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andreasInterview questions

Full Name:

Andreas (Andre) Petrus Esterhuizen


Rock Engineering Manager - Eastern Bushveld

Company/ Organisations:

I am employed byOpen House Management Solutions, and I am a member of SANIRE and SIAMM

Date and Place of Birth:

I was born in Klerksdorp on 14 April 1981 – the same day as the Lincoln assassination and the day the Titanic struck the ice berg. (Apparently not the luckiest day of the year?)


After a brief stint at university I obtained my COM Strata Control and Rock Engineering Certificates. Following that, I obtained an Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate from Wits.

First Job:

Computer programmer for a company focused on modernising the agricultural sector.

Personal Best Achievement/s:

Professionally- to date the quality and success of the rock engineering function at Two Rivers Platinum mine, which has since become leading practise, is something that I am very proud off. As with everything, I can’t take all the credit for the success of the system, but I played a large part in the early development.

Personally, I hold black belts in three different styles of Karate and represented South -Africa internationally.

Philosophy of Life:

The saying “You don’t find yourself, you create yourself” comes to mind. I firmly believe that we are not born for a specific purpose, but that our lives obtain meaning through what we do and how we affect world and those around us.

Favourite Food/Drink:

I love shepherd’s pie and pasta and a good red wine.

Favourite Sport:

I am an avid Sharks rugby supporter and enjoy boxing and all forms of martial arts.

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

I started off working in the Seismology Department at Harties in 2001, which lasted for 8 months. The following year I transferred to the Rock Engineering Department and obtained my SCO ticket. I was transferred to Two Rivers Platinum near Lydenburg in 2005, where I obtained my Rock Engineering Certificate and AREC. I am currently managing the largest department (by number of employee) within OHMS, and I am responsible for on-site contractual as well as consulting services for mines situated within Mpumalanga, Limpopo and most recently also Zambia.

‘Never present problems without solutions.’ 

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

What attracted me most in the beginning of my career was the opportunity to work in a young developing field of science. I love to read and research just about anything in an effort to continually better myself and my general knowledge, and this field suited my personality perfectly. There are no quick fixes, in order to be successful you must have a passion for understanding what you see around you, and aim to find practical solutions to real problems.

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

I started off in OHMS’s Seismology Department as a Seismic Processor at Harties. During this period I was exposed to- and became interested in Rock Engineering, as both departments were managed by our company. When a vacancy opened up in the Rock Engineering Department I requested to be transferred and became a Learner Strata Control Officer. I obtained my SCO ticket 4 months later. After that I was transferred to the Eastern Bushveld where I matured into a qualified Rock Engineering Manager. I have been very fortunate in my career to date to be associated with both fantastic Rock Engineers and Mine Managers who had significant influences on my career.

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

The level of competence within the fraternity is definitely increasing and we are producing competent engineers. However, I recently became aware of the fact that most rock engineers have very limited exposure. Whilst they might be experts on their specific mines and environments, they falter as soon as their environments change. This leads to complacency and stagnation. I am in favour of a system whereby all qualified rock engineers are required to refresh their qualification on a set and regular basis.  

On the flip side, the level of competence in the mining industry – especially on the production front, is decreasing rapidly. This results in rock engineers spending more time policing, and less time on actual design work, which obviously influences job satisfaction.

"Philosophy of Life: The saying “You don’t find yourself, you create yourself” comes to mind. I firmly believe that we are not born for a specific purpose, but that our lives obtain meaning through what we do and how we affect the world and those around us.”


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

As mining continues to advance deeper and deeper, we need to obtain a better understanding of rock mass behaviour to stress. Stable pillar design also has a lot of room for improvement. As a gadget lover, I would love to see more research and the introduction of more electronic technologies such as digital image processing, pattern recognition and more sophisticated means of measurement.

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

Unfortunately there are no shortcuts. Work hard, be meticulous, and be interested in what you do. My three favourite quotes are:

  1. You are the product of your environment, so choose carefully the environment that will best develop you toward your objective.
  2. Never present problems without solutions.
  3. You don’t always get what you deserve, but you always get what you work for.

7. Who is your role model/ mentor?

I have a lot of role models. There are many of my friends, family members, colleges and even subordinates that I look up to and who’s opinion I regard very highly.

My mentor, and without doubt the largest influence in my professional career, is Koos Bosman, who has instilled in me a deep love of rock engineering, research, knowledge and red wine.

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

Distinguish between what is important and what is urgent” and my favourite: “Own your mistakes, and then move on”.


William Joughin
SRK Consulting

Although this article is focused on the calculation of joint shear strengths for use in JBlock to evaluate underground rockfalls, it contains information relevant to anybody calculating joint shear strengths, in any rock engineering environment.

When designing support in JBlock, it is important to investigate the joint characteristics in a Ground Control District (GCD). Each joint set within a GCD could present a range of joint conditions from rough undulating joints with no fill, to slickensided joints with thick soft clay infill such as serpentinite. The joint shear strength will therefore be variable and will significantly affect the stability of blocks formed. It is important to capture the distribution of shear strengths in JBlock so that the analysis is representative of the GCD on which it is based.

