Travelling long distances didn’t prevent Sanire’s Eastern Bushveld branch members from getting together regularly. Here’s a summary of what they got up to and what they hope to achieve next year, by the branch’s new chairman, Peter Lehong. He said:

Bushveld East plans fall of ground forum

We have attracted a lot of criticism for holding our quarterly meetings during the day and not after working hours. However, our members travel far to meetings and we see it as our duty to make sure that no-one has to drive for 200 km in the dark to get home. We have tried to change venues for every meeting.

Most of our attendees seem to be the suppliers, as rock engineers are scarce. This year, we have seen rock engineers from Xstrata, Samancor, Open House and Anglo Platinum, but not from Aquarius or Impala Platinum. In future, we will encourage strata control officers to attend our quarterly meetings.

Apart from hosting the usual demonstrations and presentations of new products and mining/supporting methods, we invited STS, who create interactive 3D simulations, to present to the branch. Their product is already being used, not only for rock engineering, but for all types of safety training, including for conveyors and trackless machinery. This is the future of training on the mines.

The Rock Engineering Tripartite consists of rock engineers, labour unions and government representatives (mine inspectors) and will soon form a fall of ground forum in this area. This will be along the same lines as those in other Sanire branches. The aim is to address falls of ground issues and discuss strategies to be implemented based on geotechnical conditions.

The committee members are:

Peter Lehong (chairman)

Phil Garner (vice-chairman)

Bertus van der Kevie (treasurer)

Nico Meyer (secretary)

Justin Taylor (suppliers’ representative).


Tough times drew Sanire’s Western Bushveld branch members closer. Read how in this summary of the branch’s activities from its chairman, Wouter van Aarde:

Westerners support their own

Some of the marginal mines in the Western Bushveld stabilised in 2010 because of the moderate improvement in the outlook of the resources sector.

The current committee’s initial challenges were to find alternative fundraising methods and to renew interest in the branch technical evenings.

The former was met by hosting a Sanire golf day at Mooinooi Country Club. It was a resounding success and left many members begging for more. The tournament was well sponsored by a long list of suppliers. It is envisaged that the golf day will become an annual event that will grow with each year and breathe new life into the branch.

The latter is being addressed by inviting academics and experts in the field of rock engineering to speak at technical evenings.

In the beginning of the second half of 2010, the branch was dealt a major blow. Some had to be part of enquiries into the multiple fatal injuries at Aquarius 4 shaft, an occurrence similar to that at Impala 14 shaft. The Western Bushveld rock egineering fraternity displayed great unity and shared resources.

The industry learnt a lot from the outcomes of these unfortunate events through workshops facilitated by the Department of Mineral Resources and the Chamber of Mines.

The branch centres on one of the FIFA World Cup host cities. The soccer was a momentous occasion for North West province and afforded members the rare opportunity to be part of the biggest sporting event in the world.

As each year presents its own challenges we wish all our members a safe and productive 2011. We hope to take all we have learnt into the unpredictable future.

The committee members are:

Wouter van Aarde (chairman)

Marc Henderson (vice-chairman)

Obed Tsetsewa (treasurer and secretary)

Dave Gravett (suppliers’ representative).

The Free State branch had an active year and decided to retain the past chairman on the committee to ensure continuity. Read more about their activities:

Free State retains talent

The Free State branch held four technical evenings, the most recent of which was combined with the annual general meeting and where the new committee was elected.

A number of interesting technical presentations were made by both rock engineers and company representatives. The topics covered included safety milestones, geotechnical characterisation, support items and their functions, practical aspects pertaining to support installation, seismic related issue and remnant extraction.  

Two of the technical days were followed by sporting events: a bowls game and nine holes of golf.

The committee members are:

Jaco le Roux (chairman), Kevin Brentley (past chairman)

Johan van der Merwe (vice-chairman)

Jaco Venter (treasurer)

Bill Coote (company representative)

Deon Louw and Albert Mokhatla.

Joint efforts characterise the doings of the Gauteng branch of Sanire. Read what they’ve achieved this year:

Gauteng capitalises on co-operation

The Gauteng branch was involved in two technical evenings in 2010.

The first attracted 31 delegates and was held in June at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Johannesburg. The topic was Core logging in the 21st century: A review of best practice and conventions and introducing StereoCore™ PhotoLog, a new photogrammetric logging tool.

