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The 6th YGE Conference "Cultivating the Future of Geotechnics" is intended to establish a network forum and opportunity for young geotechnical engineers to better acquaint themselves with the industry and products available. This takes place in a young environment where all presenters and most of the delegates are under the age of 35. The conference is held every three years and aims to provide delegates with the opportunity to develop their writing skills and publish a technical paper which will be published in the conference proceedings. In addition presenters can exercise presenting skills in front of
a more forgiving audience and delegates attending can all learn from like-minded peers.

This conference will take place amongst the luscious vines of the Spier Wine Estate in the heart of the Western Cape. Spier is one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa with a recorded history dating back to 1692.

While rooted in this heritage, Spier has a vibrant and conscious energy. The winery is one of the most awarded in the country and the four-star Spier Hotel and meeting facilities offer inspiring Winelands getaways in the tranquillity of nature.

Submit your abstract by 31 January 2014!

Who should attend?

Geotechnical practitioners under the age of 35 in the mining and civil construction industry. More experienced geotechnical practitioners are encouraged to motivate the YGE 's working under them to attend the conference and explain the advantages of presenting their work at the conference.

Conference Godfather: Ken Schwartz

Ken Schwartz has a degree and post graduate diploma from the University of the Witwatersrand. He is one of those who were fortunate enough to be inspired by Professor J. E. Jennings who encouraged and fostered his early interest in geotechnical engineering or soil mechanics and foundation engineering as it was called in those days. That interest led to a 40 year career in geotechnical engineering. The first twenty
one years in geotechnical consulting and then eleven years dealing with the significant challenges offered by specialist geotechnical contracting. For the last eight years he has been operating as a specialized geotechnical consultant, now based in Ramsgate on the beautiful south coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION FEES (Register and Pay before/on 6 June 2014)

SAICE / SAIEG / SANIRE Member R4 200.00

Non Member R4 550.00

Full Time Student R1 350.00

FULL REGISTRATION FEES (Register and Pay on/after 7 June 2014)

SAICE / SAIEG / SANIRE Member R4 600.00

Non Member R4 950.00

Full Time Student R1 750.00

For the full announcement & registration form please contact the Conference Secretariat

Yolandé van den Berg

RCA Conference Organisers

+27 11 487 2260/3819


32nd Technical Evening

The SANIRE Gauteng Branch is hosting an evening lecture with a technical talk on Current and Future Mass Mining Methods and Options - Challenges and Opportunities


Professor Gideon Chitombo – University of Queensland, Australia

Drinks and snacks will be provided

Sponsors: AEL Mining Services.

Venue: CSIR, Johannesburg

Time: 17H00 for 17H30
Date: 5th December 2013

RSVP to Amma Boaduo before the 3rd December 2013 by clicking on one of the boxes or by e-mail directly to aboaduo@srk.co.za

Meet Joma van der Merwe, SANIRE's new Administrator.

JomaJoma van der Merwe is planning to run the SANIRE national office very professionally. She says: "I want this office to be very smooth running, a place members and non-members alike can turn to for answers and great service."

Having completed a three-year payroll diploma in 2012, Joma previously worked as a payroll administrator at Consolidated Murchison Mine.

Her passion in life is rescuing and rehabilitating abused parrots, and she is also the owner of De-Omas, a small-scale specialist clothing import business.

Joma is married to Deon and they adopted their son, Vian, 10 years ago.

She matriculated in Kroonstad and studied at the technical college there, as well as completing several short courses at various institutions over the years.

Joma says: "The most basic choice we have in life is whether to expand or contract, whether to bring our creative and expressive energies out into the world in positive or negative ways. No matter what our circumstances, we have the power to choose our direction."

[Right] Joma van der Merwe, SANIRE's new Administrator.

SANIRE's movers and shakers were recognised at the institute's annual general meeting held at The Village Club at Western Deep Levels on 22 November 2013. Read more about it here.

Ben Kotze receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Ben Kotze receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter Terbrugge receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Peter Terbrugge receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Alan Naismith receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Alan Naismith receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award
Mathew Handley receiving the Salamon Award
Mathew Handley receiving the Salamon Award

The SANIRE Lifetime Achievement Award winners were Peter Terbrugge, Alan Naismith and Ben Kotze. This award is given to long-serving senior rock engineering practitioners who have made significant contribution to the advancement of rock engineering. By virtue of winning this award, Peter, Alan and Ben automatically become Honorary Life Fellows. This brings the number of members in this prestigious SANIRE membership class to 19.

The prestigious Salamon Award was awarded to Matthew Handley, for his paper titled Pre-mining stress model for subsurface excavations in southern Africa. This award is given to the best publication, that is, the paper providing the most advancement and or best practices each year. To read more about this ground-breaking paper, download PDF:  http://www.saimm.co.za/Journal/v113n06p449.pdf

The Practitioner of the Year Award was awarded to Deon Louw. This award recognises practicing individuals who are widely recognised by their peers and subordinates for their contribution both in the work place and in the discipline.

