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Journal President's Cornerpages

Diamonds are forever

This edition of the Journal is dedicated to papers covering many aspects of the exploration, mining, processing, and beneficiation of diamonds: a commodity of great significance to the economy of South Africa for more than a hundred years. 

Diamonds provide a unique source of interesting history in South Africa, and learnings from the early days of diamond mining are still relevant to the formulation of policy issues today, especially amongst artisanal, emerging, and junior miners.

Of sun, shells, sand, and sea …

I recently visited the Eastern Cape for the occasion of my eldest son’s wedding. It is the first time I had visited beautiful Morgan Bay, and we ventured up the coast into the former Transkei for some sightseeing. At one point we deviated onto a very small dirt track (fortunately we had a 4x4 vehicle) and arrived at a small cove amongst the dunes. I noticed large areas of the beach were covered in a crust of shiny black sand which, when I picked it up, felt quite heavy.

The penny dropped: this was the heavy, titaniferous metal sand that is the subject of the recent judgement in the Xolobeni mining case, whereby the High Court ruled in favour of the customary Umgungundlovo community, who opposed the mining of the dunes to recover the heavy minerals.

Local is lekker: building a global mining supply chain from South Africa

Oh my goodness, it’s nearly Christmas! How the time flies when you are enjoying yourself. It’s year end and time to reflect, as well as to look forward to the New Year. 2018 has been a tumultuous year for the mining industry in South Africa, what with the appointment of a new President of South Africa, a new Minister of Mineral Resources, and a Mining Charter that we can work with as an industry.

Within the Charter is the key aspect of local procurement of capital goods, consumables, and services by and for the industry. This focus is aimed at stimulating the mining goods and services supply chain with the purpose of creating employment and export opportunities, with special emphasis on historically disadvantaged South Africans and communities, BEE credentials of suppliers, youth, and women in mining.

A new dawn for the mining industry?

As I sit here writing this President’s Corner, today’s dawn has brought with it the first real rains of the summer. I am reminded that the rain represents a blessing showered down upon us, and our country. Is this a blessing for our industry?

Much has changed for the mining industry over the last few months, or has it?

First, after the inauguration of the new President of South Africa, the promise of a ‘new dawn’ for South Africa and its peoples created a sense of euphoria, popularly described as ‘Ramaphoria’. Exactly what the new dawn will bring for us is not altogether clear, however. Sello Lediga, writing in the Daily Maverick on 7 May 2018, points to the following as four pillars that could assist the President in clarifying the concept, these being: 

Safety, health, and the environment through the eyes of MineSafe

It is an honour for the President of the Institute to write the President’s Corner note for the Journal, especially so when it is the first one after inauguration as President. It was indeed a great pleasure to present the story of research and development in the mining industry in South Africa in my Presidential Address at the AGM, and to be able to describe the journey so far that the Mandela Mining Precinct has travelled. The work of the Precinct has focused on the research and development of mining systems, of which health, safety and environmental topics are an essential component. What has become very clear, and flowing out of the Mining Phakisa in 2015, is the need for a collaborative approach in this research work.

Seeing the value of the SAIMM

Selo Ndlovu 2017Being the President of a professional organization like the SAIMM can be quite demanding. However, it’s not always stressful because there are quite a few pleasures and privileges that accompany the job. One of the significant pleasures is the interaction with members at all the numerous events that are organized by the Institute. Here you get to talk and listen to the views of the members on a number of issues facing the minerals industry. You get to hear all the good, the not so good, and the bad about the industry that we serve. You are always kept up to date, simply through that interaction with other professionals in the field. This is of significant value, especially considering how quickly technology is changing the minerals industry landscape.

Diversity and Inclusion in the Minerals Industry

Selo Ndlovu 2017A number of studies have confirmed that there is a positive relationship between diversity and business performance, and that diversity in leadership roles is what tends to define the success of a business. This is because knowledge creation and application is enriched by a variety of skills, experience, and cultural diversity. The more diverse a team, the more perspectives, the broader and more challenging the conversations, and the better the decisions that are finally taken.

