The SANIRE Symposium of 2015, “unpacking the aspects”, was organised and held by the Free State Branch at Glenburn Lodge in Muldersdrift on the 17th of September 2015. It was a one-day symposium which covered a wide range of topics from all over the industry. Included was a Key Note Address by Les Gardner on the “proposed changes to the Fall of Ground Regulations and how it will impact on Rock Engineering and Strata Control”. The following topics were presented:

  • Comments on ISRM suggested Method for the Complete Stress-Strain Curve for Intact Rock in Uniaxial Compression: Uli Vogler – University of the Witwatersrand
  • The Use of Gem4D in the Representation of 3D Rock Engineering Data: Quintin Enslin – OpenHouse Management Solutions
  • Quantification of the Effects of Thin Spray-On Liner Application on Shotcrete Tensile Strength: Richard Masethe – Sibanye Gold
  • Design of a Pit-highwall in Highly Weathered Igneous Material: Franz Bruwer – Anglo Platinum
  • The Stress-strain Environment Around Massive Open Stopes and the Effect on Failure: Jaco le Roux – Brentley, Lucas & Associates
  • A Method to Assess Pillar Stability in Rustenburg Platinum Mines: Jacques Gerber & Richard Clark – Institute of Mine Seismology
  • The Potential to Use Mines for High Head Underground Pump Storage Schemes: Trevor Rangasamy – Middindi Consulting, & T Govender – Eskom
  • Back Analysis of the Pillar Design Employed at Impala 14 Shaft Trackless Mining Section: Buntu Tati – Impala Platinum
  • Introduction of the NEW Virtual Reality Centre at the University of Pretoria: Jannie Maritz – University of Pretoria
  • Stability Analysis of Coal Pillar Sidewalls Using Three-Dimensional Numerical: Joseph Muaka – SRK
  • The Influence of Regional Geology on UG2 Stope Stability: Alida Hartzenberg – Lonmin 
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The day was divided into three sessions, which were chaired in turn by Paul Couto, Jaco le Roux and Michael du Plessis. The symposium was a great success, being well organised and well attended. A special note of thanks goes to the organisers, attendees, presenters and sponsors. The following sponsors made contributions in funding the symposium:

  • OpenHouse Management Solutions
  • Groundwork
  • Brentley, Lucas and Associates
  • New Concept Mining
  • Bedrock
  • Timrite.
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The yearly function was host on the 24 July 2015 at the Red Barn Farm in Dullstroom. The event was well attended with approximately 75 people attending.

The day started off at the crack of dawn with temperatures hovering around 10 degrees and slightly overcast. This was fantastic weather for fly fishing. After a couple of old brown sherries to warm everyone up all the attendees headed out to one of four dams. The dams were sponsored by suppliers at R 3 000 per dam. SANIRE then utilised this sponsorship to stock the dams to the value of R 3 000 per dam. The dams were stocked with Rainbow trout, Brown trout and Golden trout all ranging in sizes. This was done for competitive reasons.

The competition commenced at 06:00 whereby it ended just before lunch 13:00. The competition was based on a few categories.

  1. The smallest fish of the day
  2. The largest fish of the day
  3. Golden trout (each dam had one Golden trout in it. If the Golden trout was caught then the winner would get the main prize for the dam sponsored by the suppliers)
  4. Brown trout (each dam had five Brown trout in it. If the Brown trout was caught then the winner would get a prize for the dam sponsored by the suppliers)

The winners were as follows:









DF MalanFull Name: Daniel Francois Malan

Position: Senior Rock Engineering Consultant, Part-time Professor

Company/Organisations: Sibanye Gold, University of Pretoria, University of the Witwatersrand

Date and Place of Birth: 4 November 1968, Bethlehem, Free State

Education: PhD (Mining), COM Rock Engineering Certificate

First Job: Chamber of Mines Research Organisation (COMRO)

Personal Best Achievement/s: ISRM Rocha Medal, Surviving a Fish River Canyon hike!

Philosophy of Life: Best summarised in the Gladiator movie: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

Favourite Food/Drink: Red Wine, Roasted leg of lamb

Favourite Sport: Lifting weights in the gym

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

COMRO gave me a bursary to study engineering and I joined them on a full-time basis in 1993. I am currently the Senior Rock Engineering Consultant at Sibanye Gold, but I also do part-time work at both Tuks and Wits where I supervise a number of postgraduate students.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

It was not really my choice, as the Chamber of Mines gave me a bursary to study electronic engineering, provided that I moved into rock engineering after completion of my studies. Of course, my plan at Varsity was never to move into rock engineering! Luckily, I started at COMRO when famous rock engineers, such as John Ryder, Tony Jager, John Napier and Steve Spottiswoode, were still walking the corridors. I immensely enjoyed interacting with these gentlemen and the rock engineering research we did. As a result, I have never looked back.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

COMRO (it later became CSIR Miningtek) provided a good introduction to rock engineering and it gave me the opportunity to do a PhD. I eventually also became Programme Manager of the Rock Engineering Division there. The drawback of this academic environment was that the youngsters who started there never got enough experience “on the face”. Our ability to do research was also questioned by industry practitioners, as many of us never attempted the COM Rock Engineering Ticket examinations. This started to worry me and I joined Groundwork Consulting in 2004. There, I eventually passed my ticket (it took two attempts to pass the practical!). Groundwork taught me much about surviving as a consultant (not easy) and gave me wonderful exposure to platinum rock engineering. Gold Fields approached me in 2011 to join their ranks and this is how I ended up at Sibanye.