The second was held jointly with the Surface Mining branch of Sanire and took place in August at Magaliespark, Magaliesberg. It took the form of a lecture on Slope Stability Risk Management.

The branch chairman, Thandile Dlokweni, has been co-opted to represent Sanire in the geotechnical division of South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE).

SAICE, Sanire and the South African Institute of Engineering Geologists (SAIEG) have proposed a joint technical evening to further strengthen the relationship between geotechnical engineering, rock engineering and engineering geology. SAICE has asked Sanire to assist with the upcoming Yingli Green Energy Holding Company Limited (YGE) conference.

The committee members are:

Thandile Dlokweni (chairman)

Willie Snyman (vice-chairman)

Jody Thompson (treasurer)

Robert Armstrong (secretary)

Pieter Groenewald (events co-ordinator).

Attention to members’ concerns paid off for Sanire’s North West branch. Attendance increased significantly during the year. Read branch chairman Lourens Scheepers’s report to find out how it was done.

North West went from low to high

The year started on a low again with poor attendance at the first quarter branch meeting. Time was spent on trying to understand why so few rock engineers attended the branch meetings. This problem had been discussed in 2009 as well, but obviously was not sufficiently addressed.

Insufficient advertising of the meeting was raised as a concern by the company representatives. The rock engineers indicated time as an issue. Lack of fun and socialising was also mentioned as a possible deterrent. It was decided to try and add more social interaction, so the next meeting was coupled with a golf day at the West Wits Mashie, and yes, more people attended...

In October the branch experienced a high with the successful hosting of the SANIRE local seminar. The theme was Shake Rattle and Roll. With hard work and dedication from all the branch committee members, the event was well advertised and arranged and therefore was well attended and concluded without setbacks or glitches.

The only negative issue was that some late registrations had to be refused as the venue was fully booked by that time.

A balanced group of presenters were chosen and a number of good presentations were given by rock engineers, seismologists as well as support product company representatives. The event generated good income.

A new branch committee will be chosen at the last meeting for the year.
An active year for Sanire’s Coalfields branch saw students being encouraged to play a greater role in the branch’s running. Branch chairman Dr Bernard Madden filled RockTalk in on what the branch achieved. Read his summary here.

Coalfields got students involved

The Coalfields branch’s annual general meeting in January included a technical talk on the Texan Computer Code by Dr Francois Malan.

The 2010 committee rung the changes by including two student members in its ranks. The thinking behind including students was to increase potential candidates’ exposure to varying strata conditions and technical presentations to boost their chances of successfully completing the Chamber of Mines Strata Control and Rock Mechanics examinations.

The branch made two underground visits.

The first, in April was to see very poor ground conditions at Forzando South, where a dolerite sill had affected the coal seam as well as the roof and floor strata. Following a technical presentation by Dr Bernard Madden into the design and construction of the incline shaft and portal access to the coal reserves, an underground visit was made to the incline shaft. Mining through strata affected by the dolerite sill was still being conducted, using a support installation of full column resin roofbolts, oslo-straps, cable anchors, wire mesh and Fibrecrete to support the roof and sidewalls. Seven aspiring candidates got to see this.

The second underground visit was held in October, prior to the Chamber of Mines examinations. It involved 11 candidates visiting the Khulata Colliery. They saw the areas where delamination of the roof strata has occurred over time in the main travelling roadways used to access the workings, as well as the remedial measures being taken. Dave Neal presented the technical background to the remedial work, including the design and testing programme undertaken to solve the fall of ground problem.

A presentation on the development of roofbolting in South African Collieries was held in November, including a visit to a supplier of roofbolts.

The year-end function in December will offer members technical presentations from guest speakers.

The committee is: Dr Bernard Madden (chairman), Dave Neal (vice-chairman), Steve Ploczik (treasurer/secretary), Danie Bierman (student member), Sibusiso Mazibuko (student member), Frans Cronje (suppliers’ representative) and Duncan Lees (co-opted member).

The committee is:

Dr Bernard Madden (chairman)

Dave Neal (vice-chairman)

Steve Ploczik (treasurer/secretary)

Danie Bierman (student member)

Sibusiso Mazibuko (student member)

Frans Cronje (suppliers’ representative)

Duncan Lees (co-opted member).

Prudence and good governance have resulted in a 33% increase in Sanire’s total assets. Read more about this encouraging change in treasurer Friedemann Essrich’s report:

Finances look good

Total assets of R287 465, an increase of 33% over the previous year, were reflected on Sanire’s balance sheet as at the end of June 2010.

