Research on a safer working environment in the hard-rock mining industry will become a very specific focus area at the University of Pretoria (UP).This is the result of a donation of R4.7 million over 3 years by gold mining company Harmony Gold to UP in order to establish a chair in rock engineering and numerical modelling in the mining industry. The Harmony chair will be housed in the department of mining engineering of the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology. The aim of the chair will be to take part in leading research activities in the field of rock mechanics and numerical modelling in the mining industry. The chair is also aimed at producing research and learning outcomes to the benefit of Harmony, the University and the country as a whole. There will be opportunities for the development of products like software to support numerical modelling. Apart from research and studies in the above-mentioned fields, efforts will also be made to establish a postgraduate qualification in rock mechanics. Expanding undergraduate teaching in rock mechanics and numerical modelling, specifically as a result of new research being done, will also be an important function of the chair.
Another important function of the Harmony chair will be to arrange much needed liaison between academic institutions and the industry in general, but specifically between Harmony and UP.The company will further benefit from this donation through its interaction with international leaders in the field of rock mechanics and numerical modelling research, as well as the interaction with under- and postgraduate students by way of student projects. “Ensuring the safety of each of our mineworkers is Harmony’s top priority. Therefore, further research and development to ensure even safer underground conditions are of the utmost importance to us. It is a privilege to have the University of Pretoria as partner in the pursuit of even safer mining activities. “It is of cardinal importance to our industry that South Africa should be seen as the leader in the field of research, with specific reference to the prevention of rock related deaths and injuries. We trust that this initiative will strengthen the partnership between academic institutions and the industry in hard-rock research activities and will empower mining companies to effect further safety improvements,” said Harmony Gold’s CEO Graham Briggs.