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Journal President's Cornerpages

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.

A sense of belonging

Over the past few months, I have traveled to a number of faraway countries where the culture and customs are very different, and where a South African might be expected to feel alien and alone. However, in all of those places, I have encountered people with whom I have shared values or have found interests in common, and, as a result, there has been a sense of belonging and connection. This need to belong is a basic aspect of being human. Is this, perhaps, one of the things we look for when joining a society such as the SAIMM?

Mining in the Global Village

It has been just over fifty years since the concept of the 'global village' was introduced by Marshall McLuhan in 1964, yet it remains relevant to our everyday experiences. Modern communication technologies have seemingly shrunk the world even further since then.

Highs & Lows

Well here it is!

This is the last of my ’President’s Corner’ contributions for my 2014/2015 term of office and, as I commented earlier this year, time moves at an accelerated rate when you are busy. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year. It has been characterized by the usual highs and lows in terms of our efforts to grow the reach of the Institute geographically as well as building greater relevance to industry and offering value to our members. The latter is critical. After 121 years of successful existence, our Institutional environment is changing faster than ever before. My message here is that we have to be proactive. The status quo is no longer acceptable.

Botswana Branch and Mineral Economics Division

In this month’s article I want to update readers about two important aspects of the Institute – firstly, the launch of the new Botswana Branch, and secondly the Mineral Economics Division of the SAIMM.

Hiring smart people

A number of papers in this month’s Journal deal with matters relating to longer term planning considerations in our hard-rock, deep-level mines (for example, ’Strategic and tactical requirements of a mining long-term plan’ by B.J. Kloppers, C.J. Horn, and J.V.Z. Visser). It is also really good to see some mining engineering-related topics in this issue, as they have been in short supply for some time now.