rope Testing 11:00am – 12:00pm

· We will be walking to the CSIR leaving at 10:45am sharp.

· Please bring a hardhat!!!

Technical Lecture: Tunnel Guard Thin Spray Liners – Oosie Oosthuizen 12:15pm – 12:45pm

· Join us in the Groundwork boardroom while the fire burns outside.

· View elongate tests at the Groundwork press.

Lunch /braai: Boerewors braai with drinks will follow at 1pm.

Please RSVP soonest for catering purposes.

If the numbers are too large, we will have to do attendance on a first come first serve basis.

Looking forward to ending off a tough year on a strong note as we look at ropes, elongate and thin spray liners.

Send response to sandy.etchells@aelms.com if attending.

The SANIRE Coalfields Branch year end function will be 4 December 2015. Registration is at 8:30 during which morning tea and refreshments will be served. The registration fee is R150 per person. Sponsorship is welcomed.

For more information click Here

Contact person:

Sandor Petho

Email: Sandor.Petho@glencore.co.za

Dear Member

You are formally invited to the:
27 November 2015
Ruimsig Golf Club
8.30 am

This is a prestigious event that is attended by Rock Engineering Group heads, Rock Engineer Mangers, Rock Engineers and other members of the Rock Engineering fraternity from many different commodities and companies within South Africa. The AGM provides an overview of the SANIRE strategy for the next 2-5 years. We will also give recognition to outstanding commitment, contribution and achievement through the various award categories.

As a member you are invited to attend this event.

We will also be arranging a golfing event which will take place immediately after the AGM. For the interested "pro" or social golfers , please make sure you are included in the companies who will be participating in the various 4-balls.

Please RSVP to Carol Hunter


Before 18 November 2015 for catering purposes

For directions click Here

Dear Members
Please follow the link to the latest bi-annual newsletter. Stories and articles are always welcome. Please email Paul Couto at Paul.Couto@Harmony.co.zafor enquiries.

Download the PDF version: pdf  SANIRE Newsletter_Volume 1_Issue 3_November_2015 (5.19 MB)

Download the epub version: default  SANIRE Newsletter_Volume 1_Issue 3_November_2015 (10.93 MB)

pc1We are yet again entering difficult times in the mining industry. The commodity prices are low, the Department of Mineral Resources are relentless at issuing stoppages for non-compliance and companies are forced to restructure. Nevertheless, we as a fraternity endeavour to promote safety and cost saving initiatives to ensure that companies are less vulnerable to these external factors.

SANIRE as an institute can however not function without its members. We require active participation at all levels. As practitioners we are seen as an integral part of ensuring safety on our mines, albeit as policing function. However, in the absence of research facilities, mining groups and support manufacturers have taken the initiative to develop new technologies, leading practices or design methodologies. Although we as a technical discipline are not always recognised for our contributions, the mining industry is dependent on our actions in the workplace as well as our safety interventions which lead to new best practice initiatives. In challenging times we have the ability to do extraordinary things. As SANIRE Members and as Rock Engineers we need to brand ourselves and our discipline so that we can create a legacy.

In July 2015 a new SANIRE council was elected in vision of our 2020 strategy. Several additional portfolios were added. Our 5-year vision caters for changes in the legislation, the future of the Rock Engineering Certification and the needs of our members. The detail of the various portfolios will be presented at the AGM on 27 November 2015.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

Michael du Plessis

The SANIRE Symposium of 2015, “unpacking the aspects”, was organised and held by the Free State Branch at Glenburn Lodge in Muldersdrift on the 17th of September 2015. It was a one-day symposium which covered a wide range of topics from all over the industry. Included was a Key Note Address by Les Gardner on the “proposed changes to the Fall of Ground Regulations and how it will impact on Rock Engineering and Strata Control”. The following topics were presented:

  • Comments on ISRM suggested Method for the Complete Stress-Strain Curve for Intact Rock in Uniaxial Compression: Uli Vogler – University of the Witwatersrand
  • The Use of Gem4D in the Representation of 3D Rock Engineering Data: Quintin Enslin – OpenHouse Management Solutions
  • Quantification of the Effects of Thin Spray-On Liner Application on Shotcrete Tensile Strength: Richard Masethe – Sibanye Gold
  • Design of a Pit-highwall in Highly Weathered Igneous Material: Franz Bruwer – Anglo Platinum
  • The Stress-strain Environment Around Massive Open Stopes and the Effect on Failure: Jaco le Roux – Brentley, Lucas & Associates
  • A Method to Assess Pillar Stability in Rustenburg Platinum Mines: Jacques Gerber & Richard Clark – Institute of Mine Seismology
  • The Potential to Use Mines for High Head Underground Pump Storage Schemes: Trevor Rangasamy – Middindi Consulting, & T Govender – Eskom
  • Back Analysis of the Pillar Design Employed at Impala 14 Shaft Trackless Mining Section: Buntu Tati – Impala Platinum
  • Introduction of the NEW Virtual Reality Centre at the University of Pretoria: Jannie Maritz – University of Pretoria
  • Stability Analysis of Coal Pillar Sidewalls Using Three-Dimensional Numerical: Joseph Muaka – SRK
  • The Influence of Regional Geology on UG2 Stope Stability: Alida Hartzenberg – Lonmin 
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The day was divided into three sessions, which were chaired in turn by Paul Couto, Jaco le Roux and Michael du Plessis. The symposium was a great success, being well organised and well attended. A special note of thanks goes to the organisers, attendees, presenters and sponsors. The following sponsors made contributions in funding the symposium:

  • OpenHouse Management Solutions
  • Groundwork
  • Brentley, Lucas and Associates
  • New Concept Mining
  • Bedrock
  • Timrite.
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The yearly function was host on the 24 July 2015 at the Red Barn Farm in Dullstroom. The event was well attended with approximately 75 people attending.

The day started off at the crack of dawn with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees and slightly overcast. This was fantastic weather for fly fishing. After a couple of old brown sherries to warm everyone up all the attendees headed out to one of four dams. The dams were sponsored by suppliers at R 3 000 per dam. SANIRE then utilised this sponsorship to stock the dams to the value of R 3 000 per dam. The dams were stocked with Rainbow trout, Brown trout and Golden trout all ranging in sizes. This was done for competitive reasons.

The competition commenced at 06:00 whereby it ended just before lunch 13:00. The competition was based on a few categories.

  1. The smallest fish of the day
  2. The largest fish of the day
  3. Golden trout (each dam had one Golden trout in it. If the Golden trout was caught then the winner would get the main prize for the dam sponsored by the suppliers)
  4. Brown trout (each dam had five Brown trout in it. If the Brown trout was caught then the winner would get a prize for the dam sponsored by the suppliers)

The winners were as follows:









DF MalanFull Name: Daniel Francois Malan

Position: Senior Rock Engineering Consultant, Part-time Professor

Company/Organisations: Sibanye Gold, University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand

Date and Place of Birth: 4 November 1968, Bethlehem, Free State

Education: PhD (Mining), COM Rock Engineering Certificate

First Job: Chamber of Mines Research Organisation (COMRO)

Personal Best Achievement/s: ISRM Rocha Medal, Surviving a Fish River Canyon hike!