Upskilling the heroes of the mining industry

Selo Ndlovu 2017I recently had the pleasure and opportunity to listen to one of the most well-known and admired person in South Africa; the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela. She gave keynote addresses at the International Women’s Day celebration hosted by the Motsepe Foundation and at the pre-AGM dinner for the Chamber of Mines (now known as the Minerals Council South Africa, or MCSA). On both occasions, she gave a remarkably inspiring and thoughtprovoking speech on what it means to lead and fight for what you believe in. At the MCSA dinner, she not only spoke of the need for ethical leadership but also discussed the importance of being attuned to the needs and realities of a country. She talked of being persecuted for her stance on corruption, and I realized that South Africa admires her for her stance and the contribution she made to the betterment of the country. In her speech at the Women’s Day celebration event, she spoke of some unsung and unseen heroes; those ‘signposts’ that make huge differences for others without much benefit to themselves.

The future of Africa is not so dark

This month’s Journal edition celebrates the impressive research achievements of some of the 2017 graduates in the mining and metallurgical sector. However, of the eight papers that were selected from the Student Colloquium in October last year, only four were submitted for the reviewing process. Two papers were subsequently accepted for publication and two are being reworked. This is a little disappointing because the Journal aims to profile, each year, a number of papers that are the outcomes of research presented by students at the well-established annual SAIMM Student Colloquium. The presentations are a reflection of the wide variety of research being conducted in various institutions of mining and metallurgy in Southern Africa, and showcase the magic that happens when students challenge the status quo in their fields. It is a missed opportunity not to have this work published. Through novel scientific fundamentals and unique combinations of knowledge, these young researchers produce surprising results and new discoveries that can create the foundation for many innovative opportunities and technologies in Africa. And Africa is in great need of innovative African-driven technologies to solve its problems.

Climate change: the impact on the mining sector

Selo Ndlovu 2017There has recently been a lot of talk about global warming and its impact on weather patterns, i.e. climate change. A keynote address at the recent Infacon conference in Cape Town focused on climate change. Some people believe that this is all a lot of hype. Others (myself included), like the keynote speaker, believe that there is some evidence pointing to climate change – dry seasons becoming longer and wet seasons becoming shorter. Rainfall is reported to have become more variable than before, with rain coming in more concentrated, violent bursts. The end of March, for instance, saw a lot of rain leading to floods in Gauteng. A number of roads were closed due to bridges collapsing. In Cape Town, in contrast, there are serious concerns about water shortages, with Day Zero being a common topic of conversations at events and functions. Similarly, if you tune into the radio, you hear more often than not that the next world war will be fought, not for land or some other resource, but for water. Then I look around and see families, friends, and neighbours busy with water harvesting projects.

Shaping the mining sector through inclusive leadership

Selo Ndlovu 2017Two weeks ago while having my morning cup of tea, I contemplated, reflected, and marveled at the changes that have occurred in the country and the mining sector in the first six months of my term as the President of the SAIMM. I did not realize then that there was one big change around the corner. They say that a week is a long time in politics, and we have seen how true this statement can be with the recent significant changes that have transpired in Southern Africa; in our beloved neighbor country Zimbabwe as well as our home country South Africa. The mining sector has played, and continues to play, a significant role in the history and development of these two countries. At the same time, leadership and governance play a major part in paving the path for the mining sector. According to a recently released Chamber of Mines survey, the creation of attractive policies, a regulatory and governance environment through ethical leadership, good governance, and the adoption of stable and predictable policies can result in significant investment in the mining sector. Clearly, leadership is a crucial element in the development of the mining sector. Leadership is instrumental in achieving social change, and is imperative in unlocking growth and transformation in any industry. Good and visionary leadership can shift a country from obscurity into the spotlight. A good and visionary leader can shift a company from a loss- making entity to a profitmaking organization that can make a significant and meaningful contribution to national revenue or gross domestic product. There are a few examples in the history of the mining sector that attest to this. Similarly, a good community leader can drive and achieve significant social change leading to community upliftment. Imagine, therefore, what a country stands to gain when leaders from all sectors work together. Imagine if the leadership of the mining stakeholders such as the government, labour, business, and the community played an equal and a more prominently positive role in policy development. The potential for the development of attractive policies that can boost private sector investment, stimulate growth, and improve employment, with benefits that cascade down to and transform local communities, is extremely high.

