The Department of Mining Engineering at UP was established in 1961 following the successful institution of the Faculty of Engineering in 1956. The Mining Engineering programme, with its first intake of 89 students, had been hosted in the erstwhile Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science from 1956 until the establishment of its own independent department. By that time, mining engineering had already been recognised as an important discipline in the South African context. It has since contributed greatly to the mining industry by providing world-class mining engineering leaders.
As such, it has been able to attract experienced mining engineers to lead the Department, including Prof Jacob de Villiers Lambrechts (1964 to 1974), Prof Frederik Quintin Painter Leiding (1975 to 1981), Prof Alfred Norgraad Brown (1981 to 1996), Prof Gert André Fourie (1996 to 2001), Prof Nielen van der Merwe (2001 to 2007) and Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman (since 2007).
As a specialised discipline, it has grown steadily over the years into the leading department of mining engineering that it is today, with many alumni serving the mining industry with distinction.
Over the years, the Department faced many challenges with student numbers following the ebb and flow of the fortunes of the industry, but has proved to be resilient and ready to turn challenges into opportunities. The change of the language of tuition to English to facilitate access, the present strong emphasis on leadership skills grounded in sound technical skills, and contributions to inculcating a safety culture in mining operations serve as excellent examples.