Philosophy of Life: Best summarised in the Gladiator movie: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

Favourite Food/Drink: Red Wine, Roasted leg of lamb

Favourite Sport: Lifting weights in the gym

1. How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?

COMRO gave me a bursary to study engineering and I joined them on a full-time basis in 1993. I am currently the Senior Rock Engineering Consultant at Sibanye Gold, but I also do part-time work at both Tuks and Wits where I supervise a number of postgraduate students.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

It was not really my choice, as the Chamber of Mines gave me a bursary to study electronic engineering, provided that I moved into rock engineering after completion of my studies. Of course, my plan at Varsity was never to move into rock engineering! Luckily, I started at COMRO when famous rock engineers, such as John Ryder, Tony Jager, John Napier and Steve Spottiswoode, were still walking the corridors. I immensely enjoyed interacting with these gentlemen and the rock engineering research we did. As a result, I have never looked back.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

COMRO (it later became CSIR Miningtek) provided a good introduction to rock engineering and it gave me the opportunity to do a PhD. I eventually also became Programme Manager of the Rock Engineering Division there. The drawback of this academic environment was that the youngsters who started there never got enough experience “on the face”. Our ability to do research was also questioned by industry practitioners, as many of us never attempted the COM Rock Engineering Ticket examinations. This started to worry me and I joined Groundwork Consulting in 2004. There, I eventually passed my ticket (it took two attempts to pass the practical!). Groundwork taught me much about surviving as a consultant (not easy) and gave me wonderful exposure to platinum rock engineering. Gold Fields approached me in 2011 to join their ranks and this is how I ended up at Sibanye.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

A huge challenge we currently face is caused by the limitations of some of our design criteria. An example I can mention is the difficulty of designing bord and pillar layouts in areas where weak layers intersect the pillars. This has led to spectacular collapses in the recent past. Some of the criteria we use to design deep layouts in seismic areas can also be questioned. It is very disconcerting that no organised research is currently being conducted to improve these criteria. When Prof Nielen van der Merwe wrote his SAIMM paper on Coalbrook in 2006, he asked the question: “Is it conceivable that the most important lesson from Coalbrook, namely that in order to be effective at all, knowledge has to be generated before it is needed, was not learnt?”

A further challenge we face is the loss of expertise needed to write our own boundary element codes for solving tabular mining problems. South Africa was a leader in this field in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, we are now relying on imported codes.

Philosophy of Life: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

5. What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?

We are currently experiencing a low in the commodity cycle and the mines will probably struggle to remain profitable for the next few years. Our role to assist with the profitability of marginal mines will become much more important in future. Unfortunately, this will make our lives more difficult, as safety cannot be compromised in the process.

6. What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?

Every career has its ups and downs. It is important to have a vision and then to persevere if things do not always go your way. Something that is also becoming increasingly important in modern society (and I still struggle with this) is to maintain balance in your life. Your family and fun activities are the treasures of life.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

Prof John Napier has been my mentor since I joined COMRO as a student in 1987. I am fortunate to still interact with him, and his mathematical abilities and insight into rock engineering problems are simply awesome. In spite of his brilliance, he has always been a humble man. I have always admired this.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Dr Guner Gürtunca, Director of Miningtek, came into my office in 1995 and all he said was: “Tomorrow I want you to go to Wits and register for a PhD”. Up to that point, I was unsure whether I could successfully complete a PhD. The important lesson is not to fear failure if these opportunities come your way. I am still grateful to Guner for giving me this unsolicited “advice”.


MG BarnardFull 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.

In December 1866, on a farm close to the Orange River to the northwest of Hopetown, the Jacobs children were playing a game of ‘klip-klip’ with pebbles, when one pebble caught the eye of a visiting neighbour, Schalk van Niekerk. At the behest of his mother, the young finder, Erasmus Jacobs, gave the stone to van Niekerk who was an amateur collector of semi-precious stones. The stone was sent to the nearest geologist, Dr William Atherstone in Grahamstown, who identified it as a twenty-one carat diamond. From South Africa it was sent to London where it was valued at £500 and named the ‘Eureka’.

Despite the assertions of two very learned and eminently distinguished London geologists, one of whom actually visited the region, that the geological character of the area was not conducive for the presence of diamonds, two years later in March 1869, van Niekerk swapped some livestock with a local shepherd in exchange for an eighty-three carat stone. It was a white diamond, which he immediately sold to traders, Lilienfeld Brothers, in Hopetown for £11 000. Once again, the stone was sent to London for cutting where it was named the ‘Star of Africa’ and sold for £30 000.

