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by G. More O’Ferrall


Numerous studies have been undertaken to develop a pillar design methodology for the UG2 seam in the Bushveld Complex of South Africa. Collaborative (PlatMine) and independent (Anglo Platinum, Lonmin Platinum, Impala Platinum and academic) research has been undertaken over a few decades in order to determine the load on a UG2 pillar, with the purpose being to develop a pillar design methodology (or empirical design formula) that would enable the Rock Engineering practitioner to optimise the mining layouts with appropriately-dimensioned pillars on the UG2 seam.

Formation of the UG2 pillar design interest group

During the second half of 2016, Michael du Plessis, approached various rock engineering and structural geology persons to form a collaborative practitioner-focused pillar design and performance interest group. The interest group comprises senior (in both age, in most cases, and experience) Rock Engineering personnel from Lonmin, Anglo, Impala, Northam and Sibanye Platinum, as well as a couple of external ‘interested parties’ comprising a ‘renowned’ structural geologist and a ‘global traveller’.

A Life Well Lived

Alan was born in Shropshire, and grew up in Newcastle, England. He completed his undergraduate degree at Portsmouth Polytechnic in Engineering Geology in 1972 and later went on to complete his Masters in Rock Mechanics and Excavation Engineering at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1973.

His first job out of university was as a geologist for the National Coal Board Opencast Executive. It wasn’t long, however, before he moved into rock mechanics and was appointed Regional Head of Geotechnics with the responsibility of reviewing the design and operational aspects of all opencast mines in Northumberland, Durham and Cumberland.

The time came to move onto bigger things, and Alan found the answer in Africa. In 1977 Alan was appointed the position of Rock Mechanics Engineer for Chibuluma Mine in Zambia with Roan Consolidated Mines. Just days before he was due to fly out, however, Alan received a telegram saying that he had been promoted and transferred to Mufulira - an underground operation! The mine had suffered a large scale collapse, and Alan had the task of organising the rehabilitation of critical ramps and haulages. Alan also gained experience in production at Mufulira, obtained his blasting ticket and worked as a shift boss. Alan and his team managed to hold the record for the largest underground blast of close to 150 000 tonnes for some time in the late 1970’s. The highlight of Alan’s time in Zambia was the birth of his first daughter, Sam.

Devoted husband, loving father, humble friend and colleague

I wish to share with you all the sad news of the passing of Lazarus Matebese, a Strata Control Officer at Lonmin’s Saffy shaft.

Lazarus was experiencing problems with his breathing and was admitted to Ferncrest Hospital on Monday 03 July.

He was in an isolation ward before being transferred to ICU later that week.

He exhibited some signs of improvement but was re-admitted to ICU and passed away at approximately 14:00 on 10 July.

We have lost both a friend and a colleague.

A man that was larger than life in his personal life and throughout his long and influential working career in the mining industry.

He was a well-known and respected member of the mining industry, being a key figure in many SANIRE and other supplier events. I am sure he has a special place in each and every one of your hearts.

As most people, that knew Eric, would know there was only one way and that was Eric’s way!

Eric would be all in whether it be work related, entertaining or just living life to its fullest “In his way”

He adored his children, always being there whatever the event or attraction was. He could never get enough of his beloved grandchildren. He always made an effort to be part of whatever they were busy with or participating in it.

Phil was a British citizen born in Jos, Nigeria, and grew up in Birmingham, England. His interest in mining came from his father who was a metallurgist. He has been a member at SANIRE since 1990 and served as vice chairman and chairman of the Eastern Bushveld Branch.

Phil’s first job was with the British Royal Navy as artificer apprentice in Marine and Mechanical Engineering, before he came to South Africa as a learner official in Hard Rock Mining for Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Company from 1981 to 1985 in Randfontein. He was then promoted to shift supervisor at Westonaria Gold Mine between 1983 and 1986. Phil was later transferred to Anglo Platinum Union Section where he worked until 1988 as strata control officer. He was then transferred again to Joel Gold Mine in 1988 as a rock mechanics officer until he was transferred in 1993.

new members

On the 26th May 2017, at Sibanye Kloof Training Academy, the 2017 National RockBowl was proudly hosted by SANIRE.

The RockBowl is a quiz show, whereby participants answer questions related to the Rock Engineering Field. This quiz show can be played in an individual or team format, with the most correct answers winning the event. The RockBowl can be compared to the Rock Engineering version of “Nooit vir Nooit” “Who wants to be a millionaire” or “The weakest link”.

Approximately 60 individuals and 9 teams competed in the event. The participants ranged from a variety of large mining houses and consulting companies covering different commodities.

Good Day Candidates
Please note that the closing date for the Rock Engineering Practical Examinations will be 07 August 2017.

Please log onto COMCERT and register online. Please ensure that your payment and acceptance of registration has been confirmed before the closing date.

Once registration has closed the registered candidates will be contacted with more details entailing the Practical Exam.

NO late entries will be accepted.

