James McKelvey, a respected and internationally-recognized tunnel design, construction, and risk management expert, passed away suddenly on 20 July 2015, at the age of 60.
Born in South Africa on 15 September 1954, Jim earned his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Natal in 1976, and that same year, joined Murray & Roberts Roads and Earthworks and began work on what would become numerous South African tunnelling projects.
Jim joined Keeve Steyn Incorporated in 1980, and during his more than 20-year career with the company, he became recognized as one of the foremost tunnelling engineers in South Africa. He led the company’s tunnelling team on many major projects, such as the Inanda-Wiggins Tunnels and the Midmar Potable Water Tunnel. In 1998, he took up the position of Chief Resident Engineer on the Matsoku Weir and Diversion Tunnel, followed by the same role on the 32-kilometer Mohale Tunnel. Both projects are part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, one of the largest water transfer programmes ever developed in Africa and recognized by the South African Institution of Civil Engineering as the Project of the Century.
Jim moved to the United States in the early 2000s and joined Black & Veatch in 2002 as a senior member of the company’s geo-engineering group. In 2003, he moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to lend his talents to a multi-phased wastewater tunnel replacement programme. An Associate Vice President at Black & Veatch, he later began the company’s Tunnelling Center of Excellence in Indianapolis before taking on the role of Tunnel Chief Engineer in 2013. During his 13-year career at Black & Veatch, Jim was engaged on many of the company’s large-diameter tunnel and pipeline projects throughout North America.
Jim has left a lasting legacy by mentoring many professionals along the way, and he has also left an indelible mark on the industry as a tunnelling authority known for his practical, insightful solutions to complex design and construction challenges. He served on both the Executive Council and the Organizing Committee of the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association (ITA), and he represented Black & Veatch as a sustaining member of the Underground Construction Association (UCA) of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME). Within the UCA , he served as a member of the George A. Fox Organizing Committee. He was also a member of the Organizing Committee for the ITA-AITES World Tunnelling Conference 2016, to be held in San Francisco. He also formerly served as a member of the ITA working group on shotcrete, a tutor in the ITA working group on contractual practice, Chair of the South African National Committee on Tunnelling (SANCOT) and of SANCOT’s working group on shotcrete. He chaired the organizing committee for the memorable ITA-AITES World Tunneling Conference 2000, which was held in Durban, South Africa. He authored numerous papers and chapters of books, including a logistics chapter in Megaprojects: Challenges and Recommended Practices.
Jim is survived by Jacqui, his wife of 12 years; children (and their spouses) Bianca and Greg, Monique and Kevin, Katherine and Mitch, Stuart and Andrea, and Ross; grandchildren Cameron and Jude; and a sister, Dianne.