This opened the flood-gates, and the initial influx of Boer diggers was soon swelled by others who poured into the country from around the world. At first, diggings were concentrated in the gravels on the banks of the Orange and Vaal rivers and on the slopes of adjacent koppies. Despite the fact that diamonds had been shown in 1813 to be comprised of carbon by Humphry Davy (the same English scientist who invented the miner’s safety lamp), the sources of diamonds worldwide (predominantly India and Brazil before the South African discovery) were exclusively alluvial, and their igneous genesis was not fully appreciated until the weathered diamond-bearing detritus on South African koppies gave way to the underlying blue ground, which was only then also found to contain, and in fact to be the source of, diamonds.

The hard Kimberlites of the volcanic pipes were, of course, much less amenable to being worked by individuals or groups of individuals with picks and shovels, and led to the formation of syndicates and companies to raise the necessary capital for their increasingly expensive exploitation. This in turn gave rise to the emergence of the first South African entrepreneurs. Only a handful of the many thousands of hopeful people who flooded to the diamond fields in search of fortune rose to the top of the competitive pile, and only some of those went on to become household names in the South African lexicon: Joseph Benjamin Robinson, Charles Dunnel Rudd, Barnett Isaacs Barnato, and Cecil John Rhodes, to name a few. These men made their names and initial fortunes on the diamond fields, and in the process gained the expertise, generated the wealth and accumulated or gained access to much of the capital that was later required to acquire and develop deep level mining properties when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. Many of them went on to become leading lights in the development of the Rand, and indeed in the development of South and Southern Africa as a whole, earning themselves the nickname of ‘Randlords’.

Much of the more recent development of rock mechanics in the South Africa is usually traced to the aftermath of the Coalbrook disaster in 1961. While this was undoubtedly a watershed event which heralded the very beginnings of our Institute, and lent much impetus to the modern, structured variety of rock mechanics that we are so familiar with in the country today, it was by no means the start of people applying their minds to problems associated with the stability of mining excavations and the safety of workmen. Nobody who has seen photographs of the early diamond diggings on the Colesburg Koppie can fail to be struck by the precariousness of the vertical shear faces cut into weathered kimberlite, sometimes to enormous heights, representing the boundaries of individual rectangular claim holdings. And nobody who has experienced and been frightened by the surface manifestations of strong mine tremors can be unaware that something untoward is happening in the ground beneath their feet.

The name Gardener Williams crops up often in the story of both the diamond fields and the gold fields. He was an American mining engineer who advised Rhodes on the need to amalgamate all of the diamond claims on the Colesburg Koppie at Kimberley so that the individual mines could be worked, managed and coherently planned as single entities to put an end to and prevent instability and the hugely unsafe practices associated with individual claims undercutting each other. In a sense, Gardener Williams may be considered as South Africa’s very first far-sighted rock mechanics engineer. Rhodes wisely employed him to manage De Beers.

eurekaEureka diamond  

kim holeKimberley Hole

williamsGardner Williams
miners kim  Diamond miners in Kimberley RhodesCecil John Rhodes
dave  This story was written by Dave Arnold.
Please feel free to contact Dave with any historical stories for the next edition.    
For more information please go to http://www.icdp.net.za

The Division of Mining and Geotechnical Engineering at Luleå University of Technology will arrange Ground Support 2016, the 8th International Symposium on Ground Support in Mining and Underground Construction, in Luleå, Sweden, September 12 – 14, 2016. Venue: Kulturens Hus – Conference & Congress.

This conference series has been hosted by many countries and continents throughout the years:

1st 1983 in Abisko, Sweden

2nd 1992 in Sudbury, Canada

3rd 1997 in Lillehammer, Norway

4th 1999 in Kalgoorlie, Australia

5th 2004 in Perth, Australia

6th 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa

7th 2013 in Perth, Australia

More information can be found at http://groundsupport2016.com/