The biennial South African Geophysical Association (SAGA) conference and exhibition has become a cornerstone of the geophysics industry within Africa, says SAGA conference committee chairperson Reece van Buren.
“No other event caters for our science quite like this one and that story will be echoed by all who attended this year,” he adds.
The biennial event provides a platform for geophysicists, mining representatives, academics, equipment suppliers, software suppliers as well as experts and consultants to discuss the latest developments in the geoscientific space. It also allows visitors to network and share novel methods and applications related to the field of geophysics.
According to Van Buren, the fifteenth SAGA conference – held at the Lord Charles Hotel, in Cape Town, from September 10 to 13 – featured a field trip, workshops, special sessions and discussion panels offered by a “diverse selection of thought leaders and pioneers”.
The conference has demonstrated year-on-year growth, including an increased number of attendees and exhibitors. This year’s event included 32 exhibitors, 15 sponsors, 19 keynote speakers, 218 delegates (60 of whom were international delegates based outside Southern Africa) and 113 oral presentations.
Further, owing to the discount afforded to university students, the conference saw “in the region of 30 students” attend, which Van Buren noted was significant because geophysics is “an extremely niche discipline”.
He comments that the event reached “critical mass”, unseen at a SAGA-only event for many years, noting that the private and public sector, as well as mining minors and majors were represented.
Van Buren says attendees displayed overwhelming positivity and determination, “illustrating the clear commitment to sticking it out through these hard times and coming out the other side stronger and better equipped to continuously deliver within our discipline at international standards”.
He adds that presentations and speakers communicated an “almost consistent” message of highlighting the benefits of interdisciplinary studies and expanding frontiers into parallel geoscience fields.
Van Buren pointed out that the 2017 event showed a natural progression from the 2015 conference, where presenters were encouraged to showcase new, innovative ideas addressing modern-day geoscientific problems. This year’s theme, Expanding Frontiers, further explored new methods and applications.
The event was supported by SAGA’s partners, namely the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the Australian Society of Exploration Geophysicists, the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers, the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professionals, and the Geological Society of South Africa, as well as the P-STEM Foundation, which is an engagement organisation working in historically disadvantaged communities.
Expert Advice While including a range of insights and experts, there was a focus on geophysics’ application in exploration and mining activities.
As previously reported by Mining Weekly, PetroSA chief geophysicist Peter Dekker focused on “great prospects” for exploration in gas, despite the slowdown in exploration in the South African mining industry, as well as less than favourable macroeconomic factors.
Advanced technologies company Lockheed Martin’s business development manager Dan DiFrancesco agreed, noting that exploration spend has decreased by 69% over the last four years.
He noted that, in light of this decline, there is a need to adopt better technologies as “discovery costs had tripled in the last decade”. DiFrancesco attributed this rise to low commodity prices, the global economic situation and a rise in the costs associated with exploration.
Mining major Anglo American’s change management analyst Petro du Pisani advocated in her presentation that the mining industry adapt to ongoing changes in technology. She noted that advances in computing power, resolution and better sensors would spark big changes, and cautioned that the mining industry should be proactive with regard to change.