Full Name: William John Liebenberg

Position: Rock Engineering Manager

Company / Organisations: Buffelsfontein Gold Mine – Impala – Lonmin

Date and Place of Birth: 1961 – Klerksdorp

Education: Mine Overseer Certificate COM Rock Mechanics Certificate

First Job: Sold newspapers when still at school. Shift Supervisor at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine, after which I joined the Rock Engineering fraternity.

Philosophy of Life: Make every day in your life a fascinating day. Be positive and create your own enjoyment daily. Never let life be boring. Make things happen, do not wait for something to happen.

Favourite Food/Drink: Skaap tjops with krummelpap and milk

Favourite Sport: Golf, MotoGP, Golf, and sometimes Golf

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

Started as a Learner Official, appointed as production Shift Supervisor, from where the last portion in my production career was as Mine Overseer (act). Joined Rock Engineering in 1988 at Buffelsfontein Gold Mine.

Never sit and do nothing, all ways keep yourself busy.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

The Section where we had been mining is seismically active, due to faulting and the presence of a major dyke structure. We have negotiated these structures without any accidents or fatalities. During a Rock Mechanics’ visit, I was approached by Gary Williams to join the Rock Engineering fraternity and have never looked back.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Shift Supervisor production call was 3500m per month, which we achieved, month after month. Joined the Mine Rescue Team where I spent 10 years, the last year of which I served as Proto Captain. Conducted numerous rescues and firefighting operations at various Mines. Kloof Gold Mine, where the pipes collapsed in the shaft and people were trapped at the bottom for a week was one of the many highlights during my Proto career where we were able to assist with rescue operations. I joined Rock Engineering in 1988, when Roger More O'Ferrall, Ben Kotze, and the late Martin Pretorius were our mentors. Erki McKinnion and late Paul van der Heever were our Managers during my years at Buffelsfontein gold Mine. One day returning from an underground trip, we were all surprised when we received our first computer for the Department. Needless to say, 5 persons had to share the one and only computer. After Buffelsfontein, I spent 3 years at Impala Platinum, from where I joined Lonmin in 1998. At Lonmin, I had the opportunity to practise what I had studied in various different projects, such as:
Shaft Sinking – fortunate to be able to start with the project and end with the project, over a period of 4 years
Opencast Mining – the first Opencast conducted at Lonmin was in my area of responsibility and I spent 4 years at the opencast
Decline Shaft Design – Both the design and development phases of the declines, up to completion and handover to Mining, formed part of the day-to-day tasks.
Surface Ventilation Shafts – Raise boring
Vertical Shaft Extension – Deepening of a working Shaft for additional 2 levels where numerous risks had to be negotiated during this period.

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

Mining: I strongly believe that every Production Shift Supervisor must obtain his Strata Control Certificate before practising in the mining environment. This will result in having a qualified person on site after every blast to negotiate basic strata control and rock-related matters. This will also assist Mining Personnel in understanding what Actions and Consequences that will follow when not mining according to sound Rock Mechanic principles.
Monitoring: We have to advance in the field of monitoring proactively to prevent potential falls of ground. If NASA can communicate to Curiosity on Mars, surely we can advance our “rock fall detection systems”.

Make every day in your life a fascinating day. Be positive and create your own enjoyment daily. Never let life be boring. Make things happen, do not wait for something to happen.

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

Study, read, and participate in mining-related matters. Do not shy away from “extra work”. Strive to always be pro-active in the field of mining and Rock Engineering. Participate in projects, and if not, create your own projects and make sure you see it through. It is morally correct to call for second opinions or external advice, but before you go that route, make sure you have combated the problems yourself and have tried all possible avenues in solving them.

Who is your role model / mentor?

My Dad is my role model. He taught me to never give up.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Never sit and do nothing, all ways keep yourself busy.