JBlock can create a few hundred thousand blocks and then test their stability within a supported excavation. Each block is formed by combining joints from the different joint sets. The attributes of these joints (dip, dip direction, persistence and shear strength) are selected by a randomly sampling from the input distributions. The user can specify the mean and standard deviation or the minimum and maxim for each joint characteristic.

JBlock uses the classic Mohr-Coulomb model for determining joint shear strengths:


where c is the cohesion and Φ is the friction angle of the joint.

For each joint set, JBlock requires the mean and standard deviation of c and Φ These are randomly applied to individual joints using a normal distribution (at this time no other distributions are availible). It is important to input a representative distribution of joint shear strengths, but it is not critical to accurately determine the shear strengths of individual joints.

quote1Unfilled joints have no real cohesion. Uncemented, coarse joint fill material and gouge, also have no cohesion. Soft clay infills have very low cohesion and this can generally be ignored, but it may be prudent to carry out laboratory shear strength tests on these joints. If the laboratory cohesions are used, it may be sensible to make these a separate joint set (note that the joint spacing parameters should be determined for the filled joint set and not for all similarly oriented discontinuities). Quartz and calcite veins are effectively cemented and therefore have high cohesion values. If these veins commonly form bounding discontinuities in the observed rockfalls, they should be included as a separate joint set. The shear strengths of closed veins should be determined in a laboratory. Rocklab has the facilities to perform shear strength tests on natural joints. However, it is usually reasonable to ignore veins and not to use cohesion for filled joints, but this should be verified in each GCD.

Nick Barton and his colleagues have performed many hundreds of rigorous laboratory and field tests on discontinuities in rock and have published many papers on the subject. They have proposed methods for estimating the shear strength of discontinuities in the field without having to use the cumbersome tests. This work is widely used and accepted by the rock engineering fraternity internationally and appears in most rock mechanics textbooks. A few important papers are included in the references (Barton, 1973; Barton and Choubey, 1977; Barton and Bandis, 1990; Barton, 2002).

It is recommended that the following simple formula is used to estimate friction angles from data collected during a routine joint mapping exercise:


where Jr and Ja are the join roughness and joint alteration used in Barton’s Q system (Barton, 2002)

Barton considers this to be good estimate of the friction angle for joints with rockwall contact and is the only method for estimating the shear strength of filled discontinuities (Barton and Bandis, 1990, Barton, 2002 and Barton pers comm 2014). This method is demonstrated in Table 1 where example friction angles are provided for different combinations of Jr and Ja. These parameters can be estimated using Table 2 and can be easily determined during underground mapping. The distinction between joints with rockwall contact, sheared joints with rockwall contact and no rockwall contact when sheared is illustrated. It is apparent that the strengthening effect of asperities (rough undulations) is diminished with the presence of soft clay infills. The low friction angles for filled joints were assessed by Barton (1973) and results are presented in Table 3. Joints with thick serpentinised or soft clay fill could have friction angles of less than 10°.

This simple method is recommended because it provides reasonable estimates to obtain a distribution of friction angles for a joint set. Figure 1 is an example of joint set friction angle distributions.

graph1 graph2
Figure 1:    Frequency and cumulative frequency distributions of frictions angle.

It is apparent that the data contains a few discrete values of Jr/Ja, which is to be expected when using the Q tables (Table 2). There are some weak joints in this set, representing a thin fill, but no thick filled joints (lowest friction angle is 20°). The normal distribution smoothes the irregularities, but unfortunately does not provide a good fit to the data. A lognormal or beta distribution would provide a better fit, because of the large number of 20° friction angles, but these distributions are not currently availible in JBlock. This enhancement to JBlock has been suggested and will hopefully become available in the near future.

It is also important to place upper and lower limits on the distribution; otherwise the random sampling process will assign negative friction angles and friction angles greater than 90° to a few individual joints, which will lead to errors. The lower limit should be slightly lower than the lowest estimated friction angle, but not less than 2°. It is recommended that the upper limit should be 70° or less. Barton does not appear to be uncomfortable with friction angles greater than 70°, but Hoek suggests that f values greater than 70° have no practical meaning.

Barton (Barton and Choubey, 1977 and Barton and Bandis, 1990) also proposed the more rigorous Barton-Bandis model for determining the shear strength of unfilled discontinuities with rock wall contact. (Hoek provides a good summary of this method):


Where JRC and JCS are the Joint roughness coefficient and Joint compressive strength respectively and Φr is the residual friction angle, which can be determined as follows: 


Where r is the Schmidt rebound number for wet and weathered fracture surfaces and R is the Schmidt rebound number on dry unweathered sawn surfaces. Φb is the basic friction angle, which can be determined from literature or preferably by a laboratory shear test. Note that for a dry unweathered joint, Φr = Φb.

JCS can be estimated from the profiles in Table 4. Suggested methods for estimating the joint wall compressive strength were published by the ISRM (1978). The Schmidt rebound hammer can be used for estimating joint wall compressive strength.