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

A huge challenge we currently face is caused by the limitations of some of our design criteria. An example I can mention is the difficulty of designing bord and pillar layouts in areas where weak layers intersect the pillars. This has led to spectacular collapses in the recent past. Some of the criteria we use to design deep layouts in seismic areas can also be questioned. It is very disconcerting that no organised research is currently being conducted to improve these criteria. When Prof Nielen van der Merwe wrote his SAIMM paper on Coalbrook in 2006, he asked the question: “Is it conceivable that the most important lesson from Coalbrook, namely that in order to be effective at all, knowledge has to be generated before it is needed, was not learnt?”

A further challenge we face is the loss of expertise needed to write our own boundary element codes for solving tabular mining problems. South Africa was a leader in this field in the 1970s and 1980s. Sadly, we are now relying on imported codes.

Philosophy of Life: “What we do in life echoes in eternity”

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

We are currently experiencing a low in the commodity cycle and the mines will probably struggle to remain profitable for the next few years. Our role to assist with the profitability of marginal mines will become much more important in future. Unfortunately, this will make our lives more difficult, as safety cannot be compromised in the process.

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

Every career has its ups and downs. It is important to have a vision and then to persevere if things do not always go your way. Something that is also becoming increasingly important in modern society (and I still struggle with this) is to maintain balance in your life. Your family and fun activities are the treasures of life.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

Prof John Napier has been my mentor since I joined COMRO as a student in 1987. I am fortunate to still interact with him, and his mathematical abilities and insight into rock engineering problems are simply awesome. In spite of his brilliance, he has always been a humble man. I have always admired this.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

Dr Guner Gürtunca, Director of Miningtek, came into my office in 1995 and all he said was: “Tomorrow I want you to go to Wits and register for a PhD”. Up to that point, I was unsure whether I could successfully complete a PhD. The important lesson is not to fear failure if these opportunities come your way. I am still grateful to Guner for giving me this unsolicited “advice”.


MG BarnardFull Name: Matthew Gary Barnard

Position: Shaft Rock Engineer

Company/Organisations: Anglo American Platinum, Union Mine (Spud Shaft)

Date and Place of Birth: 30th of March 1987, Johannesburg

Education: BSc Geology & Geography (UJ); Honours Geology (UJ); COMSCC; COMRMC

First Job: Rock Engineering Trainee (Anglo American Platinum)

Personal Best Achievement/s: Firstly, my recent marriage to my incredible wife; thereafter comes the various awards that I received during University, most notably achieving Cum Laude, one of the ‘Top 10 Students in the Faculty of Science’ and the ‘Best 4th Year Student Award’ from the GSSA during my Honours Year.

Philosophy of Life: “Take every challenge in your stride. If you think you have it bad, someone else has it worse.”

Favourite Food/Drink: Sushi and red meat.

Favourite Sport: Love watching all sports; golf when it comes to playing a sport.

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

It all started with getting a bursary from Anglo American Platinum at the end of my matric year. Did an exposure year in 2006, and here we are now, almost a decade later; honours degree in Geology and Rock Eng ticket under the belt; Shaft Rock Engineer at AAP Union Mine, Spud Shaft.

2. Why did you choose Rock Engineering?

Funny story there, actually. Second round of bursary interviews in 2005, the first question that the panel asked me was “Why did you choose Rock Engineering?”; fair question, although I was under the impression that I was there for a Geology Bursary. During the exposure year, my passion developed for the Rock Engineering discipline, and has just grown since then; although I will always be a keen Geologist at heart.

3. Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?

Well to summarise, I have been with Anglo American Platinum for the past decade. My entire post-matric life started with receiving the bursary at the end of 2005, with the condition of first completing the practical exposure year prior to commencing with tertiary studies. Completed my Geology Bachelors and Honours at the University of Johannesburg from 2007 to 2010. From there, I’ve gone from a Rock Engineering Trainee to Shaft Rock Engineer in the past four-and-a-half years. During this time I have worked at a number of the mines within the group, both conventional and trackless.

“Take every challenge in your stride. If you think you have it bad, someone else has it worse.”

4. In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?

To be honest, operationally, I think that the biggest problem we are facing as the Rock Engineering fraternity is the poor compliance with standards and procedures; and the associated shift from a design to more of a policing function, resulting from the pressure from the DMR.