Qualifications celebrated

Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering and Strata Control examination candidates who obtained the highest marks for each of the papers written also walked away with medals. For each of the papers, the highest score had to be a minimum of 75%. The individuals who came out tops were:

  • Calvin Gloster - SCO (81%), October 2012
  • Cornelius Swart - SCO (81%), October 2012
  • Deinol Jones - SCO (81%), October 2012
  • Craig Slement – COMREC Paper 3.1 (88%), October 2012
  • Gorden Rabey - SCO (85%), May 2013
  • Christiaan Rademan - COMREC Paper 1 (85%), May 2013 exam
  • Ruben Coetzer - COMREC Paper 3.1 (94%), May 2013 exam.

While there is no formal award for new Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificates, recognition was given to the following individuals for their hard work and effort in qualifying for these tickets.

  • Coal - Felix Chiramba, Felix Joel, Mandlenkosi Z Mazibuko and Malome L Sekwele.
  • Massive Mining - Pretty B Mzimela.
  • Open Pit - Takenda P Pabwe.
  • Metalifereous - Etienne Swart, Gerald R Gainsford, Gerhardus S Botha, Paul M Couto, Awoa P Boaduo, Matthew G Barnard, Gibson S Khoarai, John D Smith, Christiaan F Rademan, Christoffel T Jooste, Petrus J Wessels, Jean-Pierre Gouvea, Sifiso C Meshile, Narisha Sirrira and Quintin L Grix.

Congratulations also go those who qualified for the Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate: Andries Esterhuizen, Felix Joel and Lawrence Rwodzi.

Last but by no means least, congratulations go to the people who qualified for their Chamber of Mines Strata Control Certificates (names not available at time of publication).

Contact the ACG for a full list of our underground geotechnical literature

Website www.acg.uwa.edu.au/shop

Contact the ACG via info-acg@uwa.edu.au


SANIRE branches will soon be asked to nominate a young member to represent the branch on the envisaged South African Young Rock Engineers' Forum (Sayref). Read on to find out what it is all about.

The South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE) and the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) are collaborating to better address the needs of young rock engineers. Good progress is being made towards this and soon it will be over to each SANIRE branch to make this initiative work for its members.

Thus far, the ISRM has commissioned a task group to increase the participation of their young members, starting at national group level.

As paid-up SANIRE members automatically become ISRM members too, each SANIRE branch will soon be asked to nominate a certified member who is 35 years or younger to represent the branch on the envisaged forum, the South African Young Rock Engineers' Forum (Sayref).

This forum will facilitate discussions and come up with ideas to start engaging the younger generation of rock engineers, encouraging them to become involved in the institute and in the greater rock engineering fraternity.

It will also enable recognition of the younger generation by their peers and superiors. Competitions such as the 'Rockbowl', quizzes and sponsorship to attend international conferences are some of the benefits likely to be offered.

A mentorship programme is also envisaged. Sayref will provide a platform for experienced people from the industry to share their expertise and offer guidance to the younger professionals.

Jannie Maritz is SANIRE's representative at the helm of this initiative. He says: "For a start, keep reading Rock Talk. It's where you will find rock talk!"

janniemaritz(Left) Jannie Maritz is SANIRE's representative working on getting Sayref off the ground.

SANIRE Symposium 2013 Best speaker Naomi Ayres
Best speaker Naomi Ayres at the SANIRE Symposium 2013
SANIRE Symposium Guest  Speaker Koos talks about support design
Guest  Speaker Koos talks about support design
SANIRE Symposium 2013 delegates
Delegates at the 2013 Symposium
SANIRE Symposium 2013 Young practitioners at the symposium
Young practitioners at the 2013 Symposium

A broad-ranging 2013 SANIRE Symposium emphasised the importance of data and closed with news of a new award aimed specifically at young rock engineering practitioners. Read on to find out more.

Delegates from diverse backgrounds - rock engineers, seismologists, scientists and product suppliers from all over South Africa – gathered at the Meropa Conference Centre in Polokwane, Limpopo, for the 2013 SANIRE symposium. It was hosted by the SANIRE Eastern Bushveld Branch on 7 and 8 November.

The guest speaker, Koos Bosman, opened proceedings with a trip through the history of underground stope support design, from the very early days, when support design was intuitive, through to present-day established practices. A common challenge, as he highlighted, is the lack of geotechnical data for design purposes. In concluding, he suggested that the way around this handicap, and thus a way of catering for unknowns, is to use probabilities of failure and a risk/consequence approach to stope design.


A total of 14 papers were presented. Topics varied from support design under challenging environments, rockfall risk, and different aspects of seismicity to seismic monitoring and innovative approaches to numerical modelling. All papers alluded to the importance of the requirement to collect data and then interpret and understand the data, thus providing the basis for sound rock engineering practice.

The best paper and presenter award went to Naomi Aryes of Impala Platinum for Investigation into performance capability of hydro pre-stressed tendon support. This paper demonstrated, through a series of tests, an investigation into the performance of hydro pre-stressed tendons under combinational loading (tensile and shear) at varying installation angles while taking the influence of geological features into account.


In closing, SANIRE President William Joughin remarked: "It can only be good for the industry if we encourage young rock engineering practitioners to investigate and design, and then present their work at forums such as this."

In support of this statement, a new award, the David Ortlepp Award, was announced. It will be awarded to the best paper presented by a young practitioner (under the age of 35) from 2014. The award will include an all-expenses paid opportunity to go to present the same paper at an international conference anywhere in the world.

If you would like to know more about the syposium proceedings, please click here to download the PDF files.


IMS Seminar

Click here:

IMS Seminar Programme


22 NOVEMBER 2013

WESTERN DEEP LEVEL - "The village club"

Please confirm you attendance to the AGM meeting before

Wednesday the 20 November 2013.