A further scale correction is usually required, as this method is based on test samples and observations taken over approximately 10 cm, where rockfalls and failures can occur over several metres. This correction reduces the JRC and JCS and is based on the principal that a small asperity will have a lower effect on the shear strength of a 20 m long joint, than a 1 m joint.

This method requires considerably more effort and although it is a more rigorous estimation of joint shear strength for specifically unfilled joints with rock wall contact, it has some drawbacks when being applied in JBlock.

Firstly, additional work is required to convert the results to c and Φ, the input parameters required by Jblock. It is a non-linear equation and therefore ci and ΦI will vary for different values of σn (Figure 2). The ci value is not the physical cohesion value but simply the intercept on the t axis. Hoek provides a spreadsheet based calculation method for conversion to ci and ΦI for a given σn, which is commonly used for joint analysis software that does not include the Barton-Bandis model directly. In the JBlock analysis, the magnitude of σn will vary for individual joints depending on the joint orientation and c and σ, up to a maximum of the set clamping stress in JBlock (for vertical joints). It should also be noted that for σn = 0, the model is undefined due to division by zero. The possibility of including the Barton-Bandis model in JBlock has been suggested and this may be available in the near future. This conversion will no longer be required if this is implemented.


Figure 2:    Definition of instantaneous cohesion ci and instantaneous friction angle φi for a nonlinear failure criterion (after Hoek)

quote2Secondly, the shear strength of filled discontinuities cannot be determined with this method. Barton specifically states that the method does not apply to filled discontinuities (Barton and Choubey, 1977 and Barton and Bandis, 1990, Barton pers comm 2014). The filled joints are the weakest and are therefore more likely to cause rockfalls. It is therefore recommended that this approach should only be used when there are no filled or sheared joints in the set.


Barton papers can be obtained from www.nickbarton.com.

Barton, N.R. 1973. A review of the shear strength of filled discontinuities in rock. Norwegian Geotech. Inst. Publ. No. 105. Oslo: Norwegian Geotech. Inst.

Barton, N.R. and Choubey, V. 1977. The shear strength of rock joints in theory and practice. Rock Mech. 10(1-2), 1-54.

Barton, N.R. and Bandis, S.C. 1990. Review of predictive capabilities of JRC-JCS model in engineering practice. In Rock joints, proc. int. symp. on rock joints, Loen, Norway, (eds N. Barton and O. Stephansson), 603-610. Rotterdam: Balkema.

Barton, N. R. 2002. Some new Q-value correlations to assist in site characterisation and tunnel design. International Journal of Rock Mechanics & Mining Sciences 39 (2002) 185–216.

Hoek. Rock Engineering (Course Notes). www.rocscience.com.

ISRM 1978. International Society for Rock Mechanics Commission on Standardisation of Laboratory and Field Tests.. Suggested methods for the quantitative description of discontinuities in rock masses. Int. J. Rock Mech. Min. Sci. & Geomech. Abstr. 15, 319-368

Table 1:    Estimation of joint friction angle (from Barton 2002)


Table 2:    Q parameters Jr and Ja (Barton, 2002)



JBlock is a user-friendly tool that is used for identification of key blocks and failure potential, based on a probabilistic analysis. Input parameters, such as orientation, size and strength estimates for joints, faults and the position of hangingwall parallel discontinuities, can be considered in the analysis. The results are useful input parameters in support design and for identification of fall of ground hazards. JBlock provides results in the format of plans and charts of the probability of failure of key blocks of different sizes. The results can be compared qualitatively with calculations from numerical modelling software and rock mass ratings.

Table 3:    Shear Strength of filled joints(as presented by Hoek– Data from Barton 1973)


Table 4:    JRC profiles (after Barton and Choubey, 1977 as presented in Hoek)



RockTalk Nov2014                      

In July 2011, the SIMRAC project SIM100301 ‘Minimising the increasing seismic risk in the platinum sector’, was successfully completed. The main authors of this project were SiM Mining Consultants on seismology and Middindi Consultants on rock engineering.

SIM100301 looked at the causes of seismic conditions and the implications it held for mine design and practice on platinum mines. It also evaluated the performance of routine seismic hazard assessment methods and compared recommended to actual seismic monitoring practice.

SIM100301 suggested methods to improve the mining practice, the effective gathering of rock mass related information, suitable seismic monitoring procedures, and training initiatives which should focus on conditions that generate seismicity in platinum mines.

Acting on a recommendation by the COM’s RETC committee, the MHSC issued a tender in June 2014. Recently, SIM 140301, a two year technology transfer project, was awarded to SiM Mining Consultants, in collaboration with Middindi Consulting and Simulated Training Solutions (STS).

img1 img2

“Horizontal stress in coal mines”, ©2012 Coaltech


SIM 1403021 ‘Technology transfer on minimising seismic risk in the platinum mines’ aims to deliver on the SIM100301 recommendations in three ways:

  • Creating learning and awareness training material for production personnel on PGM mines to improve seismic risk management and assisting with the roll-out of this training.
  • Sourcing and revising relevant seismic training material for Rock Engineers for all commodities
  • Developing an audit protocol for seismic systems and conducting a baseline audit on each PGM producer.