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

With the ever-increasing depth of platinum mining, I believe that understanding the seismic nature of the rock mass and the associated design process will become more important than possibly it has been in the past. And personally I believe that the development systems and support units that are less operator-dependant will be required in order to combat non-compliance.

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

Both the journey and the destination are tough, but the reward of knowing that you make a difference in preserving health and safety is well worth it. It is not an easy career, but nothing worth doing ever is; so persevere and do it.

7. Who is your role model/mentor?

Personally, my father has always been my role model and mentor. In my professional life, Graham Priest and Linden Skorpen have been great mentors to me; assisting me to grow within the industry and Rock Engineering discipline.

8. What is the best advice you have ever been given?

A wise man once taught me the premise of ‘stop’, which is vital as an operational Rock Engineer. “(1) Is it to standard? If not, stop; if so, proceed to (2), is it safe? If not, stop; if so, continue.” It may seem obvious, but this advice has aided me in staying firm on health and safety decisions.

In December 1866, on a farm close to the Orange River to the northwest of Hopetown, the Jacobs children were playing a game of ‘klip-klip’ with pebbles, when one pebble caught the eye of a visiting neighbour, Schalk van Niekerk. At the behest of his mother, the young finder, Erasmus Jacobs, gave the stone to van Niekerk who was an amateur collector of semi-precious stones. The stone was sent to the nearest geologist, Dr William Atherstone in Grahamstown, who identified it as a twenty-one carat diamond. From South Africa it was sent to London where it was valued at £500 and named the ‘Eureka’.

Despite the assertions of two very learned and eminently distinguished London geologists, one of whom actually visited the region, that the geological character of the area was not conducive for the presence of diamonds, two years later in March 1869, van Niekerk swapped some livestock with a local shepherd in exchange for an eighty-three carat stone. It was a white diamond, which he immediately sold to traders, Lilienfeld Brothers, in Hopetown for £11 000. Once again, the stone was sent to London for cutting where it was named the ‘Star of Africa’ and sold for £30 000.

This opened the flood-gates, and the initial influx of Boer diggers was soon swelled by others who poured into the country from around the world. At first, diggings were concentrated in the gravels on the banks of the Orange and Vaal rivers and on the slopes of adjacent koppies. Despite the fact that diamonds had been shown in 1813 to be comprised of carbon by Humphry Davy (the same English scientist who invented the miner’s safety lamp), the sources of diamonds worldwide (predominantly India and Brazil before the South African discovery) were exclusively alluvial, and their igneous genesis was not fully appreciated until the weathered diamond-bearing detritus on South African koppies gave way to the underlying blue ground, which was only then also found to contain, and in fact to be the source of, diamonds.

The hard Kimberlites of the volcanic pipes were, of course, much less amenable to being worked by individuals or groups of individuals with picks and shovels, and led to the formation of syndicates and companies to raise the necessary capital for their increasingly expensive exploitation. This in turn gave rise to the emergence of the first South African entrepreneurs. Only a handful of the many thousands of hopeful people who flooded to the diamond fields in search of fortune rose to the top of the competitive pile, and only some of those went on to become household names in the South African lexicon: Joseph Benjamin Robinson, Charles Dunnel Rudd, Barnett Isaacs Barnato, and Cecil John Rhodes, to name a few. These men made their names and initial fortunes on the diamond fields, and in the process gained the expertise, generated the wealth and accumulated or gained access to much of the capital that was later required to acquire and develop deep level mining properties when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand. Many of them went on to become leading lights in the development of the Rand, and indeed in the development of South and Southern Africa as a whole, earning themselves the nickname of ‘Randlords’.

Much of the more recent development of rock mechanics in the South Africa is usually traced to the aftermath of the Coalbrook disaster in 1961. While this was undoubtedly a watershed event which heralded the very beginnings of our Institute, and lent much impetus to the modern, structured variety of rock mechanics that we are so familiar with in the country today, it was by no means the start of people applying their minds to problems associated with the stability of mining excavations and the safety of workmen. Nobody who has seen photographs of the early diamond diggings on the Colesburg Koppie can fail to be struck by the precariousness of the vertical shear faces cut into weathered kimberlite, sometimes to enormous heights, representing the boundaries of individual rectangular claim holdings. And nobody who has experienced and been frightened by the surface manifestations of strong mine tremors can be unaware that something untoward is happening in the ground beneath their feet.

The name Gardener Williams crops up often in the story of both the diamond fields and the gold fields. He was an American mining engineer who advised Rhodes on the need to amalgamate all of the diamond claims on the Colesburg Koppie at Kimberley so that the individual mines could be worked, managed and coherently planned as single entities to put an end to and prevent instability and the hugely unsafe practices associated with individual claims undercutting each other. In a sense, Gardener Williams may be considered as South Africa’s very first far-sighted rock mechanics engineer. Rhodes wisely employed him to manage De Beers.

eurekaEureka diamond  

kim holeKimberley Hole

williamsGardner Williams
miners kim  Diamond miners in Kimberley RhodesCecil John Rhodes
dave  This story was written by Dave Arnold.
Please feel free to contact Dave with any historical stories for the next edition.
For more information please go to

The Division of Mining and Geotechnical Engineering at Luleå University of Technology will arrange Ground Support 2016, the 8th International Symposium on Ground Support in Mining and Underground Construction, in Luleå, Sweden, September 12 – 14, 2016. Venue: Kulturens Hus – Conference & Congress.