Click to download:


Road map

We kindly remind that the deadline to submit abstracts to EUROCK 2014 has been extended to October 18. We would appreciate that you participate actively in the Congress by sending a communication, as well as any kind of divulgation you can make among colleagues, students or geomechanical
staff that develops his/her professional activity in universities, construction companies or mines.

Attached is a brochure where you can see the basic facts of the Congress. Click here to open.

More detailed and updated information is available on the website of the Congress http://www.eurock2014.com


The SANIRE Eastern Bushveld Branch will be hosting the annual SANIRE Symposium 'There is no Limit' on the 7th and 8th November 2013 at the Meropa Conference Centre in Polokwane.

Final Program

SANIRE_East_Bushveld_2013_Symposium Registration Form

SANIRE_East_Bushveld_2013_Symposium Notification - Papers


Joma van der Merwe has been appointed as SANIRE's new administrator.

New offices have been established at Margaret Water Co. near Klerksdorp,

North West Province. Office hours are Mon - Fri from 8h00 to 13h00.

Please note the new contact details:


c/o Margaret Water Company

1 Stilfontein Road, STILFONTEIN 2551

PO Box 463, Stilfontein 2550

Cell 073 426 5180


Please note the letter and forms for grandfathering of surface mining rock mechanics practitioners. Please follow these links to download the application forms.

Notice of Grandfathering

Form A2 3 Self Assessment Rev 02

Grandfathering Application Form


The final instalment of Gregory More O'Ferrall's insights into how rock engineering is conducted in a consulting practice in Canada tells about a visit to a site in the province of Alberta, the oil sands province of Canada (Site C).

This project site is an operating coal mine in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountain Range. A total of two days were spent on site, therefore there is nothing substantial to report on, but I deemed this site interesting as the stratigraphy is really folded here, albeit not as spectacular as that I saw in the Meiringspoort gorge in the Swartberg Mountain Range between Klaarstroom and De Rust.

The trip to site was nothing spectacular, but I did find a place on earth that is flatter than both the Free State and the Karoo as a result of it. I looked towards the sunset on the two-hour return trip to Vancouver from Calgary and could not see a slight bump anywhere on the horizon. I am sure that, east of Calgary, the next mountains that break the horizon will likely be the Alps.

We boarded a 14-seater twin-prop plane to Grande Prairie and I saw small square clearings in the plantations along the route. I was informed that those housed oil derricks, which I eventually got to see when we were travelling between Grande Prairie and Grande Cache.

Once landing in Grande Prairie, which has only one runway, which is just long enough to land a Boeing 737, we hired a Jeep. (At least it didn't break down for the three days that we had it – unlike that belonging to a senior Anglogold Ashanti Rock Engineer with an Irish surname...) We then drove back south to Grande Cache.

We booked into one of two the hotels in Grande Cache. This town is similar in size to Vaal Reefs or Kriel (back in 1988). The following morning, I was in for a surprise. It continued to snow overnight, and my duty before we left the hotel in the mornings was to scrape the ice from the windows and the door frames so that we could get into the car and then see through the iced windows. The temperature was a scorching -15°C.

Site visit

The General Manager expected us to be at the mine at 06:00, but with the restaurant opening for breakfast at 07:00, he was in for a surprise. (Actually, he arranged for us to go to site, and then wasn't even there for the week during which we were at site. He only informed three other people that we would be there, so we had a rather frustrating site visit). Lunch was bought en-route to the mine at the local Subway, as the mine is 30 km out of town and there is no canteen or cafeteria close to the mine.

When we arrived at the mine, I saw "white" coal for the first time. This coal was already loaded into wagons to be transported to the coal terminal at the coast. Needless to say, the train must have been waiting for quite some time.

The mine offices are nothing spectacular (not much brick and mortar gets used in Canada), but they were cosy enough inside. The building houses the mine's main office, the clinic, security, surface mining office, surface technical services offices, senior management and plant personnel.

The first day was spent trying to collect appropriate geotechnical data. There is very little available on site or in the main head office in Calgary. We also went underground. There are no photographs of the underground mine site or workings, as I did not receive permission from the Provincial Mining Legislator to use my waterproof camera. (It has to be intrinsically safe.)

However, much to my surprise, and theirs, I came across a few Afrikaans-speaking South Africans in the underground mine offices (a secretary with the surname Erasmus, a Ventilation Officer, and the Technical Superintendent, Etienne Cronje who was an ex-Sasol Shift Boss). Etienne only realized at the end of the visit, when I spoke to him in Afrikaans, that I was a South African. His response was the typical: "My f*k". The snow must have numbed his brain as he did not pick up my South African accent.

Unfortunately, I made a huge mistake. When asked what size shoe I wear, I replied a 9 ½. I forgot that I was in North America, and they go according to US sizes. Therefore I was given a 9 ½ gumboot, which I at first thought must be a slightly narrower than those we have "back home". I thought I'd get used to it soon enough.

The next thing I did wrong, when I saw that our underground "tour guide" was an overweight surveyor, was to say that I wanted to visit every working face in the mine – hoping that he would somehow shed the extra weight during our "tour", which was all by foot. The "tour" lasted four hours, and had us walking up inclinations of up to 20 degrees (the continuous miners are tracked, and therefore can manoeuvre up these gradients). So, Big Mouth himself had huge blood blisters on his feet at the end of the day, and I did not notice any evidence of the surveyor having lost any weight. I will not make the mistake of wearing small gumboots again!