The training materials for production personnel aim to use advanced and innovative technologies, supplied by STS, to provide a virtual reality learning environment that can be better understood by a workforce not overly familiar with English. The materials will be workable in the most common current training facility setup and trainers will be able to choose the most relevant sections, from modules, to integrate with existing training. Trainers can attend one of several workshops to familiarise them with the new material.

The training material for Rock Engineers already exists in various formats and this phase of the project will focus on collation, revision and distribution.

Seismic Moment: A scalar that measures the co-seismic inelastic deformation at the source. Since seismic moment is proportional to the integral of the far field displacement pulse, it can be derived from recorded waveforms. 

The audit protocol will be built on the guidelines provided in SIM100301, but will have to cater for a range of different seismic system setups: From shafts monitored by a single surface site to those with more than ten stations.The stakeholder interest in a baseline audit, nine mines have indicated active support, shows the relevance and necessity of practice reviews. Most operations do not include seismic system audits in their budgets and this project will be delivering a valuable service to a number of operations. Individual audit reports will be compiled per business unit as well as a summarising report reflecting all business units. The summary will contain statistics on equipment deployed, practices implemented, level of compliance and gaps evident between recommended and actual standard of seismic monitoring and reporting.

Invites to participate have been sent out in November to all stakeholders. The success of SIM140301 relies on active support and participation by each producer for the mutual benefit of the industry.

Friedemann Essrich, SiM (14/11/2014)






Examples of pillar failures on PGM mines in the WBV (SIM100301).

Here is the final version of the program, for you to please distribute amongst your department and colleagues. If however there is anyone else that you would like to invite or make aware of this meeting, please feel free to forward this onto them as well. In terms of attending could you please contact either Sandor Petho or Stephen Poczik, by the latest the 18th of February 2015, so that we can cater accordingly.

Click Here for more information

The Rock Engineering exam results for October 2014 is available. Results for P3.1 can be obtained by sending an email to Yolande.jooste@harmony.co.za

The Coalfields Branch would like to extend an invitation to the annual SANIRE END YEAR FUNCTION to be held at Olifants River Lodge, between Middelburg and eMalahleni (Witbank), on the 28th of November 2014.

If you are interested in attending, please contact one of the committee members below:

Chairman: Sandor Pethö: 083 600 4158 / sandor.petho@glencore.co.za

Vice - Chairman: Stephen Poczik: 082 335 8570 / stephen.poczik@totalcoal.co.za

For more information click HERE

The SANIRE Gauteng Branch is hosting an evening lecture with a technical talk on

Topic : Risk Mitigation – Slope Stability Monitoring.


Huw Thomas – Principal Surveyor (Anglo American Technical Services)

Drinks and snacks will be provided.

Venue : AEL Mining Services, The Platform, Modderfontein

Time: 17H30 for 18H00 Date: 20th November 2014

RSVP to Philani Mpunzi before the 14th November 2014 by clicking on one of the boxes or by e-mail directly to pmpunzi@srk.co.za


Reutech Mining

Click HERE for more information




The American Rock Mechanics Association invites you to submit an abstract to the U.S. annual conference on rock mechanics and geomechanics, and visit the beautiful and vibrant city of San Francisco, California.

Abstracts are sought in mining engineering, petroleum engineering, civil engineering and interdisciplinary aspects of each.

For information on the symposium, abstract submission, accommodations, and sponsorship, visit:


Conference Dates:           28 June - 1 July 2015

Location:                          Westin St. Francis, Union Square, San Francisco, California, USA

Abstract Deadline:           1 November 2014

Author Notification:          15 January 2015

Paper Submittal:              1 March 2015


Peter Smeallie
Executive Director
American Rock Mechanics Association
600 Woodland Terrace
Alexandria, VA 22302
703-683-1808 (office)
703-997-6112 (fax)


Slope Stability



Open pit mines are being planned to increasingly great depths, often beyond the current experience and knowledge base, with the exception perhaps of some very steep and high natural rock slopes. Despite recent advances, there remains significant challenges in understanding the mechanisms of slope behaviour and failure, and methods of stability analysis for such slopes. In an attempt to bring together the state of the art capabilities in these fields, as well as new research and developments, the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) in collaboration with the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE) are organising a specialist international symposium on the Stability of Rock

Slopes, to be held in Cape Town in October 2015. Cape Town is considered to be a very appropriate location for the symposium. There is a wide choice of hotels, within a few minutes walk of the symposium venue. In the area there are many steep natural rock slopes, and there are significant hard rock quarries within about an hourʼs drive. Technical site visits to various natural slopes and the quarries will be arranged.


Click HERE to read more

The SANIRE Coalfields Branch have the pleasure of hosting the annual SANIRE Symposium on the 11th September 2014 at Glenburn Lodge, Muldersdrift. This symposium has been ECSA approved for one (1) CPD credit.