This conference series has been hosted by many countries and continents throughout the years:

1st 1983 in Abisko, Sweden

2nd 1992 in Sudbury, Canada

3rd 1997 in Lillehammer, Norway

4th 1999 in Kalgoorlie, Australia

5th 2004 in Perth, Australia

6th 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa

7th 2013 in Perth, Australia

More information can be found at



SANIRE Free State is hosting a Rock Engineering Symposium:

Unpacking the Aspects

At Glenburn Lodge, Muldersdrift on 17 September 2015

Symposium Fees

 Sanire members - R1250
Non-members - R1500
Exhibition space - R5000

Closing date for registrations: 28th August 2015

Wilma Muller - 057 904 6498

Alida Kleinhans - 057 904 6066

For registration click HERE

To see the program click HERE


The Strata Control Practical Exam will be hosted by Atlatsa Resources – Bokoni Platinum Mine on behalf of the Eastern Bushveld SANIRE Branch on the 26th August 2015. Please note that it is only for Eastern Bushveld members.


For more information please click HERE

On behalf of the Czech National Group of the International Society for Rock Mechanics, we have the honour to invite you to attend the European Symposium EUROCK 2017 to be held on 13-15 June 2017 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. The Symposium is jointly organized by the Czech National Group of ISRM and the Institute of Geonics of the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The motto of the EUROCK 2017 is Human Activity in Rock Mass.

You can find more information in the first announcement :

We are looking forward to see you in Ostrava.

Yours sincerely,

Petr Konicek
Chairman of the Symposium

At the end of every year Sanire holds the AGM where an overview is given with regard to the various portfolios (areas) SANIRE is involved in across industry. Furthermore, the AGM provides a platform where people are recognised and awarded for excellent work (Practitioner of the year), Technical contributions (Salamon and Ortlepp awards) or for exceptional achievements in the bi-annual exams.

The AGM is typically held in the mornings followed by a late lunch. As an alternative to this, it was suggested that the event is split into a meeting where the portfolios will be discussed (Sanire members present) followed by a formal dinner and prize giving where the spouses will also be welcome.

We, however, require your input with regard to your preference.

1. AGM morning session followed by Lunch

2. AGM followed by formal dinner and prize giving where the spouses are also present

Please send your preference to Joma before 31 May:

Please note that the registration for the Chamber of Mines Rock Mechanics practical closes 24 July 2015. To register please follow this link and send proof of payment to Colin.

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

Download the PDF version: pdf  SANIRE Newsletter_Volume 1_Issue 2_July_2015 (4.03 MB)

Jacques Lucas attended his final ISRM Board meeting as VP Africa on Saturday 2015/05/09, prior to the ISRM 2015 Congress in Montreal. During his term from 2011 to 2015, two new African ISRM National Groups (Tunisia and Zimbabwe) were established. He also played a significant role in co‑ordinating the Young Member’s Presidential Group. The ISRM Council meeting was held the following day, Saturday 2015/05/10. Jacques presented the status of the African region and William Joughin was representing SANIRE. William presented SANIRE’s bid for the AfriRock 2017 in Cape Town, as the 2017 ISRM International Symposium, which was successful, competing against Eurock 2017 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. William was elected as VP Africa for the new ISRM Board 2015-2019. Michael Du Plessis will represent SANIRE, as the new SANIRE president, at the ISRM Councils during 2016 and 2017.


ISRM Board 2015-2019 (left to right, top to bottom) President: Eda F. Quatros (Brazil); VP Africa: William Joughin (South Africa); VP Asia: Seokwon Jeon (Singapore); VP Australasia: Stuart Read (New Zealand): VP Europe: Charlie Chunlin Li (Sweden); VP North America: Doug Stead (Canada); VP South America Sérgio Fontoura (Brazil); VP at Large: Manchao He (China); VP at Large: Norikazu Shimizu (Japan); VP at Large Petr Konicek (Czech Republic); Secretary General: Luís Lamas (Portugal).

The ISRM now comprises 59 National Groups, 7 797 individual members and 147 corporate members.

The planned ISRM Conferences are:

International Congress: 2019, Foz de Iguacu, Brazil

International Symposia:

Eurock 2016, Cappadocia, Turkey


AfriRock 2017, Cape Town, South Africa

Regional Symposia:

Eurock 2015, Salzburg, Austria


SARMC 2015, Buenos Aires, Argentina


ARMS9 2016, Bali, Indonesia


Eurock 2017, Ostrava, Czech Republic


ARMS10 2018, Singapore

Specialized Conferences:

GeoProc2015, Salt Lake City, USA


Vietrock2015, Hanoi, Vietnam


Shale Gas 2015, Wuhan, China

  4th Workshop on Volcanic Rocks and Soils 2015, Ischia, Italy
  7th In-Situ Rock Stress Symposium 2016, Tampere, Finland
  Recent Advances in Rock Engineering 2016, Bangalore, India

Professor John Hudson, received the 2015 Muller award, which the most prestigious ISRM award and is awarded every four years. He presented the Muller Lecture at the ISRM 2015 Congress.