Dear ISRM Members and Rock Mechanics Colleagues,

For the 18th ISRM Online Lecture the ISRM invited Professor Marc Panet. The title of the lecture is “The deformations in the vicinity of the face of a deep tunnel". The lecture will be broadcast next Thursday, 13th July at 10 AM GMT, and will remain available in a dedicated webpage. To watch the lecture just open the ISRM website after the indicated time and follow the link.

The results are in for the 2017-19 SANIRE Council. A total of 227 votes were cast. It should be noted that not all names on the list will be called to Council and all, current and new members will be notified via email of their inclusion.

    % of Votes
Friedemann Essrich 14%
Paul Couto 13%
Andre Esterhuizen 12%
Dave Neal 11%
Naomi Ayres 11%
Sanjay Singh 9%
Robert Armstrong 8%
Bantu Tati 7%
Daniel Avutia 6%
Matthew Barnard 5%
Adam Cooper 4%

Dear Members
Please follow the link to the latest quarterly newsletter. Stories and articles are always welcome. Please email Paul Couto at for enquiries.

Download the PDF version:  pdf SANIRE Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 2 (4.60 MB)

Download the Pub version:  default SANIRE Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 2 (10.08 MB)

prescornerThis year started off with a bang. On most of the mines, the DMR instructed that certified Rock Engineers should conduct extensive audits of all working places. This created a new role profile of a qualified Rock Engineer – “Auditor”. As a result, we had little time to do anything else. Unfortunately, our work does not only revolve around keeping the DMR happy. We also have to ensure that systems, strategies and other critical areas of our work requirements, which could impinge on the safety of mine workers, are upheld. As a result, we manage the various challenges and crises as well as drive other critical projects, irrespective of the time constraints. I have, however, come to realise that all crises are cyclic and that the end of one challenge will lead to the next.

ISRM International Symposium

‘Rock Mechanics for Africa’

Dates: 02-07 October 2017
Venue: Cape Town Convention Centre, Cape Town, South Africa

The 2017 ISRM International Rock Mechanics Symposium is to be held in Cape Town. The conference theme is “Rock Mechanics for Africa”.

Approximately 170 abstracts were received, covering a wide range of topics including slope stability, underground excavation stability, ground support, rock mechanics data, testing methods, instrumentation and monitoring, mine seismicity and rockbursts, and numerical modelling. Over 100 papers have been received and are in the refereeing process.

Recent developments

  • Two nominations for ISRM President have been accepted at this stage.
  • New National Group Macedonia approved
  • The DRC and Zambia are in the process of establishing National Groups.

Online lectures
A new ISRM Online Lecture is available for viewing or downloading on the ISRM website (www.isrm.net): 17th ISRM Online lecture: Prof. Charles Fairhurst – “Why Rock Mechanics and Rock Engineering”

ISRM Conferences
The following ISRM Conferences are scheduled:

personality1Full Name: Sandor Zoltan Pethö

Position: Manager Rock Engineering

Company/Organisations: Glencore Coal South Africa / SANIRE, ISRM, SAIMM

Date and Place of Birth: 21st of February 1968, in Johannesburg

Education: Matriculated from Parktown Boys High School in Johannesburg; obtained my MEng (Rock Engineering) from the University of the Witwatersrand.

First Job: Junior Seismologist at SOEKOR (now known as Petrosa).

Personal Best Achievement/s: Involved with the South Deep pre-shaft pillar extraction from the design and implementation stage, and also the South Deep backfill plant upgrade.

Philosophy of Life: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Favourite Food/Drink: A rare steak and a superior bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinotage (Platter 5*).

Favourite Sport: Avid sports follower (Swimming, Athletics, Cricket, Rugby – ardent Blue Bulls fan, can’t get enough of our Blitzbokke at the moment).

rock stars1Full Names: Ivan Wright & Alan Wright

Positions: Superintendent/Sectional Rock Engineers

Company/Organisations: Sibanye Gold

Date and Place of Birth: 20 February 1987 (Twins)

Education: Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificate, Strata Control, COMSOC 1 & 2

First Job: Alan: Top Vending – Cash Office Controller, Ivan: Top Vending – Route Merchandiser

Personal Best Achievement/s:Alan & Ivan: Rock Engineering Certificate

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck central Botswana on Monday, 3 April 2017 at 7h40pm, the largest to occur on this con-tinent in 11 years. The location was unusual as most large tectonic quakes in southern Africa are closely associated with the East African Rift System, an extension failure zone stretching from Djibouti by the Red Sea all the way to southern Mozambique. The key words here are ‘most tectonic’: the most seismically active regions in Africa are the gold mining dis-tricts along the edge of the Witwatersrand Basin, but these events are associated with mining and not with plate tectonics.

Dear Members
Please follow the link to the latest quarterly newsletter. Stories and articles are always welcome. Please email Paul Couto at for enquiries.

Download the PDF version: SANIRE Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 1 (12MB)

As with every New Year, we start very positive, setting new resolutions. I found that I need to set goals for myself to ensure that I stay focussed and determined to achieve my goals in the anticipated time period. These include personal, work, academic and fitness goals.