Strategic partnerships and collaborators

The Department is indebted to the support it receives from the mining industry in general, as well as other departments and institutes within the University of Pretoria with which it collaborates in terms of teaching and learning, cross-disciplinary research and community engagement. It has also established collaborations with international universities, industry partners, professional associations, government institutions and local science councils. The Department thanks these organisations for their loyal support.

It also boasts several alumni who have reached the highest ranks of business, not just in the mining industry. These individuals, as members of the Mining Alumni Society of the University of Pretoria (MASUP) and/or the Mining Engineering Advisory Board, support the Department by raising sponsorships, ensuring that a high level of skills and educational standards are maintained, offering mentorship, providing external examiners, being available for industry discussions and offering guidance.

Advisory Board

A Mining Engineering Advisory Board has been established to advise the Department on various aspects of its teaching and learning, as well as its research initiatives to ensure that it remains relevant to the changing needs of society and the mining industry. As such, it benefits from the expertise of the following leaders from industry and academia, who serve on this board: 

  • Prof Sunil Maharaj, Dean: Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology
  • Prof Josua Meyer, Chairperson: School of Engineering
  • Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman, Head of Department: Mining Engineering 
  • Dr Bertie Meyer, President of the Mining Alumni Society of the University of Pretoria (MASUP)
  • Mr Rassie Alberts, Chief Operating Officer, Glencore Coal South Africa 
  • Mr Johan de Vos, Managing Director, Gigajoule International (Pty) Ltd 
  • Mr Chris Griffith, Chief Executive Officer, Anglo-American Platinum 
  • Prof Con Fauconnier, Former Chief Executive Officer, Exxaro Resources (retired) 
  • Mr Pierre Jordaan, Head of Mining, Sasol Mining (Pty) Ltd 
  • Mr Rowan Karstel, Chief Executive Officer, Buffalo Coal 
  • Mr Dick Kruger, Former Deputy Head: Techno-Economics, Minerals Council South Africa (retired)
  • Dr Gys Landman, Chief Executive Officer, DetNet South Africa (Pty) Ltd
  • Mr Joshua Ngoma, Founder and Chief Enabler, Enterprising Africa Regional Network (Pty) Ltd (EARN)
  • Mr Gerhard Potgieter, Group Executive, Impala Platinum 
  • Dr Gordon Smith, Acting Executive Head: Technical, Anglo-American Platinum 
  • Mr Peter Steenkamp, Chief Executive Officer, Harmony Gold Mining Company 
  • Mr Corné Strydom, Senior Vice President and Head of Operational Improvement, Sibanye Gold Limited 
  • Mr Bernard Swanepoel, Former Chief Executive Officer, Harmony Gold Mining Company
  • Mr Mike Teke, Chief Executive Officer, Seriti
  • Dr Nombasa Tsengwa, Executive Head: Coal Operations, Exxaro Resources 
  • Mr Don Turvey, Executive Head: New Mining, Phembani Group
  • Mr Francois Uys, Senior Executive, African Rainbow Minerals Limited
  • Mr Wilco Uys, Former Chief Executive Officer, Vale, Mozambique (retired) 
  • Mr Riaan van der Merwe, Chief Operating Officer, Coal of Africa Limited 

Industry visits

Each year, industry partners allow the Department to bring its third-year students to visit their operations in the mining industry. This enables the students to experience their theory in practice. Companies who participate in this programme include Klipspruit Colliery, GoldOne Modder-East operations, Petra’s Diamond Mine, Sibanye Stillwater’s Bathopele Mine, Mine Rescue Services, Harmony’s Joel Operation, Harmony’s Target Mine, Sibanye Stillwater’s Beatrix operations and the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa.

Strategic partners

Active collaborators within the University of Pretoria include the following:

Collaborators at international universities, mining companies and councils in industry, professional associations, government institutions and local science councils include the following:

Industry collaboration

The Department shares its expertise with the mining fraternity both locally and internationally.

The Head of Department, Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman, represents the University of Pretoria in both Mining Engineering Education South Africa (MEESA) and the international Society of Mining Professors (SOMP).

MEESA is a forum established to represent the four universities in South Africa who educate mining engineers (the University of Pretoria, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg and the University of South Africa). Prof Webber-Youngman was the inaugural chairperson of this forum.