That evening we had dinner in a different restaurant, where I met yet another ex-South African who works at the mine (the Metallurgical Manager).

The second morning was slightly colder than the first: -17°C. It was forecast that the sun would break through mid-morning, which it did. After the breakfast and lunch-purchasing ritual, we headed back to the mine (saying good-bye to Grande Cache). This, the second day of the site visit, was the surface mining "tour".

I managed to see some wildlife on the way to the first "viewpoint". This wildlife comprised of elk and long-horned mountain sheep (they apparently have an affinity for coal. So, all you big hunters out there – head over to Grande Cache to shoot your long-horned mountain sheep on the coal dumps of the collieries


What made this site visit interesting for me was the geology. The folding in the foothills of the Rockies is quite phenomenal.

Also, I have always liked the "big boys' toys" in evidence at surface mining operations. I was not disappointed during this visit. I got to see the biggest front-end loader that I have yet seen. It featured chains on the tyres to enable it to drive on the icy roads in the snow.

One of my favourite geological photographs is of a pit that is being backfilled. Of interest, is that this pit was stopped by the Technical Services Department for safety reasons. As usual, trying to get the last ton of coal, an attempt was made to load the coal adjacent to the lower bench (bench height is 10 metres). A slab dislodged from the bench, falling on top of the loader. Fortunately, the driver jumped off the machine in time. The loader was buried. Only then was the pit stopped and were backfilling operations implemented. That was a very expensive last ton of coal, which could have been for more costly - emotionally, psychologically and financially.

This concludes the trilogy of more interesting site visits that I have conducted in North and West Canada in the 18 months that I have been living and working in Canada. I trust that you have enjoyed reading about these. I more more ex- and current Sanire members will follow suit.

can3a Location of project site C in relation to Vancouver.
can3b Folded Table Mountain sandstone in the Meiringspoort gorge.
can3c Which vehicle is ours?.
can3d Snow-capped coal wagons and mine parking lot.
can3e We took a “swim” in black water and mud from the car park to the office building.
can3f Sunset in Grande Cache. The main road running through town is in the foreground – no tar.
can3g Folds at the mountain top
can3h A BIG toy.
can3i Some more toys.
can3k View of a benched slope and the valley beyond
can3l Some Sanire members may remember a Hollander by the name of Carel van Eendenburg. He was one of the three AMEC employees on the mine visit and is seen here on the right, walking on top of the largest waste dump on site. Those gumboots are versatile!
can3m Solar power is the first mode of power for the remote slope stability monitoring stations. When cloud cover lasts longer than two days, wind turbines provide a back-up power supply to charge the batteries. The monitoring station on the right has been installed to monitor the stability of a mudwall, on which prisms have been placed on selected benches. There is a large tensile fracture at the top of the mudwall; hence the bench heights are smaller than for the rock walls.
can3o Different bench configurations based on geotechnical variances
can3p I was pleasantly surprised to see the different geometries of the coal seams, and just as surprised to hear that it is still profitable to mine these seams using an opencast mining method.
can3q Location of a fall of ground accident. There is currently ice on the pit floor.
can3r Syncline in highwall

can 2zkGregory More O’Ferrall’s insights into how rock engineering is conducted in a consulting practice in Canada continue with the story of an autumn site visit in the Yukon Territory (Site B).

This site visit took place at the end of August 2012, so there was not so much snow on the ground, although I was really prepared for the cold weather. The site is a Sedimentary Exhalative (SEDEX) deposit in the Selwyn Valley of the YukonTerritory.

This time, when flying into Whitehorse, I actually got to see the "booming metropolis", which is probably about the size of Stilfontein or Brits.

The following morning had those of us who were going to the campsite, including Stephen Godden, who is known to a few of the "older" generation in the Rock Engineering discipline, loaded into a Cessna Caravan fixed wing aircraft for a two-hour flight. Visibility was zero for almost three quarters of the flight, and my sitting next to the pilot did not help me to relax, as he was flying purely on instrumentation (I had heard horror stories of similar trips that did not have a good ending) and regularly checking the ice buildup on the wings. We finally landed on a temporary landing strip built at the campsite.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that not all of the North is under snow all of the time. However, as you will see in the following figure, the weather changes rapidly in this part of the world, particularly towards the end of summer. Pictures 3 a, b and c are of the same mountain, one taken when we arrived, the next the following morning, and the final one that same afternoon.

In camp

The people in the camp were very friendly and hospitable. When I was speaking to the two First Nations camp maintenance personnel, they asked me where I was from. When I mentioned that I was South African, they had a very difficult time believing me, stating that I was a white, and therefore not from Africa. Apparently they had previously come across a South African at the camp site who “had a skin colour like ours”. I then spent the next 30 minutes giving them an extremely brief history on South Africa and why it is known as the Rainbow Nation.

