Full Name: Paul Michael Couto

Position: Rock Engineering Manager at Brentley, Lucas and Associates, Harmony Gold

Date and Place of Birth: 18 May 1987, Johannesburg South

Education: B.Sc. (Honours) Applied Science – Mining Engineering, B.Sc. Geology Degree, and COMREC, COMSCC

First Job: Strata Control Observer at Open House Management Solutions in Klerksdorp

Philosophy in Life: “Never give up because hard work always pays off, perhaps not immedi-ately, but in the long run” and “There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, don’t confuse the two”

Favourite Food/Drink: Steak, egg and chips

Favourite Sport: Target/ Pistol Shooting, Rugby and Golf

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

I graduated in 2009 from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) with a B.Sc. Geology degree. Unfortunately, the industry took a huge knock after the worldwide recession in 2008 and therefore jobs were scarce. I obtained my first position at Open House Management Solutions (OHMS) in 2010. OHMS appointed me as a Strata Control Observer on Vaal Reefs 10 Shaft, Tau Lekoa. I obtained my COMSCC in October 2010, and was then promoted to Strata Control Officer at Two Rivers Platinum. After working at Two Rivers Platinum for 6 months, I was then transferred to Northam Platinum’s Booysendal. This was all still with OHMS. My OHMS contract ended in 2012 at Northam Platinum Booysendal. Northam Platinum retained me as a Strata Control Officer. In 2013, I obtained my COMREC and was promoted to Senior Rock Engineer. In 2014, I was then pro-moted to Chief Rock Engineer and managed a department of 14 people. In 2015, I took up a post in the Free State with Brentley, Lucas and Associates as a Rock Engineering Manager, looking after Bambanani (shaft pillar extraction project) and Unisel (multi-reef, intermediate gold mine).

“Never give up because hard work always pays off, perhaps not immedi-ately, but in the long run” 

“There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence, don’t confuse the two”

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

I believe Rock Engineering chose me. I initially started studying a B.Eng. Civil Engineering Degree at UJ, before changing to Geology. I enjoyed the natural environment, but I have always been inclined to build projects, and explore engineering princi-ples. I think this combination best was the basis for my interest in Rock Engineering, and here I am today.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Starting my career at 23, and being only 30 now, means that it has been a very short 7-year career journey. I have met many great people in the industry, seen a couple of interesting things, but don’t know it all at this stage. My journey has just started and hopefully will continue on as long as possible.

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

I personally feel that the discipline will grow, similar to that in the medical doctors’ field. All, or should I say, the majority, of the Rock Engineers are seen as “General Practitioners”, similar to your ”Medical GP” that you go to when you have a cold. As the mines venture deeper, further out, and look at different methods and commodities, I feel that the “General Practitioner” on the shafts will not have enough time to identify the new problems (“illnesses”). This will require specialists. We have spe-cialist medical doctors, so why not specialist Rock Engineers? I believe that we will have specialist Numerical Modellers, Seis-mologists, pillar experts, and mining rate experts, and so the list goes on, who will assist the “GP” in his daily tasks. Specialist Service Providers could become he next big thing.

"Never give up because hard work always pays off, perhaps not immediately but in the long run."

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

Wow, in my opinion, I would say the qualities which have assisted me to get to where I now am are: Hard work Energy Pride, and the Never Give Up Attitude. One of my “mentors” always said to me, believe and act like a Rock Engineer and you will become the best Rock Engineer. Bottom line is, believe in yourself and your abilities.

Who is your role model / mentor?

Role model / mentor! During my 7 years, I have been lucky enough to work with, and obtain assistance from, numerous peo-ple in the industry. I have taken a good quality trait from each person and tried to build my own character. Every person has a good quality, whether it be a technical quality or personality trait that you would like to grow within yourself. A few of stand-out people that have had a significant impact on my career are: Kevin Brentley, Jannie Maritz, Joggie van Oort, Marius Stander, Dr. Michael du Plessis, Prof. Francois Malan, Louis Bronkhorst, and last but not least, my family, Michael Couto and Marisa Couto (Dad and Mom), for giving me the opportunity to study and create a career platform for myself, and my wife, Stacey Couto, for backing me all the way for the last 10 years in everything.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

I have received so much good advice from all the above mentioned “role models / mentors”, but what always stands out, and maybe it stands out because it was the first advice my father gave me: “Never give up because hard work always pays off, perhaps not immediately but in the long run” and “there is a fine line be-tween arrogance and confidence, don’t confuse the two”.