Current assets consisted of almost equal parts of cash, investments, merchandise stocks and outstanding member fees. Approximately half of the unpaid fees were subsequently written off as unrecoverable and the members concerned were removed from the member list.

The main expense items were salaries, catering, lost member fees, the electronic newsletter and the development of the new Sanire website. The graph shows the full breakdown of expenses.

The net profit for the year was R73 469. This will help Sanire to further recover from its earlier loss. This profit was achieved mainly because of adherence to the financial planning and the consistent fee recovery efforts of Sanire’s administrator, Charlotte van der Westhuizen. She recovered more than R22 000 in unpaid fees just before the books closed.

Behind the numbers

Several unexpected events occurred during the current year, such as the move of Sanire’s offices from Virginia to new premises at Bambanani Mine, where they are still charitably accommodated by Harmony Gold Mining Company.

Prior to the move, uninsured computer equipment was stolen and had to be replaced.

On the positive side, the Rock Engineering School for Managers, jointly hosted with the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), was successful and fully booked out. So was the 2010 Sanire symposium at Western Levels organised by the North West branch. Both of these events will assist in funding expenses during the current financial year.

Major planning items to be funded in the 2011 financial year include attendance of the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) conference in New Delhi by the President and the ISRM liaison officer, the administrator’s salary and the quarterly electronic newsletter, which has received positive responses from members since inception.

See for yourself

The financial statements for the 2010 financial year were presented to the Sanire council on 20 August 2010 and approved without changes. They are available to members at the website.


Sanire has a strong focus on educational issues affecting rock engineers. Read on to find out what has been happening in this sphere.

Focus on education is paying off

Examination administration

Unisa will handle the administration of the Chamber of Mines (COM) examinations until May 2011. The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) will then take over this task.

Candidates must pass the both the theory and practical examinations of the Strata Control Certificate before they can register to write the Rock Mechanics Certificate (RMC) examination.

Examination results

Poor pass rates remain a major concern against the backdrop of skills shortages in the industry.

Progress with the MQA

A few learning packs still need to be completed for the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 4 qualification. Certain training service providers are already offering the Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications. The implementation of the Level 4 certificate as the replacement for the COM Strata Control Certificate is likely to commence in 2012 or 2013 at the latest.

Transition to tertiary qualifications

Advances are being made on the transition of Rock Mechanics Certificates to tertiary qualifications. There is general agreement that the COM Rock Mechanics Certificate will be replaced by a suitable qualification pitched at NQF Level 6 and that the COM Advanced Certificate will be replaced by a suitable qualification pitched at NQF Level 7.

In both cases, there will be both a formal academic programme (stage 1 qualification), followed by an experiential learning component (stage 2 qualification), to facilitate anticipated professional registration.

Two progression routes are likely to be provided – a “certificate” route for people already employed on mines who wish to study part time and a three-year Bachelor of Engineering and Technology degree.  

The first intake of candidates for the new qualifications should be in January 2013. The last COM certificate examination is likely to be in November 2015.

Professional registration

Initial discussions regarding large-scale professional registration of rock engineering practitioners have been held Johan Pienaar of the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA). Only those with qualifications on an NQF level 6 or higher will possibly be required to register.

Further discussions have been postponed until such time as the learning pathway, replacement qualifications and transitional arrangements have been concluded.

Learning material

Writing and editing of the learning material sponsored by the MQA started in July 2010. The process is expected to take 18 months to complete. Learning material will be made available to candidates as it is completed and Paper 1 material should be available in the first quarter of 2011.

Examination guidelines

Guidelines for the COM rock mechanics examinations has been reviewed and updated. A copy is available on the Sanire website. Major changes include a provision for the once-off grandfathering of experienced surface mining practitioners and a change to the pass rate and format of the RMC practical examination.

Proposed changes to the regulations

A letter of concern suggesting alternative wording for the Mine Health and Safety Administration regulations has been sent to the Department of Minerals and Energy in September 2009. No reply has been received as yet.


Liaison with the SAIMM (South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy), SAIEG (South African Institute of Engineering Geologists), SAICE (South African Institute of Civil Engineers – Geotechnical Division), and SANCOT (South African National Committee on Tunnelling) has proven worthwhile. Read what William Joughin has to report:

Liaison brings results

Communication has been established with the SAIMM, SAIEG, SAICE and SANCOT. William Joughin serves on the SAIMM council and has attended SAIEG, SAICE (Geotechnical division) and SANCOT meetings. Information on symposia and technical evenings is communicated by email.

