The University of the Witwatersrand was started as a mining school a hundred and more years ago. Its greatest graduate was Nelson Mandela. There have been many other graduates, including me. None of us has changed & improved the human lot as much as Mandela did, but we have all tried to improve things to the best of our ability and education from Wits.
Today I received a birthday card from Peter Maher, Director Alumni Relations, University of the Witwatersrand. It was hand-signed. I am impressed and thank him.
A few days ago , I received the following email:
My name is Kay and I have just finished Grade 12 in 2013. I have been accepted to the Wits University to do mining engineering but they unfortunately rejected my mechanical engineering application. I am worried that the mining degree will not provide me with right qualifications to become a mechanical engineer, which I desperately want to be. Which postgraduate degree can I do to do mechanical engineering or qualify as a mechanical engineer or what else can I do. I know you do not manage to respond to all emails but you are my only help as I do not understand what I am getting myself into. Waiting in anticipation for your response.
Any degree from Wits is worth it. I wanted to do architecture and got accepted to do civil engineering. Life is not the same as a civil engineer as an architect. But it has been a good life nevertheless. I still enjoy looking at buildings. Never forget that as a mining engineer you will manage the mechanical engineers. Also keep in mind that your generation will have to solve problems we cannot now even envisage. So the only thing that counts is a degree that teaches you how to solve problems. I would recommend going and getting that mining degree from Wits.
I got this response to my reply:
Thank you for the sound advice. I ended up taking the mining engineering degree offer from Wits and did some little research of my own. I have a few questions I would like to ask you. 1.Could you please tell me a little about consultation and if it is more rewarding than mining engineering. 2.If you are from RSA, could you please tell me about how the ongoing strikes in the South African mining industry will affect future demands of mining engineers and the probability of them getting a good job and salary. 3. Do you have any suggestions of a good postgraduate degree I can take after graduating that will back up my mining engineering degree.
Glad you will be a Witsie. We are a proud lot. Keep in mind that Mandela was a Witsie. Like him we have all faced new challenges and helped solve them to society’s benefit. Of course he did more and better than we ever did, could, or will. Still we can be proud and carry forward his great example to the extent of our ability. Consulting is just one part of mining. The folk who think, calculate, plan, and give good advice become consultants. They earn less than those on the mines, but live in the cities—if that is what you seek. I would not worry about the strikes. We can do nothing about them. They will be history by the time you have your degree. You will be the engineer; have empathy with striking workers, but never forget those are their issues; you must lead, not follow.
I cogitated these few quotes in the light of this week’s activities.
Yesterday I presented to the regulators a risk assessment of alternative mine closure scenarios. The result was silence. Then a tentative plea, “How can we present this to the public? ” The underlying question: how can we tell these truths to the public?
I had done a risk assessment of alternative mine closure scenarios. A risk assessment forces us to face the worst. In the fullness of time, the cover will fail as the result of soil creep, vegetation growth & decay, slope instability (static & seismic), and erosion. No great intellect is required to face those facts. And there is no need to blather about time periods.
At least those pusillanimous regulators bleating the question, “What will happen when the tree falls and the root goes through the geosynthetic,” were silenced in the face of the immensity of time.
Also this week, we scored a hit: a major consulting company (SLR) has agreed to become partners in a conference in Geosynthetics Solutions in Mining 2014. For my sins, I am harnessed to help make this conference a success. The two top guys are Witsies. The secondary lead is from Tukkies–now the University of Pretoria. In my day that university was a place of Dutchmen, Afrikaners of terrible racial cruelty, but now a leading South African university with many diverse students. How times change!
Also this week I reached agreement with an international mining company to visit their many mines in many different countries to inspect their tailings dams and report on the dams’ safety. Why did I agree to this? How many indignities of travel security and delayed flights will I have to endure to do this? Watch for future blogs on my 2014 travels.
There were other minor victories this week. Not the least was that I finally manage to hook my computer and the internet to my TV. Now I can watch all those operas from the MET. I no longer have to buy the expensive DVDs. Incredible how times change and we face new ways and mores that our university education did not prepare us for.