Click HERE for programme



Dr. Roger Hart will be in South Africa on 18 and 19 September 2014. He has kindly agreed to give two free workshops on Distinct Element Modelling using Itasca's latest Particle Flow Code (PFC). Dr. Hart directed the development of Itasca's six software products, FLAC, FLAC3D, UDEC, 3DEC, PFC2D and PFC3D for more than 20 years and he has conducted over 100 training courses for Itasca software worldwide.


Protea Hotel – Fire and Ice! Melrose Arch

22 Whitely Street

Melrose Arch, Melrose

Milan Room


Click HERE to read more.

Click HERE for directions

Click HERE for directions street view



The Rock Mechanics Certificate - Paper 1 is a general theoretical Paper covering basic rock mechanics theory application in all types of mining enviroments, surface as well as under ground. To read more click Here.

The SANIRE Coalfields Branch have the pleasure of hosting the annual SANIRE Symposium on the 11th September 2014 at Glenburn Lodge, Muldersdrift. This symposium has been ECSA approved for one (1) CPD credit.

Click Here for programme



The Contribution of Rock Engineering to the Future of Mining

"Rock Engineering to the Rescue"

The SANIRE Coalfields Branch have the pleasure of hosting the annual SANIRE Symposium on the 11th September 2014 at Glenburn Lodge, Muldersdrift. We would like to encourage the contribution of technical papers and presentations from all mining commodities for the Symposium. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and preferably be in MS Word.

Please forward all abstracts to the following e-mail sandor.petho@glencore.co.za by the latest 31st July 2014. If you are interested in attending the SANIRE Symposium or intend to submit an abstract, please forward the following personal details to the enquiries e-mail: Name, Company, Designation, Contact Number and E-mail address

For submission of abstracts, please also include the following Information:

Title of paper and Author's full name.

Click here for registration


As a result of numerous problems with the administration of this exam it was decided that the Chamber of mines will administrate this exam as of the 1st of July 2014.

Please assist and inform your members of the new process:

  1. Organiser of the exam needs to inform the COM of the date and location of the exam (Colin Anderson)
  2. Candidates can then register for this specific exam through the COM website (www.comcert.co.za )
  3. Prior to the exam, the organiser needs to obtain the list of candidates who registered. If any candidate did not register through the COM the results of the exam will not be accepted.
  4. Candidates will receive a letter from the COM which needs to be shown the day of the practical exam.
  5. Results to be sent to the COM from which the candidates can then obtain their results.


See Brochure




11 th SEPTEMBER 2014



The SANIRE Coalfields Branch have the pleasure of hosting the annual SANIRE Symposium on the 11 th September 2014 at Glenburn Lodge.

The theme is "The Contribution of Rock Engineering to the Future of Mining: Rock Engineering to the Rescue".

We would like to encourage the contribution of technical papers and presentations for the Symposium.

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and preferably be in MS Word.

Please forward all abstracts to the following e-mail sandor.petho@glencore.co.za by the latest 7 July 2014.

If you are interested in attending the SANIRE Symposium or intend to submit an abstract, please forward your personal details to the enquiries e-mail.




From the 1st of July 2014 the Chamber of mines will be managing the registration for the Strata Control Practical exams. Examiners to inform Colin Anderson at the Chamber of the planned practical exam date. Registration forms will be available on the website www.comcert.co.za  for the candidates to register.

ONLY candidates that register through the Chamber of mines will be allowed to participate in the exam. Examiners to ENSURE that only candidates which register through the Chamber of Mines are examined by obtaining a list of the candidates that registered prior to the exam.

Any queries can be directed to Yolande Jooste Yolande.jooste@harmony.co.za

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"Creating value through innovative rock engineering"

12–14 May 2014 Misty Hills Country Hotel and Conference Centre, Cradle of Humankind

GROUP DISCOUNT - Register THREE delegates and the FOURTH delegate is free


Recent developments in the global mining industry have led to the conclusion that it is time for significant change. Mining needs to become yet safer and more efficient while addressing the challenges of rising costs, skills shortage, marginal ore, complex geology and greater mining depth. The easy pickings have been taken. Innovative rock engineering design is therefore essential for the future of the mining industry.


  • Rock engineering practitioners
  • DMR inspectors
  • Researchers
  • Academics
  • Mining engineers
  • Civil engineers


  • Value creation
  • Innovative design
  • Fracture and damage of rocks
  • Numerical modelling
  • Constitutive models
  • Rock mechanics data
  • Deformable rock
  • Underground rock mechanics
  • Tunnelling
  • Slope stability
  • Caving
  • Ground support
  • Subsidence
  • Seismicity
  • Risk


Sponsorship opportunities are available. Companies wishing to sponsor or exhibitshould contact the Conference Co-ordinator.

