In this issue there is a selection from the presentations at the conference on the Mining Achievements, Records and Milestones. There is a diversity of topics ranging from hydro transport of materials, standards for railway tracks, high speed conveyers that go around corners, economic optimization for strategic planning and the risk factors in mining investments. They are all competent presentations and there is, in general, a theme of improvement in efficiency, safety and economics. They all represent steps forward in mining technology and are important. I was hoping, perhaps unreasonably, to see something in the nature of a breakthrough in the search for the Holy Grail of gold mining in South Africa—the ability to mine at ultra deep levels (>4000 m) safely and economically.

It is perhaps appropriate that this selection appears in the last issue of this calendar year, since they provide a retrospective look at the achievements of previous years. Interestingly, one paper on coal strata control goes back some 50 years to the Coalbrook disaster, which caused major rumbles in the shallow depth coal mining in South Africa, where similar problems still exist today. In the New Year, we should look at a forecast of what lies in the future for the mining research and development contributions that are likely to appear in our Journal. It is not my intention to comment in detail on these topics, least of all in this December holiday issue. However, they do provoke the realization that the once mighty Chamber of Mines Research Organization has declined to a subdivision of the CSIR, and the money available for forefront research in hard rock deep-level mining technology is becoming more and more limited.

This was an area of technology where this country was at the forefront and there is a great deal of unfinished business in rock mechanics, rock bursts, rock breaking and mine ventilation. There is, of course, the vision of successfully mining the largest known gold resource in the world at the deeper levels of several of existing mines. It will be very interesting to see what a dwindling band of researchers is able to contribute in the future years. Maybe, if we consider the potential benefits in coal, gold and platinum there is a crusade to be waged to resuscitate the era where papers on fundamentals were regular features and eagerly looked for in the Journal.  R.E. Robinson    December 2006

President’s message for the holiday season… As we once again reach the end of a successful year for the SAIMM, it gives me great pleasure to take this opportunity to wish all who make up the family of the Institute a wonderfully relaxing and peaceful holiday season. For those who are travelling, take it slow, steady and safely, enjoy the journey as much as the destination. To those working, even in the demands of your everyday life, I wish you little moments of joy and peace and to all who are lucky enough to spend time with family, may the year end in joy and fellowship. Celebrate, relax and recharge to start afresh for a new and challenging 2007. R.P.H. Willis President