Education for careers that do not yet exist

Selo Ndlovu 2017Universities have opened their doors for the new academic year, welcoming both the old and the new students. Every year there is an increase in demand for university places as young people look into acquiring a tertiary education as a means of securing and empowering their future. Following the newly announced free education dispensation by the South African government, university placements promise to be much more highly competitive as more students are expected to take advantage of this dispensation to gain the academic skills that will form the foundation for their careers.

The importance of higher education cannot be overemphasized. Countries look to universities for the capacity and skills that drive local economies, lead effective governments, support civil society, and at the same time guide very important decisions, which affect entire societies. University education is expected to enable individuals to expand their knowledge, express their thoughts and ideas clearly, gain higher level skills, increase their understanding of the world and their community, and thus contribute meaningfully to the development of the country’s economy. But, most importantly, the resultant graduates should be dynamic and easily adapt to the changing needs of the industry that they will serve. This aspect has become more significant and relevant when considering the modern-day technological developments and industrial changes.

A new year, new reflections

Selo Ndlovu 2017The start of a new year is always worth celebrating. We celebrate the achievements of the previous year. We also celebrate making it through the previous year’s challenges and, with optimism, look forward to twelve more fruitful months ahead. However, the fact that a year of our life has just passed by also usually leads to introspection. We question our decisions, actions, ambitions (or lack thereof), as well as many other things we have done or not done in the previous year.

A Christmas gift for the Institute

Selo Ndlovu 2017It is the end of the year and Christmas is in sight. We have all had a busy year and thus look forward to a restful break, which we will fill with new memories with our families and friends. Above all, we all look forward to receiving that well-chosen wonderful gift from loved ones. A gift is always treasured. It might be something that we did not ask for but somehow our loved ones always manage to surprise us by recognizing our need or yearning for that particular item. The fact that they understand us, love and care enough to go out of their way to give us that special something is a gift in itself. They make a sacrifice for a greater return; our happiness. A gift does not have to be expensive, it does not have to be wrapped up in an expensive wrapping paper and tied with a costly ribbon. For most of us there is one gift that is more valuable than anything bought in a shop; more appreciated by its recipient than anything wrapped in pretty colourful paper; and sure to be remembered for years to come. This is the gift of time. Time is the most valuable gift because it is a portion of your life that you can never get back. Time freely given is truly priceless to those who receive it.

Singing the praises of our SAIMM members

Selo Ndlovu 2017I would like to welcome you all to the new 2017/2018 term of the SAIMM. I hope you are all as excited as I am about what lies ahead. I am greatly looking forward to spending the next twelve months with you as we discuss and delve into different topics that interest us as members of this marvellous Institute.

As you are all aware, the SAIMM was established in 1894 and will be turning 125 years of age in 2019. The Institute has been built on a strong foundation of selfless commitment and diligence from its members; mostly on the basis of volunteerism. I would therefore, like to start off the year by acknowledging and thanking all the members of the SAIMM who have selflessly given of themselves and their time in the past, and will hopefully continue to do so in the future to keep the mission and goals of the Institute alive and active. It is indeed not easy, especially as we try to balance our demanding careers and personal lives. However, it does add value to our worth as we contribute to a bigger goal than our individual selves.

