Research Focus Areas

Research Focus Areas in Geology

University of Pretoria Natural Hazard Centre:

A broad spectrum transdisciplinary focus on natural hazards and risk modelling relevant to the whole continent of Africa and wider. The Centre play a triple role of research, education, and consulting in the field of natural hazards, and serves as a hub of hazard and risk analyses for the engineering, mining, disaster management and insurance industries.

People involved: Prof Andrzej Kijko; Dr Ansie Smit

Applied Geology (Engineering Geology, Rock Mechanics and Hydrogeology):

Engineering Geology research includes soils, rock, excavations, roads, dams, stability and remediation, but in recent years our research strengths have moved towards dolomite stability investigations, water flow through the unsaturated zone and fractures, with research being field based and experimental (using custom made laboratory set-ups).  In Hydrogeology our research looks at vadose zone recharge mechanisms, groundwater and surface water quality (urban areas, reservoirs, cemeteries and natural landscapes), stable isotopes, including hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, and now use of radioactive radon isotopes as natural tracers.

People involved: Prof Matthys Dippenaar; DMs Mampho Maoyi, Ms Valencia Kuppusamy, Prof Louis van Rooy (extraordinary)

Vadose Zone Hydrology: 

This is the zone of water and air interaction accounting for the transport for 96% of the terrestrial freshwater between precipitation and the subsurface. Vadose zones exist throughout Earth's crust and has intermittent phreatic zones where water is saturated and form aquifers. The soil zone or plant root zone form the upper part of the vadose zone where evapotranspiration is present. UP is involved in the intermediat vadose zone which is beyond this zone where soil, rock, and karst (rock prone to dissolution) exist in air-water conditions.

People involved: Prof Matthys Dippenaar

Mineral Deposits:

Copper in the Namaqualand of Namibia and South Africa: the copper in the Namaqua area represents the oldest formal mining district in SA. Together with the well-known O’okiep district (age ca. 1 Ga), copper is also present in older rocks (ca. 1.8 Ga) at the border between SA and Namibia. At the moment, an MSc student is sponsored by a NRF-Cimera bursary to investigate the porphyry copper deposit at Haib (Namibia). 

Nickel-copper-PGE in the Kunene complex of Angola and Namibia: the area is presently under exploration by Anglo American. The interest in the area is related to the presence of sulphide mineralisation associated with an intrusive complex dated at ca. 1.4 Ga. 

Phalaborwa complex, South Africa: The oxide and sulphide mineralisation of the carbonatite complex. 
Heavy mineral potential in the Bothaville district, Free State, South Africa: The area is characterised by the presence of secondary littoral deposits containing heavy minerals like zircon, monazite, rutile and monazite, important for elements like titanium, zirconium and Rare Earth Elements. 
Layered intrusions and the Bushveld Complex especially pipes in the Upper Zone. Genesis and chemistry of coal, gold fingerprinting, tectonics of rifted margins and many other projects.

People involved: Dr Lorenzo Milani, Prof James Roberts

Carbon Capture and Storage:

We are investigating the potential use of mafic and ultramafic mine tailings as storage for CO2.  We are looking at the composition of the tailings, and their capacity for storage and are compiling an inventory of all their physical and chemical characteristics, to assess whether the rate of natural sequestration (that occurs during weathering) can be expedited. The project will aid current and future decision making and policy development regarding tailing treatment and carbon footprint of the mining industry of South Africa.

People involved: Mr Zakhele NkosI

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