The camp comprised two-sleeper tents, with bar heaters, for the personnel, tents for the geology and camp management personnel, a tented dining room (which served as a meeting room for the daily early morning safety and camp maintenance schedule – preparing to “winterise” the camp - meetings), tented showers and laundry area, tented kitchen and “lounge”, tented core logging “shed”, and two wooden long-drop latrines (fortunately/unfortunately with heaters that were on all the time – thank goodness for air freshener sprays!). There were very few lights on around the camp at night, so going for a “midnight walk” was pretty scary, as this is grizzly bear territory and it was really dark – although I was informed that the last of the bears should have passed by about two weeks ago. A Grizzly Bear’s top running speed is 56 km/h, so there was absolutely no way that I was going to outrun it. I had an escape plan, which would result in my having to soak in disinfectant for many days afterwards – but thankfully that never had to be implemented.


As I mentioned previously, the site is a Sedimentary Exhalative (SEDEX) deposit. To quote Mineral Deposits of Canada, published by the Geological Association of Canada Mineral Deposits Division, “These types of deposits are generally tabular bodies composed predominantly of zinc, lead and silver bound in sphalerite and galena that occur interbedded with iron sulphides and basinal sedimentary rocks, that were deposited on the seafloor and in associated sub-seafloor vent complexes from hydrothermal fluids vented into mostly reduced sedimentary basins in continental rifts”

Here is a simpler explanation from an article by Lea Michele Toovey at http://copperinvestingnews.com), for those of us who are not geologists: “There are variances in the manner of how SEDEX deposits are formed; however, the general process is the same. They are formed when ore bearing fluids discharge onto a seafloor and mix with seawater. When the two fluids mix, a variety of chemical processes take place that result in the precipitation of minerals on the seafloor. These deposits are lain down congruent with the stratigraphy of the seafloor, and are fine grained and finely laminated- characteristics of “sedimentary deposits.” Concentrated amounts of minerals can be found in “trap sites,” which are depressed areas of the ocean floor where the minerals may settle. Occasionally, mineralization develops in the faults and feeder conduits that fed the mineralizing system.”

The deposit on which I was conducting the geotechnical study is described as: the deposit is saucer-shaped and tapers gradually laterally for distances of several kilometers. This deposit is probably not spatially associated with hydrothermal seafloor vent, but by the basin morphology within which hydrothermal metalliferous fluids formed brine pools similar to Atlantis II and Discovery Deeps in the Red Sea.

South Africa and Namibia also have a few “super” SEDEX deposits.

Some of the pictures included here show how the hydrothermal vent plumes along a weak plane during the settlement of the mud on the floor of the basin. In very simple terms, the water trapped beneath the mud is moving towards the surface of the basin along a weak plane.

This project is probably the most challenging that I have ever worked on, with a variation in rock strengths over very short intervals ranging from a couple of centimetres to metres, and the orebody depth varying from 200 metres below surface (mbs) to 750 mbs. It also featured some of the most picturesque rock that I have seen.

The reason for this trip was to get an understanding of the geology, the nature of the orebody and host rock and to evaluate the only underground exposure on the mine, which was mined as a trial mining venture in the early 1980s. Therefore, it was back to the drawing board for me.

The project site comprises two camps, with only the one being inhabited. The former had heaters. At the latter, 12 km and two hour by 4x4 further up the valley, my logging time was restricted by how long I could withstand having my gloves off my hands.

After seeing the camp on the way to our “underground visit”, knowing that I had to go and log core (there is no shed, so it is done on the ground) I was pretty nervous. What a pleasant surprise to find that most of the snow had melted overnight. It was bitterly cold initially, warming up around noon and getting cold again from around 14:00. I was fetched from the camp at around 16:00, as the weather was starting to close in again.


As I mentioned previously, this is grizzly bear country, so, in the field you are equipped with bear spray (pepper spray), bangers (loud fireworks) and a two-way radio.

As it was, I came across a really “terrifying” animal that had me quivering in my boots. A gopher appears to be some sort of ground squirrel – but with attitude. When I was dropped off to log the core, I heard strange chirping noises. Then it “attacked” me. I at first thought there was one, but that was the call to the others that a “visitor/intruder” was in camp. My boots got the smelling over, to determine whether or not they were edible, but thankfully they were passed over as being not too tasty.

However, the same cannot be said for the lunch that I had brought for myself. I hid it between two core trays, but while I was logging the core, one of the gophers managed to get between the core and the bottom of the overlying core tray and ate it. When all the food was gone, it actually had the cheek to call for more.

I was fortunate enough to come across a few moose on the way back to camp – a bull and two cows. Apparently these are deer with a bad attitude, particularly in mating season (which it was) – not quite as bad as the African buffalo, but a close second.

Underground visit

The underground visit at this project site was even more of a trip to King Solomon’s Mines than that at the first site. Unfortunately, we were only able to walk 200 metres into the adit before the oxygen level got dangerously low. We were accompanied by one of two independent mining engineers in the Yukon. You have to be accompanied by a Mining Engineer, who does the barring/scaling and tests for gases before you may enter the working place.. The two mining engineers have a full-time job going to project sites to ensure that the underground excavations are safe for visitors and mine personnel to enter and make safe. There is obviously scope for somebody seeking to start their own business of “making safe” in the Yukon Territory mines. Apparently a “large fall of ground” had occurred in the tunnel about 50 metres further on, and the groundwater had dammed up behind this. Visibility in the adit was approximately 15 metres at the most, so I could not confirm this.

The underground visit was not that impressive. The tunnel dimensions were approximately 3 m square. The occasional rockbolt was installed and the tunnel was not too jointed. There were some open joints, in which crystal growth had occurred, showing that the rock mass was in tension at some stage.