SOMP represents the global academic mining community, and is committed to making a significant contribution to the future of the minerals disciplines internationally. Prof Webber-Youngman served as an African representative on this society from 2008 to 2019. He was also the President of SOMP from 2013 to 2014. He remains actively involved in SOMP’s activities, especially those of the Education Committee.

The Department also has a long association with the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) through the significant contributions of Prof Francois Malan (Associate Professor) and Prof John Napier (Extraordinary Professor) in the advancement of rock engineering.

Prof Malan has received various awards over the years for his contributions to rock engineering. These include five gold and silver medals from the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) and three Salamon awards from the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE) for best publications. The ISRM awarded him the Rocha medal in 2001 and in 2017 he presented the Franklin Lecture at the AfriRock Symposium in Cape Town. One of his PhD students, Dr Michael du Plessis, was also awarded the Rocha medal in 2018.

Between 2007 and 2011, Prof Malan served as the ISRM’s Vice-President for Africa. Prior to this, he was also the President of SANIRE from 2003 to 2005. Prof Malan is a Fellow of SAIMM, a Fellow of SANIRE and a member of the Society of Mining Professors. He acts as a reviewer for several rock engineering journals and is a member of the publications committee of the Journal of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.

Prof Napier has special expertise in rock engineering and numerical modelling. His recent research activity has concentrated on the development of a computer program to analyse tabular mines for countless layout designs. This program has been used extensively in South African gold and platinum mines. Prof Napier is world-renowned for the development of a displacement discontinuity computational method to simulate three-dimensional fracture growth with application to hydraulic fracturing, mixed mode fracture propagation and dynamic rock fracture processes near mine excavations.

As supervisor and advisor of many PhD students, Prof Napier’s guidance has led to the incredible achievement of four candidates being awarded the prestigious Rocha Medal of the International Society for Rock Mechanics for the best PhD thesis in the world. This record is unmatched in any country.

Prof Napier is also a member of the American National Academy of Engineering. This is one of the highest professional distinctions that can be accorded to an engineer. It is awarded to those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice or education, including significant contributions to engineering literature, pioneering new fields of technology, advancements in engineering practice and innovative approaches to engineering education.

Internationalisation 

One of the Department’s key strategic initiatives is to be recognised internationally as a leading, globally relevant research department of mining engineering. It has signed an agreement with Camborne School of Mines at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom to increase the collaboration potential among researchers with similar technical subject knowledge and skills, and to foster the idea of international co-publication.

The Department intends to develop a similar arrangement with the Colorado School of Mines in Denver, Colorado, which is the top-ranked mining school in the world. The knowledge gained from the proposed visit to Colorado will be used as a benchmark in aligning the Department’s objectives and improving its own ranking.

Industry funding

The Department appreciates the support of industry, which has contributed to its reputation of excellence in terms of innovative research, teaching and learning, and community engagement initiatives.

The Minerals Education Trust Fund (METF) annually provides supplementary staff funding to the Department to ensure that it is able to attract and retain the best academic minds in the mining industry to serve as lecturing staff for the Department. It also allocates capital and discretionary funds to the Department, which are allocated to expand the Department’s world-class teaching and research facilities, including laboratory equipment, to further facilitate the learning experience, specifically for rock engineering, mine ventilation and virtual reality.

The Department’s three research chairs were established with funding obtained from its industry partners, after which the chairs have been named. These are the Harmony Chair in Rock Engineering and Numerical Modelling, which is now in its third three-year funding cycle, the AEL Intelligent Blasting Chair in Innovative Rock-breaking Technology, which is in its first three-year funding cycle, with a planned extension for a second funding cycle from 2021 to 2023, and the Murray & Roberts Chair in Industry Leadership 4.0, which is also in its first three-year funding cycle, from 2020 to 2022.

The Department also appreciates the support of the mining industry for the development of its world-class facilities. This includes the investment and sponsorship of Kumba Iron Ore, a member of Anglo-American, which led to the establishment of the Department’s Kumba Virtual Reality Centre for Mine Design in 2015. The development of the Faculty’s Mining Industry Study Centre was also made possible through the financial support of Glencore-Xstrata and the Anglo-American Chairman’s Fund. This centre can accommodate 758 students – 252 individual workstations, 30 CDIO-type (conceive, design, implement and operate) venues and 296 study cubicles.

For information regarding collaboration opportunities, please contact Prof Ronny Webber-Youngman at [email protected].

Published by Marietha Hicks

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