Women in the mining and minerals industry

Selo Ndlovu 2017Summer is finally here and Christmas is around the corner. I do hope that you are all enjoying the warm weather that is prevalent in Southern Africa at this time of the year and, at the same time, have started shopping for those elusive but perfect Christmas gifts for friends and families. Since taking over the reins as the President of the SAIMM, I have been invited to a number of events and meetings in the past few months. I have interacted with a lot of professionals and held discussions on a number of diverse and relevant (and even sometimes irrelevant) topics pertinent to the mining and minerals industry. The controversial new Mining Charter, low metal prices, ECSA, state capture, the ANC leadership race, water restrictions in the Western Cape, and of course the weather, have all been fodder for conversations at various events. However, one topic that never fails to come up, and for obvious reasons, is women in the mining and minerals industry. As such, it would be remiss of me not to take the opportunity to celebrate the valuable contribution that women make in the mining and minerals sector. Similarly, it would be imprudent to overlook the challenges that women continuously face as they contribute to the country’s economy. For the above reasons, I would like to focus on this relevant and important subject this month.

The last 100 days in the office of the SAIMM Presidency

C. MusingwiniWhen presidents or leaders are elected, it is often customary to expect them to deliver a speech when they attain their first 100 days in office. Barack Hussein Obama was inaugurated on 20 January 2009 as the 44th President of the United States, and gave a speech on his first 100 days in office on 29 April 2009. As is normal, his speech met with mixed reactions. Critics felt it was as vague as his campaign message, while supporters believed he was delivering on his campaign promises. It is during their first 100 days in office that presidents are scrutinized and watched particularly closely. Fortunately, in the SAIMM we have a rich tradition of leadership succession. Before one becomes President, one must have served at least two years on the SAIMM Council, followed by a year of co-option as an Office Bearer before successively becoming Junior Vice-President, Senior Vice-President, President-Elect, and President; After the term as President, one becomes Immediate Past- President and finally retires back onto Council as a Past President. There are therefore no campaign promises you need to make, as you become accustomed early on to the SAIMM’s strategic direction, which you then continue to drive during your one-year Presidential term. I therefore found it prudent to write on my last 100 days in office.

The modern mining professional – a mining CEOʼs perspective

I had the opportunity of attending the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa (AMMSA) on 31 March 2017. Mr Steve Phiri, the Chief Executive Officer of Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) delivered the keynote address, which he titled ‘Towards a lasting legacy: the modern mine manager’. This insightful address resonated with my President’s Corner in the May edition of the Journal, in which I wrote about ‘the Mine of the Future’. Although his address spoke directly to mine managers, I sensed that it was also aimed at mining professionals within the ranks of the SAIMM. I will now draw some parallels between his message to modern mine managers and its implications for modern professionals in the SAIMM.

Mine of the Future — A mining CEOʼs perspective

The School of Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand held its 120th anniversary celebration on 23 March 2017. The keynote speaker at this momentous occasion was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Gold Fields Limited, Mr Nick Holland. He spoke passionately about his vision on the Mine of the Future and indicated how Gold Fields was positioning itself for the future. The presentation was extremely insightful and well received by the audience, and I thought I should share with you some of the issues that were articulated.

Advancing international collaboration through the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA)

When Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was delivering his mid-term budget speech in 2016, he made reference to the following Pedi quote which is relevant to one of SAIMM’s strategic initiatives: ‘Ditau tsahloka seboka di shitwa ke nare e hlotsa’ (translated into English as ‘Lions that fail to work as a team will struggle to bring down even a limping buffalo’). This quote cannot be any truer when one reflects on the need for collaboration for a common purpose. In the October 2015 edition of the SAIMM Journal our Immediate Past President, Rodney Jones, wrote about a 2011 inaugural meeting in London which ultimately resulted in the formation of the Global Mineral Professionals Alliance (GMPA). I am happy to share with you a positive development – in February 2017 the SAIMM hosted the Annual GMPA Meeting in Cape Town, where we formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The NDP Vision 2030 — Does the SAIMM have a role to play?

As you join me for the first cup of coffee in 2017, I would like to welcome you all back from what I trust was a restful and enjoyable festive season. I am optimistic that good times lie ahead of us and that 2017 will be a very productive year.

In previous editions of the Journal I have provided some insights into key functions of the SAIMM and our leadership’s vision on strategically positioning the Institute as we go into the future. In this edition of the Journal I would like to provide a relevant national context and sketch out the role that the SAIMM is playing, and can play, to ensure that it can contribute to securing the country’s future. I will do this by referring to the National Development Plan (NDP): Vision for 2030 which was drafted by the National Planning Commission (NPC) in order to actualize the diverse aspirations of all South Africans, given the country’s political history.

