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The MHSC has over the years produced a number of very useful reports and booklets. Although these booklets have been available to download for some time now, a number of people still either don’t know of their existence or where to find them. I would recommend that all Rock Engineers and Students make use of this valuable resource which the MHSC provides for free.


Download these very useful booklets here

You are still in time to register for the 2nd ISRM Annual Field Trip, which takes place in June 2010 on the two days immediately before the EUROCK2010 Symposium. The Field Trip starts and finishes in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The field trip leader is Christophe Bonnard of the EPFL, where he is in charge of the group Natural Hazard Assessment of the Soil Mechanics Laboratory and Member of the Board of Directors of the Soil and the Rock Mechanics Laboratories. He is a Lecturer of the Doctoral Program Environment at the EPFL and at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Geneva (post-graduate course on Study and Management of Geological Risks).
The 1st day includes visits to a motorway anchored wall, landslide sites, molasse outcrops and cliffs, as well as visits to the Fribourg and Gruyères towns and castles. Dinner and overnight will be in Gruyères. On the 2nd day participants will visit a cheese cave, rock outcrops, an arch dam and a rock fall zone, a quarry and the Chillon castle.
Click here to download the Registration Form and the Payment Instructions.
Click here to download the details of the Field Trip visits and schedule.
Luís Lamas
Secretary General, ISRM

SANIRE now has a Presence on the Linkedin network. For those of you who are part if this network you can now add SANIRE to your portfolio.



The challenges facing rock engineers inspired Sanire President Jacques Lucas to tweak Winston Churchill’s famous Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech. Read more to find out why there is simply no surrender if you are a rock engineer.

Fair treatment and safety were the two issues uppermost in Sanire President Jacques Lucas’s mind as he started his presidential address at the recent Sanire annual general meeting (AGM).

He rephrased Winston Churchill’s famous Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat speech, giving the Sanire version as:
“We shall fight them in the raises
We shall fight them in the ends
We shall fight them in the stopes
We shall fight them on the slopes.
But we shall never surrender!

Safety first
Jacques also quoted statistics from Bloomberg and Mining Web, which illustrated that mine safety is still a major concern, even though mine related deaths are reducing.

The recent earthquake in Haiti shocked the world. Friedemann Essrich looked into what caused it, what it was like, and how the methods used to measure it compared with methods used in South African mines. Read some of his findings here.

The M=7.0 earthquake that rocked Haiti on 12 January may have caused as many as 230 000 casualties. It was associated with a transform fault, the most famous of which is probably the San Andreas fault system in California.

Every quarter, as part of the news letter, SANIRE is running a photography competition – the prize for the best photo and associated write-up is a digital camera. This is being done to generate interest in the news letter by allowing everyone a chance to contribute and to showcase the diversity of the operations, people and conditions that we work with. 

Two other important areas of the news letter that are largely dependant on your contributions are:

  1. The social news section (Hatches, Matches and Dispatches)which covers things like births, marriages and deaths, and
  2. The articles section, where we take an in-depth look at interesting and topical ideas and occurrences. The latest news letter has a very interesting piece on the Haitian earthquake by Friedemann Essrich.

 Photos, articles and news can be forwarded to info@sanire.co.za Good luck and happy snapping! As usual, I am available to answer questions on the forum or via Email.

Koos Bosman has enquired with Dr Kym Morton on the possibility of a formal short 2 day course on groundwater specifically aimed at mining Rock Engineering and Geotechnical engineering.  Dr Morton is willing to provide such a course if there is sufficient interest.  They will add a topic of the “influence of groundwater on stability of slopes and excavations”.  If there is sufficient interest they will proceed and schedule such a course and then communicate the costs. if you are interested and wish to attend please send me a mail. the proposed course contents are.

This tribute to Martin was printed in the ISRM news letter



please take the time to visit the site

Since 1974, and through its Commission on Testing Methods, the ISRM has generated a succession of Suggested Methods (SMs) covering a wide range of subjects. The first  collection of the Suggested Methods of the ISRM was edited by Professor Ted Brown and published by Pergamon Press in 1981. Because this book is now out of print and many new SMs have been produced since then, the new collection was prepared for the use of rock mechanics teachers, researchers and rock engineering practitioners. The collection of SMs in this book is the complete set of SMs from 1974 to 2006 inclusive.

ISRM bluebook

if you would like to buy a copy please send us an Email as we will be ordering in bulk.

During the first branch meeting of the Western Bushveld branch for 2010, which was held at the Impala Rugby Club, the new committee was elected. Wouter van Aarde was elected Chairman with Mark Henderson and Obed Tsetsewa being elected as Vice-Chairman and Secretary respectively.