Natural beauty

The changing colours during the time I was at the site were absolutely breathtaking. I was also privileged, yet disappointed at the same time, to witness the Northern Lights on the only clear night that we had in camp - the second last night. After seeing the aurora on the Discovery Channel on MNet, I was looking forward to the spectacular colour show. The “lights” danced across the horizon above the mountains, and had various shades of green. I watched them until 2:00, while standing outside my tent.

The last night at camp had a really lovely sunset, the only one that I had been able to see, as it was neither raining nor snowing. I loved seeing the sunrays through the breaks in the cloud. Talk about savouring the sun! You don’t get to see it too often in Vancouver.

After ten days at site, the flight back to Whitehorse brought back some geography lessons from primary school. I had only seen sketches of oxbow lakes in textbooks until then.

This was a truly wonderful educational and life-enhancing experience, and one I thought worthwhile sharing with you.

can 2a Location of project Site B in relation to Vancouver.
can 2b Safely on the ground at the camp site.
can 2c (a)
can 2d (b)
can 2e


Sudden change in weather conditions

can 2f Buildings at main campsite.
can 2g  
can 2h  
can 2i Super SEDEX deposits in Africa.
can 2j A hydrothermal plume in mudstone. I have no idea as to what mineral the orange is. (It is not wax.)
can 2k  
can 2l Boy, was I in for a lesson in geology! A sample from a split core.
can 2m Siliceous mudstone within carbonaceous mudstone (degraded from being exposed to the elements).
can 2n  
can 2o  
can 2p  
can 2q  
can 2r Some interesting core. The orange in the photograph above is from a wax core marking pen.
can 2s  
can 2t  
can 2u Fissile laminations within the Flaggy Mudstone.
can 2v Thank goodness for heaters, warm clothes and lighting. I geotechnically assessed in excess of 3 000 m of core in 7 days, only restricted by the availability of camp staff to help replace the core trays. They work “normal” working hours.
can 2w The upper camp in Selwyn Valley on two consecutive days.
can 2x  
can 2y Protection against grizzly bears and a gopher – cute, but wily
can 2z Tiring business, stealing the lunch. I wonder if there is any more somewhere around here?
can 2za A bull moose alongside the road to the lower camp.
can 2zb  
can 2zc Entrance to the underground mine. Note the mountain stream in the photograph on the left, which has to be crossed in order to get onto the ladderway to the adit entrance.
can 2zd  
can 2ze Installed rockbolt and crystal growth in the tunnel.
can 2zf  
can 2zg God’s canvas: Fall colours in the Yukon Territory.
can 2zh  
can 2zi Sunset in the Selwyn Valley
can 2zk Formation of oxbow lakes.
 can 2zj  

can 1bAfter 18 months in Vancouver, Gregory More O'Ferrall provides an insight into how rock engineering (known as ground control/geotechnical engineering in Canada) is conducted in a consulting practice on the other side of the world to South Africa. He starts with the story of a site visit in the Tulsequah Valley in Northern British Columbia (Site A).

This was my very first project site visit in Canada, which took place in February 2012. Talk about a shock to the African body. I was informed that the temperature at site was a whopping -25°C, and could reach -50°C if the wind was blowing. Luckily, the person to whom I was reporting at the time was accustomed to such severe conditions, having been in the Canadian Special Forces and in charge of training the US Marine Corp for Arctic warfare. He gave me some helpful tips. As a result, I was really much warmer than I was in the harsh Highveld winter mornings in Johannesburg or Pretoria.

After landing in Whitehorse, I was driven along the Great Alaskan Highway for approximately two hours before heading towards a town on the shore of Lake Atlin, which is 6,4 km wide and 92 km long. I was informed that they have lovely sunset cruises on the lake in summer... but apparently the summer is only about six weeks long, then the lake starts to freeze over again.

We spent a night in Atlin before flying to site by helicopter. An hour and a half of flying over snow-capped mountains and glaciers brought us to the exploration camp.

Really remote

When the pilot mentioned that we were approaching the camp site, I initially thought she was joking, as I did not see it from where I was sitting at the front of the helicopter. When I did eventually see the camp, I thought that I must have done something wrong in a previous lifetime to have to be exposed to this.

However, a surprise awaited me when I eventually got into the camp buildings. The buildings were heated, and my sleeping bag that is rated to -30°C stayed rolled up during our stay. I slept on top of the sheet on the bunk bed, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt. It was not the same outdoors, though.

There were a total of 8 people in the camp, including the chef and maintenance staff. I really felt for the assistants, who spent three days taking core out from beneath 5 m of snow, just so that I could get an appreciation of what the orebody and host rock looked like. My biggest challenge in getting to look at the core was trying to get it out of the core trays, as it had completely frozen. A portable heater and a geology pick eventually did the trick. At least the core shed had a bar heater in it, so time exposed to the cold was limited.

Going down, coming up

Going underground at this site was a totally different experience for me. This mine was last mined in 1957, making use of longhole open stoping methods. The underground mine is accessed via two adits, which to me looked like a film set on one of the Indiana Jones movies – except that it was very, very cold. (I could not keep my hands out of the gloves for more than a minute at a time.)

Getting underground was not a simple case of "just walking in". There was a lot of white stuff to get through first. I was mighty pleased that snow is not as sticky as the mud that I sometimes trudged through in the underground operations back in South Africa. The snow came up to groin height at times, but eventually we managed to get underground.