Reflections on 2016 and a look ahead to 2017

As we approach the end of the 2016 calendar year, it is time for us to take stock of the past 12 months and imagine what lies ahead. What does 2017 have in store for the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy? I can only imagine that the wheels will continue to turn positively for the mining industry from where we draw our membership and support, as this has a positive bearing on us as the SAIMM. Yes, 2016 has been a challenging year for our industry, but we all know that the commodities market is cyclical and our world requires us to continue extracting minerals in order to sustain human survival. So, the glimmer of hope cannot fade away, because as the common adage says, ‘if it is not mined it must be grown!’ It would be remiss of me not to share some optimism with you for our mining industry in the medium term. The 2016 calendar year has also been a challenging one for the SAIMM as we could not attract sufficient delegates to some of our conferences, resulting in a depressed financial performance for the Institute. However, as the SAIMM, we still stand firm due to our resilient pedigree. Let me share with you some reflections on 2016 to see why we remain firm.

Wits Mining and the SAIMM — 120 years of parallel histories

This two-volume issue of the Journal celebrates 120 years of existence of the Wits School of Mining Engineering (Wits Mining). Are the two volumes two sides of the same coin? There are a myriad of quotes that refer to two sides of the same coin, albeit in a negative sense. I have previously come across the quote by Ida Pauline Rolf, an American Scientist who lived from 1896-1979, which says ‘form and function are a unity, two sides of one coin. In order to enhance function, appropriate form must exist or be created’. This quote takes a positive look at two sides of the same coin that are complementary. I can easily relate this concept to the symbiotic relationship between Wits Mining and the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), which can be gleaned from our parallel histories that have fostered inextricably strong links. The ‘coin’ can be seen as the mining industry, which we both serve in our distinct capacities, as an educational institution and a professional body. We both serve the mining industry with a common sense of unity and purpose – to contribute our best efforts to ensure that the industry can grow from strength to strength, because we can survive and thrive only if the mining industry is doing well. I will now turn my attention to the brief histories of Wits Mining and the SAIMM, sketch out some parallels, and indicate why these two institutions are so important for our mining industry, dating back to the 1800s with the advent of commercial mining in South Africa.

Goals, Systems, and Plans

On 12 May 1964 Don Shepherd, a 48-year-old gold miner (actually an underground locomotive driver) from Crown Mines in Johannesburg, set out from the Los Angeles City Hall to begin a solo coast-to-coast run across America. At the time, this was the longest run in the world by an amateur runner. Part of his preparation involved running from Johannesburg to Cape Town. He ran alone, completely unaided, with no backup vehicle, and only a small transistor radio for company. He had no financial sponsorship, and did the trip on a shoestring budget, allowing himself $10 daily to pay for his food and accommodation. He had spent much time saving for and planning the trip. He carried a small backpack containing a spare shirt, socks, plastic raincoat, shoe patching equipment and scissors, petroleum jelly, toothbrush and toiletries, a small water bottle, and a map. Because he didn't trust the American style of running shoes, he posted a parcel containing a spare pair of canvas takkies to the postmaster in Lincoln, Nebraska, to be collected halfway through his journey. Don completed his 3200 mile (5100 km) journey to New York City in 73 days, 8 hours, and 20 minutes, averaging 70 km per day, typically running for nine to fourteen hours a day. His amazing story is told in his book «My Run Across the United States’, published in 1970.