Current Sponsors:

  • Geobrugg
  • New Concept Mining
  • Orica
  • Red Dog Scientific Services
  • Sigra Pty Ltd
  • SRK Consulting

For further information contact:
Conference Coordinator,
Camielah Jardine, SAIMM,
P O Box 61127, Marshalltown 2107
Tel: +27 11 834-1273/7
Fax: +27 11 833-8156 or +27 11 838-5923
E-mail: Camielah@saimm.co.za
Website: http://www.saimm.co.za

21 March 2014 marked a landmark in Zimbabwe’s mining history – the resuscitation of the Rock Mechanics Society in the form of the Zimbabwe National Institute of Rock Engineering (ZINIRE). ZINIRE President Omberai Mandingaisa reports:

Prior to its launch, the Zimbabwe National Institute of Rock Engineering (ZINIRE) held its first stakeholder engagement workshop at the Fairmile Motel in the Midlands provincial capital of Gweru on 21 March 2014. The workshop sought to provide a forum for stakeholders to provide input and share their expectations of ZINIRE. It therefore served as a springboard for the launch of ZINIRE, which is planned for June.

ZINIRE’s stakeholders include mining houses, the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Mines Inspectorate, suppliers, tertiary institutions offering mining qualifications, and rock engineering practitioners.

Most of the people who attended the event were practitioners from the Zimbabwean platinum industry, in which the main players are South African based mining houses, who have brought with them South Africa’s well developed rock engineering practices and legislative framework, enabling global leading practice to infiltrate the Zimbabwean mining industry.

The guest speaker, Walter Nemasasi is the general manager of Anglo American Platinum’s Unki mine. He gave some background on the evolution of mining, safety and rock engineering practices in Zimbabwe.

He said: “Rock Engineering in Zimbabwe saw a lot of research and the publication of high level applications of design principles at Shabanie and Mashava Mines in the 1970s. This saw the development of the widely used mining rock mass rating developed by Dennis Laubscher in 1977 in the massive mining environment, leading to predictions of support and the application of rock mass rating in support designs. Several great geotechnical engineers, such as Dennis Laubscher, Giovani Marano and Keith Viewing, put a very high level of technical design into the Shabanie and Mashaba mines.”

However, the late 1990s and early 21st century saw a drop to a near collapse of rock engineering practices in the Zimbabwean mining industry, which also shrunk as the economic meltdown took its toll.

The revitalization of the platinum industry has seen the return of the world’s best practices in terms of fall-of-ground management. This, however, still leaves other players in the industry without access to the available body of knowledge, a gap ZINIRE seeks to close in the near future.

Walter also went on to look at the strides made in the past in attempting to formalise and legislate the rock engineering practice in Zimbabwe. The work done by the likes of Richard Svotwa, who was with the Ministry of Mines in the 90s, was commendable. Svotwa and the previous association attempted to formalise a certificate of competence in rock mechanics through the School of Mines, but corporate support for this qualification became unavailable as the main mines that required designs and high level technical input downscaled.

In conclusion, Walter made a call for ZINIRE to play a key role in seeing to it that the plight of local practitioners is recognised and that sound rock engineering practices are legislated to ensure that all mines end up with guidelines to use in managing and reducing fall-of-ground accidents.

Presentations were also made by the head of the Mining Department at the Zimbabwe School of Mines (ZSM), Martin January, and Llen Barber, a representative from New Concept Mining. These presentations, in conjunction with the interactive brainstorming sessions led by the current president of ZINIRE, identified the following salient issues:

  1. There is need to set a meeting with the inspectorate to get inspectorate input, since the date clashed with an urgent meeting for the inspectorate.
  2. More publicity is required so that all practitioners and interested parties are able to register in the various categories of membership. More marketing is required.
  3. Institutional membership should be included as a membership level. The constitution to be reviewed in line with this request.
  4. ZINIRE members (suppliers, mines and practitioners) should champion technical research to ensure technical papers get published to increase the body of knowledge.
  5. ZINIRE should keep up to date with the standards or improve on what was produced by ZIOSH, which is the arm of the Chamber of Mines that looks at all safety issues, including fall-of-ground management.
  6. The following are the deliverables and relationships expected from ZINIRE by the ZSM:
  7. Assistance in module delivery.
  8. Facilitating the delivery of practicals, where possible.
  9. Arranging short courses and seminars.
  10. Developing a certificate of competence (a lot of work was done previously).
  11. Facilitating the involvement of mines and suppliers in getting more research and development carried out.
  12. Using the ZSM infrastructure for seminars, talks and workshops, etc.
  13. A pledge was made to host the official launch of ZINIRE at the ZSM.
  14. There is a need to engage the ZSM and the Mining department at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and provide a platform for suppliers to be involved in research and development funding.
  15. The institute should engage suppliers of support products to supply samples of their products for use at the school as part of the visual aids.
  16. Practitioners should review the curriculum and syllabus being covered by students and the available material at the ZSM for relevance and alignment to current trends.
  17. ZINIRE should interact with other associations, such as the Mine Managers’ Association of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers.
  18. ZINIRE needs to engage more with suppliers of rock support products.

These issues form and shape the obligations, guidelines and the way forward for ZINIRE.

The CEO of Virimai Projects, Wenslous Kutekwatekwa, and the CEO of the ZSM, Dzingirai Tusai, took the podium and emphasised that the wait for ZINIRE to be born is over, but it will take the determination of all stakeholders for the institute become effective and deliver the required results. It is critical that members, especially those serving on the council, appreciate the need for a lot of sacrifice for the success of ZINIRE. The mineral economist and technical advisor of the Chamber of Mines, David Matyanga, sent in some considerations that guided the discussions around means of funding ZINIRE, as well as mechanisms to ensure mines are engaged at all times through institutional membership.