The entrance to the adits was well-supported with timber lagging and steel tendons, which worked very well in supporting the "overburden".

The underground visit was very informative, considering that very little support had been installed (a total of approximately six tendons in the 2.5 km of tunnels, with the occasional timber sets). These excavations have remained stable for almost 60 years after mining operations ceased and no falls of ground have occurred in the tunnels since then. (There was no evidence of rocks on the rails or elsewhere.)

Getting "back to surface", was no easy feat. The door had frozen closed while we were underground. After some hammering, we eventually managed to exit the mine.

When I made my move from Vaal Reefs Gold Mine to Lonmin Platinum, I often said that you could not get better scenery than the Magaliesberg mountain range when coming up from underground. However, I think I topped that with this expedition.

Issues to overcome

As with most properties in the northern parts of Canada, the environment is very sensitive, and therefore a long licensing process has to take place before an exploration and mining permit is awarded.

The river running in front of the mine property is one of a few salmon breeding rivers in Northern British Columbia, therefore any acid-generating mine water has to be treated, at a high financial cost. This treatment has to ensure that the quality of the water being discharged into the river is better than that already in the river.

Another issue facing the potential mine is that equipment is currently transported by barge in summer or flown into site when the camp is open during winter. However, there are plans to build a 300 km road through the mountains to allow equipment to be delivered by road. This will entail the mine owners triggering avalanches along the route so that the risk of unexpected road closures or accidents resulting from avalanches is minimised.

Obviously, in remote areas such as this, staffing of the operation may be an issue, particularly when looking for skilled operators.

can 1a Location of Site A in relation to the Alaskan border. 
can 1b View of a suburb and the ski slopes outside Whitehorse.
can 1c Pleasure boat on Lake Atlin shore. 
can 1d  

The only restaurant in Atlin (population 300-500). It is rather tricky getting there without slipping on the ice.

 can 1e  Glacier at the lower end of Lake Atlin.
 can 1f  Approach into the exploration camp and close-up of the camp.
can 1g  
 can 1h   Roads in the camp need to be graded daily.
 can 1i  Approaching the adit.
 can 1j  
 can 1k Location of second adit lower down the mountain.
 can 1l Entrances to the two adits. 
 can 1m  
 can 1n Going underground. 
 can 1o Frozen groundwater inflow close to the adit entrance. 
 can 1p  
 can 1q  Portable compressor.
 can 1r  Wooden boxfront at drawpoint.
 can 1s  Leaving the adit entrance.
 can 1t  View from the entrance of the upper adit.
 can 1u  Water treatment plant alongside the river.
 can 1v  The road will be built in the valley.
 can 1w Dave West, a rock engineering consultant who worked in Zambia in his heyday and now lives in Sudbury, Ontario. 




Each year, Sanire recognises the achievements of rock engineering practitioners, doyens of the industry of have recorded a lifetime of achievement in this demanding field, and those who have done well in the Chamber of Mines exams.

This year, Prof Nielen van der Merwe, Dr Oscar Steffen and Dr Gerrie van Aswegen were made Honourary Life Fellows; the Salamon Award went to Dr John Napier and Prof Francois Malan; the 2012 Practitioner of the Year was Mr Rocco Human; and the following candidates in the Chamber of Mines exams received awards:
• Jean-Michel van der Merwe (Candidate – SCM, 100%)
• Dr David P Roberts (Candidate – Paper 3.1, 88%)
• Omberai Mandingaisa (Candidate – SCM, 81%)
• Buntu B Tati (Candidate – Paper 3.1, 81%)
• Buntu B Tati (Candidate – Paper 1, 78%)
• Thapelo W Chauke (Candidate – Paper 2, 78%)
• Ryno Muller (Candidate – Paper 2, 77%) 

Honourary Life Fellows

This is Sanire’s most prestigious award and is awarded to people who have made a lasting technical contribution to the field of rock mechanics. It may be awarded to people from academic environments, the practical side of rock mechanics or those who were instrumental in implementing new rock mechanics knowledge or techniques in the workplace. The efforts of those who managed to grow rock mechanics departments through the marketing of the discipline to mine management and elsewhere through managerial contributions will also be considered. It is typically awarded to individuals in a mature stage of their career with a long and distinguished track record in rock mechanics.

Prof Nielen van der Merwe has clocked up 30 years in the rock engineering fraternity and is still at it. He was instrumental in putting South African rock engineering back on the international map after years of isolation and became the President of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) in 2003 – the first African in history to hold this prestigious position. Another career highlight is his technical work in the coal mining industry and the important contribution he made by writing a book with Bernard Madden, on coal mining rock mechanics. He created rock engineering departments for Becsa and Sasol and was the Programme Manager, Rock Engineering, at CSIR Mining Technology. He was instrumental in transforming Sangorm into Sanire and headed up Mining Engineering at the University of Pretoria for seven years. He is currently the Professor holding the Centennial Chair for Rock Engineering at Wits and the Interim Director of the Wits Mining Research Institute. This is just a fraction of what he has achieved thus far.