The Rocha medal is awarded to the best PhD thesis in Rock Mechanics annually. The 2015 Rocha Medal was awarded to Andrea Lisjak Bradley of Italy, who also presented a lecture on his thesis at the Congress. The 2016 Rocha Medal winner (Chia Weng Boon from Malaysia) was announced. Submissions for the 2017 Medal remain open until 31 December 2015.

The 9th online ISRM Video Lecture was presented by Professor Dick Stacey on “Risk in Rock Engineering Design and Practice”.

conf2On the 12th May 2015 in Montreal Canada the first Rock Bowl Team from South Africa took part in the first International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) Rock Bowl Challenge. The team consisted of 4 members who were chosen according to the following requirements:

  • The Rock Bowl team must consist of 4 members who’s ages must be 35 and younger.
  • Four young graduates working in the rock engineering field (with BSc or MSc and one PHD)
  • There is no cost to participate in the Rock Bowl.
  • The participating teams are responsible for all costs associated with registration and travel to the ISRM Congress 2015. There is no subsidy or sponsorship for the participating teams.

On the 12th May 2015 at 15:00 the competition began. In true South African style a quick “regmaaker” was gulped down and they were ready to compete against Brazil, China, South Korea and Canada.

The competition was structured in a similar “flink dink” way whereby a Rock Engineering related question is asked by a presenter and each team sitting opposite to each other needs to tap a buzzer which secures the question. They then have 10 seconds to answer the question. If it is answered correctly the team is awarded 10 points as well as a bonus question. If the bonus question is answered correctly, 20 points are awarded to the team. All the teams competed against each other in a pool setup, whereby the final was decided.
The first round was South Africa Vs. Canada. Unfortunately South Africa lost the first round, whereby we had one more round left in the pool which was against Brazil. South Africa narrowly lost this round as well and therefore forfeited the final position to Brazil. Brazil entered two teams which both made it to the final. The winners for the Rock Bowl 2015 was Brazil.
Even though the South African team did not win, it was an experience of a life time. We would all like to thank SANIRE and the associated sponsors for making this possible and to TEAM SOUTH AFRICA for a great experience on an international stage.

For more information on ISRM and the Rock Bowl 2015 please visit the ISRM website.

Some pictures from the event


Special thanks to the Sponsors


temogoFull Name: Temogo Itholeng

Position: Rock Engineer (Unisel and Joel, Welkom, Free-State)

Company/ Organisations: BLA Harmony

Date and Place of Birth: 1983 May 01

Education: BSc Hons Mining-Wits University

First Job: Leaner Miner Rustenburg Townlands shaft

Personal Best Achievement/s: Getting to sign that legal appointment you realise "this is it".

Philosophy of Life: "Surely it can't be that difficult"

Favourite Food/Drink: Some braaivleis and beer

Favourite Sport: Not really into sport, but enjoy some superbike racing

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
It began when I got a scholarship with Wits to do mining engineering in 2002, and 13 years later I am the appointed Rock Engineer at Joel and Unisel shafts.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Actually unplanned and purley coincidental, Anglo-platinum was in a drive to recruit for their Rock Engineering Dept, ran by Dougall Fraser, they gave presentations at Wits as part of the drive and I attended one of those presentations and was interested since then.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
Started off as a leaner miner at Townlands shaft as part of a requirement for the Mining Eng Degree, and realised soon enough I was not cut out for to be a "miner", following completion of my degree (under Rock engineering dept, ADC), started as a trainee in 2006 pursuing my SCO cert. Became SCO at Boschfontein and then moved to Free-State to work for BLA in 2008. Two years later I acquired COMREC in 2010, appointed Rock Eng at Target 3 shaft 2012 until its closure in 2014.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
Being in the operations and all the associated responsibilities we tend to lose touch with the technical side associated with the Engineering. We have become guards against DMR in our attempts to keep complying. Unlike Geotechnical consultants whom are only involved for a part of the project(design phase).

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
As mines become depleted, commodity prices falling, mines getting deeper, difficult and more dangerous and DMR getting stricter we need to look at what can the Rock Engineers do to assist in the survival of the industry.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
All I can say is "surely it can't be that difficult", butt on the chair type approach has worked for most people (committed studying).