It was agreed that consultations with stakeholders that could not attend should be pursued during April and the launch should be planned for June. The date will be confirmed once feedback is obtained as to how to synchronise the ZINIRE, Ministry of Mines Inspectorate and Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe calendar to ensure full participation at the main launch.

The ZINIRE council extends its sincere gratitude to the following for their participation in the workshop:

  • Unki Mines Pvt. Ltd (main sponsor)
  • Mimosa Mine
  • Zimplats
  • Virimai Projects
  • Zimbabwe School of Mines
  • Videx Mining
  • New Concept Mining
  • Gateway Construction

 MichaelDuPlessisHard work and excellent mentorship have brought SANIRE Vice-President Michael du Plessis thus far, as he pointed out in a chat with RockTalk. We hope you enjoy reading it.

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

I am currently the group rock engineering manager for Lonmin. My career in mining started in 2002, when I was recruited by Anglo Platinum as a rock engineering graduate. During my final year of study, Anglo Platinum gave a brief presentation at RAU (now UJ) to recruit candidates for their rock engineering graduate pool.

Rock engineering appealed to me as it was in line with what I was studying and I had a fascination with rock formations and structure. I therefore completed the application form and was surprisingly invited to an interview. I was eventually appointed as one of the five successful graduates. We were from different universities across the country and had studied a combination of engineering, science and/or geology.

At the time, we did not really know what rock engineering entailed and none of us had any idea of what the underground environment looked like (with the exception of a trip down at Gold Reef city many years ago).

2. Tell us a bit more about your role as SANIRE vice-president.

I think the vice-president has the easy job. However, as you are groomed to take over the presidency, you have big shoes to fill. One of the key roles is to ensure the continuation of the strategies put in place by past presidents. Furthermore, we, as an organisation, need to reposition ourselves as times change and the requirements surrounding our fraternity change.

I am part of the team who looks after the interests of both our discipline and members. We, as a committee, have to envision what the future requirements of our discipline and industry will look like. Today we are seeing the results of decisions and strategies put in place by previous committees and presidents. An aligned strategy and vision is therefore transferred from president to president and committee to committee.

3. What is your vision for SANIRE?

We have always been seen as a very professional organisation. I want to make sure this continues.

I would, however, like to see us market SANIRE and our members at all levels of industry and not only in the rock engineering fraternity. We, as members, have to take the lead and show industry what we are busy with. We, as leaders in our organisations and as leaders in SANIRE, must encourage our staff and members to market themselves by sharing experiences, research and development, technologies, and so on by writing papers, presenting at multi-disciplinary symposia, and so on.

As SANIRE, we will be promoting this through our Practitioner of the Year, Salamon and Ortlepp awards. We must, however, encourage participation. This will take SANIRE to an entirely different level in industry.

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

We do not market ourselves enough. With the numerous section 54s issued, rock engineering has become a buzzword. However, very few mine managers or Inspectors know of SANIRE.

Furthermore, the needs of our members have changed. Most of the younger generation are aspiring to become rock engineers. Being an observer or strata control officer is only seen as part of a career path. Every person does, however, have different capabilities and attributes. Everybody will not be able to achieve the highest level. Getting our members to understand this and the fact that every level in a structure plays a very important part in providing a professional service is becoming more challenging.

5. In your opinion, what are some of challenges that members are currently facing?

Although rock engineering is still seen as a scarce skill, the crippling strikes are shaking up the industry.

Since the inception of the new study material, we have seen an increase in tickets. However, the strikes have brought along retrenchments and restructuring, resulting in fewer opportunities within and between companies. Career development is therefore limited and job security threatened.

Also, as the requirements on operations change, we do less engineering and more policing. Job satisfaction is therefore reduced and research and development is seen as an optional extra, especially in a cash-strapped environment.

6. You have done very well in your career to date. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey.

Since my recruitment as a rock engineering graduate, I have always been very fortunate to establish great relationships with good mentors. In Anglo, John Potgieter and Mike Treloar took me under their wings and guided me through my further studies and exposure to become an aspiring rock engineer.

After obtaining my rock engineering ticket, I joined Minova (2005). This was probably one of the best decisions at this point of my career as it matured me and gave me great exposure to different areas of industry across the country.

Two years later (2007) I was contacted by Mike Treloar regarding opportunities at Lonmin. I grabbed at the opportunity as I would be able to work with both Mike and Gregory More O’Ferrall, from whom I could learn and gain valuable experience. This was one of the best opportunities in my career. They gave me exposure and supported my inquisitive nature by providing me with the opportunity to work on research and projects, as well as exposing me to the leaders in our industry. This is also how I met Francois Malan, John Napier and John Ryder, who encouraged some of the work I was doing and motivated me to continue studying.

When Gregory More O’Ferrall resigned from Lonmin in 2009, I was appointed as the group rock engineering manager. Again I was supported by our mining executive vice-president and vice-president (Mark Munroe and Frank Russo Bello) who groomed and developed me through their ongoing and interactive mentoring.