The Exam Results from 2009 have finally been released by UNISA, here is a list showing exam number and mark for those that passed by exam. The full list of results is available for download



vote earth


In December this year, world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to determine how the world deals with climate change. Their choice is simple - a future for planet earth or global warming.

Climate change will have the greatest impact on the poor, people who have limited resources to cope with changing rainfall patterns, reduced agricultural yields, water shortages, more frequent extreme weather events and the spread of disease. This is the future that awaits us here in South Africa and the rest of the world if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked. There is hope for turning the situation around and preventing runaway climate change, but only if our leaders act now.

Add your voice and help create a global mandate for a fair and effective new climate deal that will keep global warming as far below 2 degrees as possible. Show your vote for Earth and call on world leaders to secure a deal in Copenhagen that will protect people, and protect the planet.

The City of Vancouver will host the 49th Annual Conference of Metallurgists (COM 2010) held in conjunction with Lead-Zinc 2010, the fifth in this decennial series of international meetings organized by the Metallurgical Society of CIM and TMS.

Surrounded by water on three sides and nestled alongside the Coast Mountain Range, Vancouver is the largest city in the province of British Columbia with over half a million residents and one of the mildest climates in Canada. Home to spectacular natural scenery and a bustling metropolitan core, Vancouver will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. Relax in a park, or bike ride around the seawall; there is always something to do in Vancouver.

COM 2010 is ideally hosted by Vancouver because of the city’s multifaceted location and environmental flavor. COM 2010’s technical content will explore a diverse range of topics from refractories to sustainability. The complete list of conference topics include:

The COM metalliferous strata control examination results from the Carletonville examination venue cannot be accepted due to serious irregularities resulting from an administrative blunder.

Guidelines for Open Pit Slope Design is a comprehensive account of the open pit slope design process.

Read J, Stacey P. 2009. Guidelines for Open Pit Slope Design. CSIRO PUBLISHING. 512 pp. Illustrations.

open pit slope design guide

This conference will focus on technical subjects related to the use of shotcrete, providing a forum for recent research and innovations to be disseminated to  professionals involved with this rapidly evolving material. Issues to be addressed will extend from material properties, hydration control, and structural design, to analysis of shotcrete interaction with supported ground. The scope of the conference will appeal to geotechnical engineers, research specialists, consultants, and mining and tunnelling contractors wishing to learn about the latest advances in shotcrete technology.

This conference and workshop is in response to the industry being under immense pressure to sink shafts in safer and more efficient ways. The global call for no harm has to be taken very seriously. We can sink shafts without hurting people, however to repeatedly achieve this, we need to critically examine all aspects related to the sinking process. The way in which we conduct the entire project, right from mine concept study through to commissioning and handover needs to be considered. Shaft sinking is not only about the sinking cycle.
There are many diverse factors that influence the sinking process including:
keynoteIn September the Free State and Gauteng branches presented a symposium on informative rock engineering practice. Gerhard Keyter, a geotechnical engineer at RocStable SA who works for the Braamhoek Consultants Joint Venture, spoke on the planning and construction of civil engineering tunnels and large caverns. Here’s more…


The Ingula powerhouse caverns and tunnels are being excavated in mudrocks of the Lower Beaufort and Upper Ecca Groups of the Karoo Supergroup. Geotechnical investigations were carried out during the tender and detailed design phases and Gerhard presented the parameters used for the design of the tunnels and caverns.

He described the design methods used and support selection criteria developed for construction of the tunnels, with special attention to:

  • powerhouse location and orientation.
  • cavern shape and roof profile.
  • proximity of adjacent structures.
  • sequencing of cavern excavation.

Gerhard also compared cavern design support pressures and rock support lengths used in the Ingula caverns with those used in other large caverns. He concluded the presentation with a discussion on cavern convergence trigger levels adopted at Ingula and the quality control testing employed during the installation of rockbolts, cable bolts and cable anchors in the powerhouse caverns.

For more information, contact Gerhard on gkeyter@geostable.co.za

councilmembersopenpitSouth Africa has a proud history of successful open pit mines. In August this year, the Sanire council approved the formation of a surface mining branch. Here’s more about its aim, activities and membership.

The surface mining industry in South Africa is extremely diverse, with slopes being designed in hard and soft rock environments, soils and even beach sands.

Palaborwa was the steepest and deepest pit in the world at one stage (it has now been surpassed by the copper mines in Chile), Mokgalakwena is currently the largest open pit platinum mine and Sishen mine in the Northern Cape is one of the four largest open pits in the world.

Despite this rich history, there has never been a dedicated surface mining group. Practitioners have tended to meet only informally to discuss issues and share information.

“A group of practitioners representing several mining houses and mining and civil engineering consultancies identified the need for a surface mining branch,” relates branch chairman Glen McGavigan.

