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Modern skills for young mining engineers

FUTURE OF MINING ENGINEERING The Wits School of Mining Engineering is equipping a new generation of mining and engineering consultants to meet industry demands

MOTHUSI MOCHUBELE Mining consultants are crucial to assisting mines in decision-making and financial modelling, in addition to market evaluation, and health and environmental considerations

ERHAN ULUDAG The Wits School of Mining Engineering has introduced new course material to include modules such as robotics and electronics

2nd June 2023

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Writer


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Amid the emergence of Industry 4.0 and an increasing emphasis on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors, new generations of mining engineers are expected to embrace a multifaceted and holistic mindset to keep up with industry expectations and trends.

University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Mining Engineering lecturer Mothusi Mochubele tells Mining Weekly that mining consultants are crucial in assisting mines with decision-making and financial modelling, in addition to market evaluation, and health and environmental considerations.

He notes that consultants are required to apply technical, managerial and interpersonal skills while being aware of ESG issues and displaying business acumen, adding that the so-called soft skills – such communication and time management – are necessary owing to continuous developments being made in the mining industry.

Consultants are also expected to introduce new technologies for mines, which requires having adequate knowledge of modern technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence and automation.

“With all the advancements being made with technology, the mining engineering consultant needs to be kept abreast of the latest technologies and create a suitable environment for new technologies in the mining industry,” says Mochubele.

To ensure that the new generation of consultants is equipped to meet industry demands, the Wits School of Mining Engineering has introduced new course material to include modules such as robotics and electronics.

A new third-year course, called mine transportation, robotics and automation, has replaced the standalone course on mine transportation.

Further, the new curriculum also includes elective modules in soft skills, such as political studies, identity and society and International Relations of South Africa.

Additionally, because mining engineering is multifaceted and consists of various disciplines, he says the school aims to expose students to different commodities and mining methods by tasking them with projects that encourage a combination of modern and traditional methodologies.

“We expose our students to all the mining commodities and we give them specific projects where they can apply and incorporate new technology to solve current problems. We allow them to make mistakes by creating a safe space to learn.”


With more emphasis being placed on ESG, mining consulting engineers are required to have an understanding of issues such as decarbonisation and energy consumption at mines.

An increase in demand for various minerals and a growing population have resulted in lateral growth among existing mining operations, thereby making new mining methods and technologies necessary to access commodities efficiently and safely.

Wits School of Mining Engineering senior lecturer Erhan Uludag explains that mines need to be aware of their occupational exposure limits by ensuring, for example, that mineworkers are not exposed to silica dust.

He adds that young engineers provide a new perspective and can, therefore, help to shift the paradigms associated with traditional mining practices.

“Ensuring safety at mines presents its own challenges for the mining industry, as it needs to be done economically and safely. Overall, adopting a holistic view of mining is becoming more important,” says Uludag.

Hence, Wits aims to improve its education offering by introducing postgraduate research modules and international collaboration on brownfield and greenfield projects, while training a multidisciplinary team of engineers.

“We need to prepare our mining engineers to operate within the society that includes a diverse set of skills and fields. Consultants need to function as a team to achieve common goals,” concludes Mochubele.

Edited by Donna Slater
Creamer Media Chief Photographer and Senior Contributing Editor


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