7. What are some of the challenges of leading the Rock Engineering department of the third largest platinum producer in the world?

We are living in changing times. Since the multiple fatalities suffered by Impala as a result of a fall of ground in 2009, the presence of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has increased and section 54s are issued daily to weekly. As a result, rock engineering workplace audits are becoming a routine activity. The 2013 milestones, DMR instructions and Mining Charter requirements are governing the rules of the game.

In a time where every organisation is striving to be the lowest cost and safest producer, striving for culture transformation and being bombarded with strike action, it remains difficult to have a vision that will influence future leading practices and milestones.

It is very important to have a strong team on whom you can rely and who will support you. At Lonmin, I am very fortunate in that I have a strong, diverse and mature rock engineering team. Furthermore, our senior management supports me in my vision with regard to decision making, leading practices, research and development and training. As we are regarded as the safest mine, our management team is very supportive in developing new mining and support strategies to ensure that we remain the industry leaders.

8. What is the key principle/philosophy that has contributed to the success of your team?

I have very mature and experienced rock engineering managers. They play a key mentoring role to ensure that our team remains competent, even when they retire. Each person in my team has strengths (training, research and development, and so on). As a unit, we supplement each other.

Five years ago, we put a training programme in place for a pool of learners to ensure the continuity of local skill and experience for all levels of people in our department. We breed local knowledge through every year’s learner pool intake. These learners will become our future strata control officers, rock engineers and managers.

We also have very close working relationships with the mining team and form a critical part of the decision making unit on every mine.

9. One of the benchmarks in judging the success of rock engineering is the elimination of rock related incidences in South Africa mines. In your opinion, what needs to be done in order to lower these incidences to Australian or Canadian standards?

We need to influence people’s behaviour and train competence. We are too forgiving when it comes to non-compliance and focus only on production (blasting discipline, support installation, and so on). We allow the DMR to stop a mine, yet we as managers walk past sub-standard practices and behaviour. We are currently trying to engineer out behaviour. We do, however, see that even the smartest system can be bypassed or sacrificed as a result of people’s behaviour.

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

The DMR issued an instruction towards the end of last year requesting risk related workplace assessments conducted by the rock engineering department. The DMR questions the integrity and training of our mining team and therefore has put an increased emphasis on the policing function of trained rock engineering personnel, who can identify rock related hazards.

The function and duties of the rock engineering department will therefore have to be aligned to ensure effective up and down communication to and from the mining face, ensuring that workplaces are effectively risk rated and that the recommendations issued are appropriate, communicated and implemented. The rock engineering appointment will carry more weight and will come with more accountability. We have already seen the temporary suspension of rock engineering tickets.

Furthermore, all attempts will have to be made to develop systems to prevent falls of ground. Similar to bolting and netting, the next generation support must be developed to prevent all falls of ground. This will become the next leading practice within the next five to ten years.

11. Having completed a Masters degree in Rock Engineering you have started on your PhD. What motivated you to start on the PhD?

Francois Malan and Gregory More O’Ferrall persuaded me to pursue a PhD. It was never a goal of mine and personally I do not think it is something I would have put within my reach. Having a mentor such as Francois coaching and guiding me makes a world of difference.

12. What are some of the aspects you are covering in your PhD?

My PhD is focused on understanding the behaviour of crush pillars. I am investigating the effect pillar width has on crush pillar behaviour. On many mines using crush pillars, we have seismicity associated with the pillar behaviour. I hope to understand the mechanism driving pillar crushing so that I can devise a design strategy to prevent pillar seismicity and ensure safe and effective pillar crushing.

13. Who or what drives you?

When you are younger you seem to chase everything. This varies from qualifications, to positions, to money, etc. There is actually no winner or timeline. Setting achievable goals is important.

Having job satisfaction, good relationships and a healthy lifestyle is what drives me. I always work hard to achieve my goals. I do not have a role model, but I have several people who inspire me. This ranges from people who have a calm and steady approach to situations, to ones with super intelligence, ones with wisdom or people who truly enjoy life.

14. What role has mentorship played in your personal and professional growth?

Mentorship has played a major role in my life. As mentioned, I have always been fortunate in having good relationships and good mentors. Even when growing up, I always had good mentors supporting me. This has helped me to achieve milestones which would normally be above my own expectations.

Through my professional career and studies, having people who motivate and guide me has made an enormous contribution to what I have achieved.

I, however, believe that people see potential in all of us. It all depends how hard you are willing to work to achieve a goal. Mentors are purely people who see some talent and dedication, believe in you and guide you in your journey.

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

Hard work always pays off. Being one of the crowd is not good enough. You need to make sure you always work hard enough so that you are a step ahead of the rest.

If you sit and wait for opportunity to find you, you will be waiting for a long time. Your future is in your own hands and it is your responsibility to make the most of it.

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

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

When he’s not hard at work studying or leading the Lonmin Group rock engineering team, Michael du Plessis enjoys cycling, travelling and good red wine.