“Our main concern was the competency of current practicing surface mining and civil practitioners. The open pit Rock Engineering Certificate has only been in existence since 2008. However, open pit practitioners have been recognised in their own right internationally for many years.”

Many of the concerned practitioners were not members of the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (Sanire) as there was not a specific focus on surface mining within the institute.

“Sanire is the unifying body for rock engineering practitioners in South Africa and therefore we approached the institute to form a surface mining branch,” Glen explains.

What’s the aim?

The aim of the branch is similar to that of Sanire: to be the voice of surface mining rock engineering/geotechnical practitioners in South Africa.

“We aim to establish a platform where information and knowledge can be shared and where a network of not only surface mining, but all rock engineering, practitioners can be built up,” says Glen.

“Our first priority is to address the competency of current surface mining practitioners. We have proposed a grandfathering and recognition of prior learning process for current practitioners to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). This will address the current shortcomings in the Mines Health and Safety Act, which excludes a competency definition for surface mining.”

Other aspects that the branch would like to address are:

  • preparing candidates for the Chamber of Mines open pit certificate.
  • assisting Sanire with the professional registration issues of rock engineering practitioners (Engineering Council of South Africa - ECSA and South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions -SACNASP).
  • liaising with other institutes and organisations that have an interest in surface mining, for example the Quarrying Institute of South Africa and the South African Institute for Engineering Geologists.
  • aiding in open pit geotechnical research and future technology development.
  • liaising with international rock engineering practitioners via overseas professional bodies such as the Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG).

An exciting future

There are at least 18 surface mining practitioners in positions of responsibility in South Africa. This excludes neighbouring countries such as Botswana and Namibia and excludes quarrying and civil engineering practitioners.

“We hope to include all practitioners in Southern Africa,” says Glen.

“Members can look forward to technical evenings dedicated, but not limited, to surface mining geotechnical/rock engineering practice. They will enjoy opportunities to engage with open pit geotechnical equipment suppliers and service providers.

“We aim to provide access to a network of specialised surface mining practitioners who can share information and knowledge. On the committee alone, we have more than 90 years’ combined specialist geotechnical experience.”

Through the Sanire website forum, members will have the opportunity to network with surface mining practitioners. They can, for example, liaise with suppliers of slope monitoring equipment and gain guidance as to future technology development.

Where to find the branch

The branch is based in Gauteng and committee members work in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

  • Chairman: Glen McGavigan, Principal Geotechnical Engineer at Kumba Iron Ore
  • Deputy Chairman: Gerhard Keyter, Consulting Geotechnical Engineer at RocStable SA
  • Secretary and Treasurer: Jacques Smit, Senior Geotechnical Engineer at Exxaro Resources
  • Supplier’s representative: Des Mossop, Principal Rock Engineer at Anglo Technical Division
  • Additional committee member: Peter Terbrugge, Principal Engineering Geologist at SRK Consulting.
rocktalkpicThis newsletter is part of the Sanire council’s ongoing efforts to give members value for money by increasing opportunities for networking and development. Council member Geoff Potgieter explains.

When the new Sanire council took charge in July this year, they combined the responsibility for the website and the newsletter into one portfolio, Communication.

Geoff Potgieter got out of the starting blocks at full speed and this newsletter is the result. Many readers may have the seen the redesigned website too.

“Thanks to Friedemann Essrich’s initial efforts and the talent and hard work of Bounce Communication and Quba Design and Motion, Sanire boasts a professional website and a brand new electronic newsletter,” says Geoff.

Starting early

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) hosted Sanire’s first website. The technology was very new and many of the services available today were yet to be developed.

In 2006, the new webmaster, Stewart Wood, moved the website to ITLogic. Unfortunately the billing and other member administration functions still relied on the CSIR's MSSQL data base. During 2006, many changes were made to the content, with only minor changes to the structure and look.

“When Friedemann took over in 2007, he implemented the first real overhaul of the site. It got a more professional look and contained the first real catalogue of past papers and memorandums,” explains Geoff.

“The site had three versions, or sizes, and although this was standard practice at the time, it limited flexibility. It caused much frustration – most of the members remember the now infamous floating menu. Despite all the problems, traffic to the site kept increasing and the aging technology resulted in problems with migration, access and updating.”

Creating a community

“We hope the new website will create an active online community and a useful online shop. It should also be a valuable resource to learners.

“The newsletter, ROCKtalk, is integral in creating this community. It will feature regular competitions, contributions from the pioneers of some of the things we take for granted, and topical stories. It is also the perfect medium to keep members up to date with reports from council portfolios. The aim is to deliver real benefits for all Sanire members,” concludes Geoff.