prescornerThis year started off with a bang. On most of the mines, the DMR instructed that certified Rock Engineers should conduct extensive audits of all working places. This created a new role profile of a qualified Rock Engineer – “Auditor”. As a result, we had little time to do anything else. Unfortunately, our work does not only revolve around keeping the DMR happy. We also have to ensure that systems, strategies and other critical areas of our work requirements, which could impinge on the safety of mine workers, are upheld. As a result, we manage the various challenges and crises as well as drive other critical projects, irrespective of the time constraints. I have, however, come to realise that all crises are cyclic and that the end of one challenge will lead to the next.

In January, amid the chaos, I was working on a paper for AfriRock. Part of the research I was busy with had been relatively unexplored over the past 30 years. As with most of us, I wanted quick answers which could support some of my preliminary findings. However, the more I researched, the more I realised that I was opening a new can of worms. The paper was due and I was running out of time. I consulted with both Profs John Napier and Francois Malan in an attempt to get some guidance. There were, however, no quick answers. Their advice was to further explore this field of study. I again realised, with the support of the experienced and knowledgeable Profs, that in some instances, having no conclusive answer was an answer. This was in fact a sufficient conclusion to support some of the findings in my paper. I was therefore unnecessarily putting myself under pressure, chasing my own tail. These unanswered questions do in most cases lead to a new cycle of research which can be further explored. This is what drives us to discover solutions to many of the uncertainties in our field of study.

The feeling of accomplishment motivates us to attempt new challenges and reach our goals. Candidates who attempt the Rock Mechanics Certificate underestimate the difficulty and get frustrated attempting exam after exam. The journey in some instances appears never ending. However, once you receive the final pass, it makes it all worthwhile. For a mountain climber, it would be the feeling you get after days of climbing and eventually reach a summit. The preparation, effort and hard work are eventually rewarded and the feeling of accomplishment will remain with you forever. However, this only opens the door to the next chapter in your career or life. The next cycle begins.

At the end of June, my two-year SANIRE presidency will come to an end. It was a great journey and allowed me to drive some key strategies to ensure that we can transition many of the challenges we, as Rock Engineers, are currently experiencing. I work as part of a team selected from industry, and therefore I can hand over to the next president and be assured that the needs of our members and future of SANIRE will remain priorities.

Michael du Plessis