Who is your role model/ mentor?
I think Deon Louw, particularly his laid back demeanour in times of heightened stress.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
If you are confident that you did what can possibly be expected of you, by your peers and critics then you don't have to worry.

heinFull Name: Heinrich Greeff

Position: Rock Engineer

Company/ Organisations: New Concept Mining

Date and Place of Birth: 23 September 1984, Parys (Freestate)

Education: Tertiary level Physics and Mathematics, Rock Engineering Certificate

First Job: Assistant Strata Control Officer at AngloGold Ashanti Moab Khotsong Mine

Personal Best Achievement/s: Still have to achieve something of note

Philosophy of Life: Good judgement comes from experience, experience comes from bad judgement – Jim Horning

Favourite Food/Drink: I think it's a tie between biltong and wine gums

Favourite Sport: Anything that takes you into nature

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
I started working as an Assistant Strata Control Officer at AngloGold Ashanti on Moab Khotsong mine in 2009. Worked in the deep level gold mines till 2013 and then relocated to the diamond fields under De Beers Consolidated Mines. Currently working as a Rock Engineer for New Concept Mining.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Lourens Scheepers came to recruit Physics students at the Northwest University in my final year of studying. His passion for the discipline was contagious and there was opportunity to further develop the science through research. I joined because I wanted to make a difference and be part of that development.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
Most of my time in Rock Engineering was spent on deep level gold mines. I've learned to understand stress and rock movement there a lot better than I imagined to be possible anywhere else. I enjoyed linking theory and actuals and that made it apparent to me that there is room for improvement in our current understanding. Moving away from the gold mines to the diamond fields unearthed my understandings because all of the sudden stress was insignificant and gravity called the shots. Looking back over the few years I've been part of our fraternity, I am excited over what the future might hold.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
Our mines are some of the best laboratories (worldwide) for research and exploring our understanding of mining, however, the Rock Engineering guys on the mines are often consumed by the amount of paperwork that they are responsible for. This halts them from having the time and energy to explore and be creative in their understanding. It is a challenge to not let work obstruct you from doing your work...

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
I believe that in future we will come to understand stress and rock movement better and that this will drastically change the way we perceive quasi static and dynamic events. I believe that Rheology will come into play and that there will be a distinction made between what portions of each occurrence was related to stress stimulus and what was just a result of rock mass movement.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
Don't take shortcuts, just study the entire syllabus – it's worth it.

Make time to look at and monitor the small things in your mining environment. Make time for those interesting trips just to remind you of how cool mining actually is.

Who is your role model/ mentor?
Johan Hanekom is my role model and I strive to have his understanding of physics, mathematics and how to apply this every day.

I have had many mentors through my career this far, but none as influential as Gary Williams. He forever changed the way I look at mining and the role we play in it.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
You have two ears, two hands and one mouth; use them in that ratio

From the very beginning of mining operations on the Witwatersrand, the absence of large quantities of suitable and readily available timber in the vicinity decreed that stopes were supported by mine poles or sticks at the immediate face where necessary, and these served well into the back area. Scatter piles or shrinkage piles of broken ore, held in place by timber or metal poles hitched into the hanging and footwall, to serve as working platforms, also provided a support function in steep stopes. Hangingwall control of the back area, particularly during shrinkage recovery operations, was achieved by waste packing. Waste-filled cribs, or pigstyes, and concrete disc packs were later introduced when the reef dip started to flatten out. Sometimes intense support of the face working area with relatively little in the way of back-area support was mooted. Sand-filling was also occasionally employed as workings became deeper and flatter, but, as this was of the post-fill variety, it was of little consequence as a hangingwall support measure. More importantly, pillars of unmined ore acted as the de-facto means of local and regional hangingwall support, but the size, position and distribution of these pillars, particularly in the earlier years, was generally dictated more by grade distribution considerations than by support or rock mechanics considerations.

Nevertheless, whether by accident or design, these methods were ideally suited to the extraction of the extensive, narrow, tabular, brittle, hard-rock orebodies of the Witwatersrand at these relatively shallow depths (<1000mbs). Timber mat packs on their own, for example, would have been entirely inappropriate, and could have led to sudden, extensive backbreaks, with all of the attendant ramifications of this type of stope failure.

However, there was an intrinsic drawback associated with the pillar support method, and this manifested itself very soon after the beginning of the new century. With the rapid increase in depth of the Central Rand workings mentioned above, support pillars and other pillars, such as inter-stope remnants, started to fail violently as a result of increasing rock pressure. Catastrophic pressure bursts (rockbursts) were experienced underground and severe earth tremors were felt on surface. While the effects and consequences of these incidents were clear, the underlying causes, and therefore the appropriate preventative measures to be applied, were not all that well understood at first. It was, nevertheless, eventually recognised that the phenomenon was somehow connected with depth, pressure, stoping spans, pillars and convergence, or subsidence as it was then called, and even the exacerbating role of geological anomalies such as faults and dykes was recognised. But appreciation of the key to the mystery, that of stored elastic strain energy in the rockmass giving rise to destructive compressive waves and shear waves when released by sudden failure in the rockmass, was entirely lacking in those early years.