Dr Oskar Steffen been involved in open pit mine planning and the stability of rock slopes since the early 60s and has published extensively on these subjects. He is a founding member of the SRK Group and was directly involved in reviewing open pit disasters at Nchanga Mine in Zambia and Chuquicamata Mine in Chile. He is valued for his skill in risk assessment techniques for defining the probablility of geotechnical failure in open pits. In the past, he has received a gold medal from the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), a geotechnical gold medal from the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) and the Brigadier Stokes Award from the SAIMM. He is also a Past President of the SAIMM.

Dr Gerrie van Aswegen has championed many studies of active faulting and fracturing in deep gold mines, mentored many a young seismologist. He made the ideal of routine seismic hazard assessment practical and implementable on mines. His passion for brittle fracturing and the dynamic response of the rockmass has enlightened many and sparked a similar passion in them. He has spent a lifetime in the service of rock engineering and is one of the hardest working individuals in the rock engineering fraternity.

Practitioner of the Year

This award is made to a practising rock engineer who made a sustained practical contribution in the workplace, but is not predisposed to publication and presentation at conferences or meetings.

Rocco Human, this year’s recipient, has contributed in all aspects of rock engineering through the years. He has developed his rock engineering skills both from a theoretical and practical point of view and used these skills for the benefit of industry.

He is also well regarded among his peers and is regularly included in the rock engineering practical evaluation committee and regularly presents his work at local Sanire symposia and branch meetings. Rocco is also rated one of the best strata control mentors in the Free State considering the large number of trainee strata control officers who train under him who go on to become qualified strata control officers.

Salamon Award

The Salamon prize is awarded once a year to a South African author(s) of the best paper published during the preceding year. Although preference is given to papers published in accredited refereed journals, outstanding papers in conference proceedings are also considered.

Prof N vd Merwe

Prof Nielen van der Merwe is congrutlated by Les Gardner on becoming an Honourary Life Fellow.

Dr Steffen

Les Gardner congratulates Dr Oskar Steffen on becoming an Honourary Life Fellow.

G van Aswegen Honourary Life Fellow Dr Gerrie van Aswegen
F Malan  J Napier

Recipients of the Salamon Award, Prof Francois Malan (left) and Dr John Napier (right) with Les Gardner (middle)

Rocco Human 2

Les Gardner congratulates the 2012 Practitioner of the Year, Rocco Human

JM vd Merwe BB Tati 2 Dr D Roberts
Jean-Michel van der Merwe (Candidate - SCM, 100%)


Buntu Tati (Candidate - Paper 1, 78% and Paper 3.1, 81%)


Dr David P Roberts (Candidate - Paper 3.1, 88%)


O Mandingaisa T Chauke  
Omberai Mandingaisa (Candidate - SCM, 81%)


Thapelo Chauke (Candidate - Paper 2, 78%)





synThe idyllic surroundings of Casa Mia Country Estate, just east of Cullinan, provided welcome respite to delegates weathering troubled times in the mining industry.

syn 2

The proceedings ran smoothly in the main hall at Casa Mia.

The turnout for the 2012 Sanire symposium remained good, with 112 registered delegates, 10 speakers and nine suppliers' exhibition stands. This despite the fact that the Gauteng Branch hosted the symposium, titled Mechanica Saxorum, in October 2012, just weeks after the height of last year's labour unrest.

In his keynote address, Francois Malan, Senior Consultant to Goldfields, reminded the audience that labour unrest is nothing new to the mining industry. Reflecting on past events, Francois led the audience on a journey through the current challenges and opportunities in the South African rock engineering community.

Dr Ray Durrheim of the CSIR was chosen as the best speaker. His excellent talk examined the history of endeavours to mitigate the risks posed by mining seismicity in the Witwatersrand basin.

The day closed with an interactive workshop. Topical issues like roles and responsibilities in rock engineering and the future of formalised qualifications in rock engineering competency generated heated debate.







It is with pleasure that we announce the results of the election for SANIRE council members for the period July 2013 to June 2015. The elected council members are as follows:


  • Michael du Plessis
  • Friedemann Essrich
  • Yolande Jooste
  • Jannie Maritz
  • Dave Neal
  • Jaco le Roux
  • Rob Armstrong
  • Jody Thompson


Despite being re-elected, Dave Arnold has announced his intention to step down as an elected council member in the interest of bringing "new blood" onto the council. Dave will however remain as a co-opted member of council. Robert Armstrong and Jody Thompson obtained (equally) the next highest number of votes, and so have both been elected to council.

Click on the following link to read the full ISRM newsletter:  : http://www.isrm.net/adm/newsletter/ver_html.php?id_newsletter=78&ver=1 


  • President's 2013 New Year Address
  • ISRM 50-years anniversary celebrations closed in Salzburg at the Geomechanics Colloquy
  • ISRM Franklin Lecture instituted to honour the memory of late Past President Professor John Franklin
  • ISRM Online Lectures Series: a new initiative to start in February 2013
  • Former ISRM Vice President Dr François Huezé passed away
  • ARMS7 was held in Seoul with great success
  • ISRM International Symposium EUROCK 2013 - full papers to be submitted by 15 March
  • An update on the International Conference for Effective and Sustainable Hydraulic Fracturing - HF2013
  • An update on the third ISRM SINOROCK Symposium
  • An update on the 6th Rock Stress Symposium - RS2013
  • First bulletin of the ISRM 2014 International Symposium - ARMS8, in Japan
  • ISRM sponsored meetings
  • A massive Global Energy Assessment study involved experts from around the world
  • Journal of the ISRM National Group of India