One of the key drivers for a successful South African mining industry is a pipeline of mining and metallurgy graduates. Without these individuals the sustainability of the industry will be in jeopardy. Therefore, a key aspect of SAIMM activities is the support of mining and metallurgy students and the tertiary institutions that provide their education. While there is some financial support available via the SAIMM scholarship trust fund, the type of support that the SAIMM provides is to motivate students with their studies and improve the probability of them being employed within the industry.
The annual SAIMM Student Colloquium has proved to be a great success in bringing students together from different tertiary institutions. The presentations given on the mining and metallurgy projects being undertaken clearly show the quality of students being graduated. The 2013 subject matter looked at different commodities, with some of the work conducted directly with a mining operation. The topics, which included different aspects of ore transport for underground and open pit operations, material wear properties, sintering for iron production, hydrometallurgical treatment of ferromanganese slag, wear rate of refractory bricks in furnaces, and hydrometallurgical treatment of copper/cobalt ore, highlight the variety of work being conducted and its clear applicability to the mining industry. The SAIMM Student Colloquium has started to broaden the involvement of students from our southern African branches, which is an important initiative going forward. Setting a date for the colloquium that can encompass as many of the tertiary institutions as possible has always been a challenge and will continue to be, but our organizing committee always manages to get the best possible results each year and all credit to them.
There is a tendency to forget that the SAIMM Western Cape branch encompasses the tertiary institutions in the Western Cape which generate many high-quality metallurgy graduates. They also host an annual event, a two day Mineral Processing conference, which highlights the significant amount of work which the undergraduates and postgraduates there produce. Last year I was asked by the Branch to give a keynote address at this annual conference, which allowed me to witness the significant contribution these tertiary institutions make towards metallurgy research and the output of metallurgy graduates.
The SAIMM has also started organizing career days for mining and metallurgy students where the students have the opportunity to ask a panel of mining engineers and metallurgists questions about different career paths within the mining and metallurgy disciplines. The first event, held at Sci Bono last year, proved to be a huge success. I was on the panel, so I can testify to this. After students complete their studies and start a career in the mining industry, they become Young Professionals. This year the SAIMM hosted the first Young Professionals conference, where experiences were shared across different commodities and disciplines by quite a diverse group of young mining engineers and metallurgists. This is another example of support to students as they leave their studies and embark upon a career in the mining industry. Guidance given early in their careers will increase the probability of them staying with a career in the mining industry.
The above points illustrate the extent to which the SAIMM supports mining and metallurgy students and their progression to Young Professionals. I cannot overemphasise how important this support is, and how essential it is for the SAIMM to examine ways to expand this support.