Three separate government commissions were set up in the course of the first three decades of the new century to enquire into the causes and remedial measures to be applied by the industry. Amongst other things, the commissions suggested that the formation of under-designed on-reef pillars, and particularly of remnants, be avoided in workings, but, as mentioned, the lack of fundamental understanding prevented them from making more profound, far-reaching and definitive pronouncements and recommendations on the issue.

The Association of Mine Managers, formed in 1892 to promote the general advancement of mining in the country, and always concerned with safety, particularly underground safety, now took a dominant lead in trying to understand and prevent or ameliorate these events. The Transvaal Chamber of Mines initiated the practice of printing and distributing technical papers and discussions that were presented at regular meetings of the Association, starting in 1931. A volume entitled 'Some Aspects of Deep Level Mining on the Witwatersrand Gold Mines with Special Reference to Rock Bursts' covered the papers read before the Association on the subject in the years 1932 and 1933. At that time, more than 700 earth tremors, or mine tremors, per year were being recorded in the Johannesburg area alone (two per day!).

The healthy and robust debate between mine managers who were holders of various, sometimes conflicting, theories on the subject makes interesting reading, but with the benefit of hindsight it is sometimes frustrating to see how close some of the greatest names in the industry came without actually cracking the nut. But then the war years of the 1940s, however dark they may have been for the world, heralded the long-awaited breakthrough, and can be regarded as the watershed years during which mine-scale experiments in support methodologies and mining layout strategies started to yield the technical understanding and basic principles of deep-level mining that we take for granted today.

The first breakthrough came in the form of a paper presented by H.V. Curtis on behalf of the late H.W. Ardler (who featured prominently in previous work on the subject), supported by no less a personage than C.W. Biccard Jeppe, in which it was suggested for the first time that elasticity in rocks and rockmasses may probably play a fundamental causative role in the phenomenon of underground pressure bursts. It was also suggested for the first time that a permanent body should be established to deal with the question of rockbursts.

There were many insightful mining men of that era, but one name stands out above all of the rest. Following well documented experimentation at ERPM, F.G. ('Pinkie') Hill presented and published a number of ground-breaking papers during the course of the decade on subjects as diverse as destressing inclined shafts by over-stoping (prompted by his description of the complete closure of 100m of the Driefontein Tertiary Incline Shaft by a rockburst); using sticks as the dominant means of hangingwall control in stopes (prompted by previous work on the theory of using 'incompressible' support to prevent bending and sag of hangingwall strata); and, of course, his pioneering introduction of the longwall stoping system in the Hercules Section at ERPM in 1940. Typically he did not take credit for this innovation which he said had been practiced for generations, but he did assert his belief that on the mines of the Central Rand where payability was over 65% some form of longwall stoping would be necessary at depths below 8500 feet (2500m) below surface.

Pinkie Hill must, without doubt, be regarded as one of the foremost thinkers, doers and leaders in the field of rock engineering. He remained actively involved well into the 1960s. Not only did he introduce and champion the now familiar and indispensable concepts of longwalling and over-stoping in deep mining environments, he was also the first to harness the expertise within the engineering research institutions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, from which flowed his work on pre-conditioning blasting. He was instrumental in persuading authorities of the need to establish research facilities within the Chamber of Mines dedicated to solving deep-level and other mining problems (from which the CoM Research Organisation evolved). And it was he who initiated the introduction, recruitment and training of dedicated rock engineering practitioners assigned the task of establishing and expanding the discipline within each of the large mining groups. The cliché of being able to see far into the future only because one is standing on the shoulders of the giants of the past is usually associated with the world of physics, but it can perhaps be applied with equally veracity to the mining engineers and managers of this time.

dave  This story was written by Dave Arnold.
Please feel free to contact Dave with any historical stories for the next edition.



The SANCOT conference for mechanised underground excavation in mining and civil engineering was recently held in Durban in April 2015. The conference was compact; however delegates and stakeholders from as far afield as Germany, Switzerland, Turkey and Lesotho were represented, drawing from the consulting through to manufacturing and government arenas. The conference was presented over two days followed by a site visit to the Durban Harbour tunnel (pictures, inset) which was constructed with the use of a tunnel boring machine. Jeanne Walls and William Joughin represented SANIRE and SRK at the conference.

In the mining sector, tunnelling is integral to establishment of accesses and ore handling facilities. Whereas conventional drill and blast methods have historically dominated tunnel development and support installation, particularly in South African mines, the move to mechanisation in shaft sinking, horizontal and vertical raiseboring and support installation is rapidly entering the area of conventional practices. Presentation topics included mechanised installation of support (Geobrugg, SMEC), tunnel boring technology from an EPCM (WorleyParsons) and manufacturing (Master Drilling and Petra Diamonds) perspective and geotechnical considerations for large-scale projects (SRK).

In the civil sector, managing the risk of boring tunnels for infrastructure in developed urban areas, beneath airports (Herrenknecht), suburbs (GIBB, Gautrain) and the Durban harbour (eThekwini Municpality) made for some enlightening discussions. Microtunnels (Hatch), sea outfalls (Herrenknecht) and asset management (GIBB) completed the technical topics.

