Congress key to addressing socioeconomic challenges

PASSING THE TORCH The Thirty-fourth IGC president Neil Williams symbolically handing over the IGC to current copresident Professor Richard Viljoen

GROUND UP The discovery of mineral deposits, their evaluation and development, depend on input from the geoscientific community

19th August 2016

By: Nadine James

Features Deputy Editor


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Owing to the increasing relevance of the geosciences field and the insights and solutions to global socioeconomic challenges it holds, the thirty-fifth International Geological Congress (IGC) – to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from August 27 to September 4 – is expected to attract about 4 500 delegates.

The quadrennial event, organised by the IGC local organising committee (LOC), is being held in South Africa for the second time. The LOC consists mostly of members of the country’s Council for Geoscience and the Geological Society of South Africa.

This year’s IGC scientific programme chairperson, Professor Laurence Robb, says geosciences will become more significant as population pressure strains the earth’s finite space and resources. He advises that geology-related issues – such as the impacts of climate change, the provision of critical metals, the threat of geohazards and increasingly dense residential areas – will have greater implications on daily life and will, therefore, require specialists trained in these aspects.

Robb points out that the IGC will facilitate discussions on a plethora of topics relevant to the geosciences and the advancement of socioeconomic development.

This year’s IGC secretary-general, Greg Botha, adds that delegates will be exposed to the latest trends and developments, with top industry speakers sharing a wealth of information. Additionally, delegates will benefit from the massive networking platform, enabling them to further their research or business goals.

The IGC will accommodate more than 3 000 oral presentations spread over five days. This includes 48 geoscience themes comprising over 200 symposia allocated to 17 sessions and ten plenary presentations hosted by internationally renowned geoscientists. The week-long event also includes field trips, workshops, business meetings, a congress dinner and an exhibition.

Botha says, while delegates can register for sessions and other events on the day, the LOC urges delegates to register before August 27 to take advantage of lower registration fees.

Robb adds that the IGC enables delegates to update their knowledge and keep pace with the rapid evolution of geosciences. Further, he believes that Cape Town is a fitting venue, as it provides an aesthetic and geologically significant backdrop for African countries to highlight their contributions to the field.

Three Core Topics
The IGC is meant to showcase all aspects of geosciences, which has led to the creation of three all-encompassing themes – geoscience in society, geoscience in the economy and fundamental geoscience.

Geoscience in society will include discussions on climate change, geohazards, water and soil, education and efforts to foster public awareness of geosciences, Robb notes.

Geoscience in the economy will cover mineral deposits, mineral exploration, petroleum, unconventional hydrocarbon sources and the strategic supply of critical and rare metals.

Fundamental geoscience will address core topics of earth sciences, including the tectonic process, the evolution of life and the biosphere, new developments in instrumental and experimental techniques, planetary geosciences (with a focus on Mars) and the formation of sedimentary basins.

About one-third of the papers to be presented are devoted to economic geology and mining-related topics, says thirty-fifth IGC copresident Professor Richard Viljoen, adding that the reasoning behind this is twofold.

Firstly, Africa is renowned for great mineral deposits and the combination of a favourable geology and the lack of modern exploration programmes ensures that there are significant additional deposits to be found.

Secondly, Africa is destined to play a vital role in the supply of minerals for the future and this needs to be discussed to produce greater benefits for all involved. Viljoen says, consequently, the congress now includes the aptly named topic: Resourcing Future Generations.

Further, the discovery of new mineral deposits, as well as their evaluation and development, largely depends on input from the geoscientific community. Viljoen notes that important geoscientific disciplines relevant to exploration and mining include geophysics, geochemistry and environmental geology.

Consequently, sessions on these subdisciplines will be presented at the congress with a special emphasis on young geoscientists, particularly from Africa. “Their generation will drive the future of the minerals industry on the continent – a substantial part of the sponsorship for the congress has come from mining companies and service providers that are aware of this fact,” Viljoen emphasises.

Yes Network
The Young Earth Scientists (Yes)Network became an integral part of the IGC in 2012 at the thirty-fourth IGC, held in Brisbane, Australia, says South African Yes representative Ndivhuwo Mukosi.

She notes the network will have a presence during this year’s IGC, coordinating several activities, functions and scientific sessions for its members and other young scientists.

Mukosi explains that the purpose is to encourage scientists to join the Yes Network using presentations or posters. Further, the network aims to close the gap between senior and junior scientists.

The IGC is a great platform for young scientists to learn from and interact with the broader scientific community, she points out.

Edited by Tracy Hancock
Creamer Media Contributing Editor



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