Celebrating the ordinary

Exceptionalism comes easily to South Africans. We are used to living in a country with wonderful weather, spectacular scenery, and the richest collection of mineral wealth in our ground. There is no other country in the world where you have two Nobel Peace Prize winners who lived in the same street. We are the Rainbow Nation of Desmond Tutu; the country where Gandhi formulated his ideas of passive resistance; and the people led by Nelson Mandela that practised reconciliation instead of a civil war. Johannesburg is the city where all of these great leaders lived and worked; it is also the location of the world’s greatest deposit of gold; and is even claimed to be the world’s largest manmade urban forest. I was born in Germiston (now regarded as part of greater Johannesburg; both cities were founded in 1886), and I grew up feeling proud of the accomplishments of the industrialists of my father’s generation. The city was home to the Rand Refinery (the world’s largest refinery of gold, which has refined 30% of all the gold mined in the world since antiquity), and the largest railway junction in the Southern Hemisphere.

Perils of Conferencing

Many people who haven't travelled on business have the impression that it is a rather glamorous and pleasant task to attend a conference. And, of course, it can be wonderful to visit an interesting place for a few days, and come back refreshed with new ideas and perspectives, but this isn't the whole story. There is also the downside of cramped long-distance flights, disturbed sleeping patterns occasioned by differences in time zones, unfamiliar food, and lack of exercise. The American comedian Fred Allen (who incidentally was born in 1894, the same year that SAIMM was founded) said, rather cynically that ‘A conference is a gathering of people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.’ He also said ‘I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.’ However, all things considered, conferences still provide a great opportunity to exchange technical information, and to network with one’s peers.

Electronic Communication

During September 2009, a delightful experiment was conducted to demonstrate how slow South Africa’s data transfer services were. A carrier pigeon called Winston was able to transfer 4 GB of data across the 80 km between Howick and Hillcrest, Durban in just over two hours, whereas Telkom’s ADSL service was able to complete only 4% of the transfer in that time. Since then, fibre-optic connections to the internet have improved the situation considerably, at least in some wealthier areas of the country. The bigger limitation is now on the human end, not just the technical capacity.


‘Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right’ – Isaac Asimov

One of the characteristic features of a professional society is that its members are governed by a code of professional ethics. The term ‘ethics’ is derived from the Greek word ethos, meaning ‘character’. Ethics and morals both relate to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ conduct. ‘Morals’ often refers to an individual’s own principles or habits that provide a personal compass regarding right and wrong conduct. ‘Ethics’ refers to the rules of conduct that are provided by an external source within a particular context, and can be considered a social system or a framework for acceptable behaviour.


When I travel on aeroplanes, I love to look out of the window, either at the popcorn-shaped cumulus clouds or the striated repeating ripple-patterned undulatus clouds, or the wispy feathery cirrus clouds. While enjoying this ephemeral beauty, I marvel at the atmospheric phenomena (and their governing mathematical equations) that are behind these structures. From the vantage point of 10 km up in the sky, the miniature-looking features on the ground can also be enjoyed. There are hills and valleys, snow-topped peaks, wide open deserts, forests and fields, rivers and lakes. I find that I can easily flip between seeing the world as fragile or as resilient, for both are true. Apart from continents drifting slowly apart, and the occasional impact of an asteroid, or volcanic explosion, the earth has been relatively stable for a very long time, perhaps as long as 4.5 billion years, and scientific estimates say that we have another 6 billion years to go until the expanding sun eventually burns out our planet.

Mining Heritage

Visitors to the SAIMM offices in the Chamber of Mines Building in downtown Johannesburg cannot fail to notice the rather imposing stamp mill in the adjacent pedestrian walkway that was once Hollard Street. This 10-stamp mill went into operation at the Robinson Mine in Langlaagte in September 1886, making it one of the earliest stamp mills on the Witwatersrand. On the nearby noticeboard the fascinating story is told of how the mill was buried in a deep slimes dump and later recovered, exhibited at the Empire Exhibition in 1936, and then erected at George Harrison Park, before being relocated to the Main Street Mining Mall in 2004.

A right to knowledge

Nelson Mandela said that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Southern Africa suffers greatly from a shortage of well-educated people. However, it is a massive challenge to increase literacy, let alone to provide education for all people in the region, starting with early childhood education, through primary and secondary schooling, and culminating with university studies. But this is a challenge to which we must rise, as educated people are employable and have the capacity to build a better society, to create employment, and to reduce poverty.