Going forward, SANCOT is in the process of revitalising its portfolio under the chair of Ron Tluczek (AECOM) who attended the annual ITA conference in May in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Included in the portfolio is several working groups commissioned under the ITA to develop guidelines for tunnelling in various areas of interest, including vertical tunnelling and asset management, amongst others. The Young Professionals' Forum (YPF) is a new initiative that falls under the ITA and intends to engage with SAICE, SANIRE and SAIMM to develop new talent while bridging the gap with seasoned experience. SANCOT expects to become increasingly involved in projects including the Lesotho Highlands Phase II and uMkhomazi Water Project in KwaZulu-Natal.

Finally, in case anyone thought the conference was all business, well, it was considered by some to be my greatest achievement to remain pink-faced and cheery with a hangover while negotiating a boat cruise out to open water on the last morning.

For more information, contact or visit the webpage at
SANCOT was formed in 1973 and is a founding member of the International Tunnelling Association

Article by Jeanne Walls, SRK Consulting

lucilleFull Name: Lucille Cilliers

Position: Rock Engineer

Company/ Organisations: Open House Management Solutions

Date and Place of Birth: 7 September 1968, Welkom Free State

Education: COMRE, AREC

First Job: Clerk at Senwes Cooperation, Klerksdorp

Personal Best Achievement/s: Obtaining my Rock Engineering qualifications in 7 years (of which 2010 was a gap year after I have obtained the COMRE certificate, and 2012 I looked after my father who suffered brain cancer and passed away in the same year. Strictly speaking 5 years of studying)

Philosophy of Life: Respect other people's way of thinking. 6+3=9, but so does 5+4 also produce the same answer. Your way of doing things is not necessarily the best or only way it can be done.

Favourite Food/Drink: Anything that my mother dishes up! Especially if it is oxtail!

How did your career in the mining industry begin and where are you now?
My career in the mining industry started on 21 August 1990 when I was appointed as clerk at the Trade Accounts Department of Hartebeestfontein Gold Mine. I worked in various sections of the mine's Accounts Department, but was then retrenched during 1999 when the mine downscaled just before DRD closed down. At the very same time of my retrenchment, a new door opened at the Rock Engineering Department where I started working as Secretary in October 1999. In February 2000 Open House Management Solutions was established and the mine's Rock Engineering department was outsourced to the newly founded company. I just transferred as secretary to the new company and then acted as Personal Assistant to Koos Bosman, the then Managing Director of Open House.

Working in the same position for almost eight years eventually became non-challenging and started to frustrate me. After complaining to Koos about my frustration, he encouraged me to start studying and directed me in the direction of becoming a Rock Engineer. On 7 August 2007 I undertook my first "experimental" underground visit and this was the beginning of a new life to me.

Why did you choose Rock Engineering?
Rock Engineering chose me! I do believe that this was directed by God who opened new doors and who also gave me the strength to start and to prevail in this career.

Please tell us a bit more about your career journey?
My Rock Engineering career started when someone else believed in my abilities - that I could do it, even before I thought so myself. I remember 6 August 2007 very well. I once again was complaining about my frustration and Koos suggested that I should consider a career in Rock Engineering. An hour later an underground visit for the next day was organised. After returning from the underground trip the next day, with a: "en was dit nou so erg?", Koos, handed Jager and Ryder's handbook to me. This posed an exciting challenge that I grabbed with both hands.

Since then I studied on and worked in different mining environments such as deep level gold mines, multi reef chrome mines, and open pit mines. I obtained the Chamber of Mines Rock Engineering Certificate in 2009 and the Advanced Rock Engineering Certificate during 2014. I'm currently part of the consulting team at Open House.

In your opinion, what are some of the challenges that the fraternity is currently facing?
In my opinion South Africa faces some of the most severe rock engineering challenges in the world with ageing mines and new developing mines creating a diverse scope of rock engineering demands. This ever-changing landscape requires people who are pro-active in their approach, and therefore Rock Engineers should be encouraged to equip themselves with unceasing knowledge in order not to stagnate - especially those on shafts who have become accustomed with what they have been doing for so long.

What are some areas that you believe will become of increasing importance in the near future of the rock engineering discipline?
I do believe that technology and new or better modelling programmes will become increasingly advanced and that the future of any professional rock engineer will depend on how technologically advanced his approach to design development will be.

What advice would you offer people aspiring to be in your position?
Making a career change took hard work, dedication, determination and a positive attitude and I must admit that I wouldn't have achieved this if it was not for those who stood by me. Ensure that you have relatives, friends and colleagues that support you! People made a difference - people who believed in me, people who gave me the chance and supported me. This also makes me believe that I can make a difference in other people's lives.

Who is your role model/ mentor?
Koos Bosman CEO of Open House Management Solutions. If it was not for his understanding, positive support and motivation, not to mention the Saturdays and public holidays he sacrificed helping me with the studies, I would most probably still be complaining about the disheartening office work.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
From my father – budget and don't buy on credit