A geotechnical engineering code of practice was drafted by Peter Day (Jones & Wagner) for ECSA. This document is focused on the civil engineering industry, but should be more general. It deals with the identification and classification of geotechnical engineering work, levels of competence, criteria for assessment of competence, required competence, geotechnical engineering practice, interpretation and compliance.

Sanire was only involved during the final stages of the process and although several amendments were suggested, most of these could not be included in the first version because of the timing.

Peter Day indicated that he would consult with the governor of the steering committee and settle for key amendments, then consider a revision of the code after further consultation with the mining (rock) engineers. Sanire will continue to be involved in this process.

Sanire and the SAIMM jointly presented Rock Engineering for Managers in Hard Rock Tabular Mines. The course material was prepared and presented by Sanire members and the event was organised and marketed by the SAIMM. It was very successful and the profits are expected to provide significant income for Sanire.

Other events include:

  • Engineering The Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme Seminar (SANCOT), 3 December 2010.
  • Minefill (SAIMM), 21-25 March 2011.
  • Young Geotechnical Engineers Conference (SAICE & SAIEG), 31 August-3 September 2011.

Liaising with purpose

The main purpose of the liaison role is to:
  • identify synergies with other organisations.
  • identify courses and symposia of mutual interest.
  • encourage interaction and discussion.
  • address the needs of members who practice in civil engineering and surface mining disciplines.

Communication initiatives fared well in 2010. Read more in Geoffrey Potgieter’s report.

Communication moved up a notch

In January of this year I stated that my goals for 2010 and 2011 were to revive the newsletter and make it a regular publication that is both anticipated and widely read. I also stated that I would like to create a strong visual identity for Sanire that could be used consistently throughout all communications. However, my main goal was to create a vibrant online community of rock engineers. By and large, I feel that these goals have been achieved.

Encouraging progress

The newsletter appears regularly and I hope it is as widely anticipated as it is read (we have a mailing list of 800).

The new logos are being used and are starting to help define a brand for Sanire.

Best of all, we, as a community, have made progress. The website is being widely used and the forum, an open platform to discuss rock engineering issues, is starting to be used. Seventy-seven topics have been posted, to which there have been 168 replies. We still have some way to go – these involve just a fraction of our 834 registered users. However, some topics have been viewed more than 2 500 times!

The average number of visits to the site has increased from approximately 1 500 in January to 3 500 in October, with a peak of 6 000 in July, when people were logging on to check their results.

What I find is very encouraging is the demographics of our user base. As the graphs show, there is a good spread across all levels and ages.

Big plans

We have big plans for next year, when we expect to make more learning material available online. We are looking into steaming technologies that would enable us to stream lectures and presentations to a wider audience. We would also like to make a selection of books available for free download. The introduction of an sms reminder service is also on the cards.

Finally, we will be setting up an exams hotline. On the day of the exams, you will be able to contact the Sanire council in the event of an emergency, so that we can respond quickly and assist Unisa with sorting out any administrative errors.

My request to you is: Please visit the site, comment on articles and help us grow Sanire to be the preferred voice of rock engineering practitioners in Southern Africa.

Level of responsibility of Sanire website users


Age of Sanire website users


It took a team

You are reading the fourth issue of RockTalk, delivered straight to your inbox from the Sanire web server. I would like thank the people who made this possible.

Sanire’s Surface Mining branch cracked a tough nut in its very first year. Read all about it here:

Surface Mining got grandfathering on track
In its first year of existence, 2010, the Surface Mining branch was determined to address the issue of grandfathering existing surface mining practitioners in the open pit ticket. What seemed quite a simple task turned out to be “quite an animal”, in the words of chairman Glen McGavigan.

“Nonetheless, we made good progress in developing a process that was transparent and reflected the high standard of the Rock Engineering Certificate. We had excellent interaction with representatives from the Coal and Bushveld branches, as well as the Sanire council. Thanks to everyone for their contributions,” Glen said.

All of the documentation is now with the Chamber of Mines. It will be presented to the Department of Mineral Resources for approval in 2011.

The branch hosted its first technical evening at Hartebeespoort. It coincided with the African Groundprobe conference on the management of slope instability with radar.
Plans for 2011 include some interesting mine visits.