For several years now, the Institute has supported the development of qualifications in the Mine Planning and Design area, through the establishment of a Mine Planning and Design Industry Forum.
This Forum was convened with membership invited from the major mining companies and technical software suppliers, as well as the providers of learning.
The need to develop these qualifications arose from the realisation that, apart from undergraduate mining engineering qualification, no such qualifications exist. Furthermore, mine planning was seen as an area of "scarce skills", particularly in the tabular mining environment, and that the creation of a legitimate and attractive career path was essential, to attract and retain competent planners.
External developments, such as the need within SAMREC (2008) to have a Life of Mine Plan for an operational mine, in order to declare Mineral Reserves (and at least a PreFeasibility Study for a Project), as well as a number of developments in the Mineral Asset Valuation field, emphasised the need to develop competency, leading to possible professional registration in the higher levels of Mine Planning and Design.
A great deal of work has been done to date on the development of a learning pathway for mine planning and design, aligned to the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), from level 2 through to level 8 and beyond. This work has been done through extensive engagement with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) and the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA), through the SAIMM.
Recently, the MQA as the Quality Development Partner established a Community of Expert Practitioners (CEP)for Mine Planning and Design, facilitated by an appointed Occupational Development Facilitator to develop an Occupational qualification at level 4 (the Mine Planner. This process has been very successful thus far, and the occupational qualification will be ready for submission to the QCTO (Quality Council for Trades and Occupations) in the second quarter of 2012. This occupational qualification will include the foundational requirements as well. Thus, in addition to allowing a matriculant to enter a career in Mine Planning and Design, it also continues to allow lateral entry for suitably qualified persons from within industry who wish to make a career change based on recognition of prior learning and experience.
Also within 2012, a programme at level 6 (Technician level), has been developed at the Wits Mining School, which was launched in 2011, developed in consultation with the Forum, and born out of the Mineral Resource Management Certificate Programme.
At higher levels, it is the intention of the Forum to enter discussions with the tertiary institutes, in order to assess whether undergraduate current programmes adequately address industry needs in terms of Mine Planning and Design, and whether these programmes adequately provide for possible professional registration.
The Forum will then work towards promoting support for research work to be undertaken in the Mine Planning and Design area, at Universities, at the postgraduate level.
The next stage in the occupational qualification development process will be a workshop to finalise the qualification development, and also to agree on an Assessment Quality Partner, and their roles and responsibilities. This workshop will take place on the 30th and 31st January 2012. The next stage of work will be towards registration of the qualification with the QCTO, learnership development & registration, development of learning materials, followed by implementation.
Thanks are due in this work to the members of the Forum, the mining companies who have actively participated, the MQA, the QCTO facilitator (Mr. Ben van As), the Council of the SAIMM, the CEP members and MineRP in particular, who continue to actively support this work.
Alastair Macfarlane : Chair, MP&D Industry Forum.