Part 1 (1966 - 1988)
(The history given below has been extracted from the 1st Annual Report of Sangorm written by Dr Horst Wagner in February 1988)


Following the ISRM Congress in Lisbon in 1966 a small group of local rock mechanics enthusiasts met to form an interest group. This group was led by Dr H G Denkhaus, a former director of the National Institute for Mechanical Engineering research at the CSIR.

In March 1969 the South African National Group on Rock Mechanics (Sangorm) was formally constitute with a membership of six. Dr Z T Bieniawski, Head of the Geomechanics Division of the National Institute for Mechanical Engineering research at the CSIR, was appointed Chairperson, Mr A A T Wilson of Keeve Steyn and Partners was appointed Vice-Chairperson and Mr U W O L Vogler of Dr Bieniawski's staff was the first Secretary/Treasurer of Sangorm. Under the guidance of this team the membership of Sangorm grew to 175 members in 1978 when Dr Bieniawski left South Africa to take up a professorship at Penn State University in the USA.


In 1978 the secretariat of Sangorm moved from the CSIR in Pretoria to the Chamber of Mines Research Organization in Johannesburg. Dr Horst Wagner took over as Chairperson, Mr. Dave Ortlepp was appointed Vice-Chairperson and Dr Oscar Steffen was appointed second Vice-Chairperson. Mr. Andy MacDonald served as Secretary/Treasurer from 1978 until 1981 when Miss Shirley Thorpe took over from him.

An important development within Sangorm was the formation of regional branches which commenced with the Eastern Transvaal Branch in June 1981. This was followed by the Western Transvaal Branch in May 1983., The Orange Free State Branch in May 1984 and the PWV Branch in August 1987. A small group of rock mechanics practitioners, supported by Sangorm members, formed the Zimbabwe National Group in December 1987.

Over the years the size and activities of Sangorm grew and in 1987 it became apparent that the original constitution no longer met the needs of the National Group. A small sub-committee under the able leadership of Andy MacDonald, drew up a new constitution which was adopted by members later that year. In terms of the new constitution the terms of office of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson were limited and it became mandatory to hold bi-annual general meetings.

In 1986 it was decided to publish a Songorm Newsletter on a regular basis. Under the enthusiastic and able editorship of Mr. Richard Brummer this newsletter developed into an important means of communication and information. The content of the newsletter was mainly technical articles on recent development in the field of rock mechanics.

Since its inception in 1969 Sangorm has played an important role in the activities of the ISRM. In the period from 1969 to 1988 Dr Bieniawski, Dr Wagner and Dr Steffen all served as Vice-Chairmen for Africa on the Board of the ISRM. By 1988 fourteen members of Sangorm were serving on ISRM Working Groups and making valuable contributions to the international rock mechanics community. By early 1988 Sangorm was the third largest National Group within the ISRM with a membership of 380.

The major technical activity of Sangorm has been their symposia. These have been held annually since 1982 and it has become a tradition in the later years to invite eminent overseas rock mechanics experts to present a keynote address.

Amongst others, Professors Fairhurst, Goodman, Brown and Dr Don Banks, Chief Engineer of the US Corps of Army, have been keynote speakers. A list of Sangorm symposia organized since 1969 is given below.

* May 1972 - Rock properties measurement in the laboratory and their relation to usefulness and practical problems.
* Nov 1976 - Exploration for rock engineering.
* Mar 1977 - Large underground chambers.
* May 1980 - Application of numerical techniques in rock engineering.
* Sep 1982 - 1st International Rockbursts and Seismicity in Mines.
* Aug 1983 - Rock mechanics in the design of tunnels.
* Aug 1984 - Monitoring for safety in geotechnical engineering.
* Nov 1985 - Rock mass characterization.
* Oct 1986 - Effect of underground mining on surface.
* Nov 1987 - Design of rock reinforcing: components and systems.
* Nov 1988 - 1st Regional Conference for Africa: Rock mechanics in Africa.

By early 1988 Sangorm was the third largest National Group within the ISRM with a membership approaching 400. In addition, several members were serving on ISRM Working Groups and making valuable contributions to the international rock mechanics community.

Drs Bieniawski, Wagner and Steffen had served as Vice-Chairperson for Africa on the board of the ISRM. 1988 - 1999

In 1988 the Chairpersonship was transferred from Dr Horst Wagner to Dr Dick Stacey. In 1992 Dr Nielen van der Merwe became Chairperson until 1996 when Dr Guner Gurtunca took over.

When SANIRE was formed in July 1999, Dr Nielen van der Merwe became its firs President. Sangorm set itself two major objectives for the 1990's. The first was to increase the netto assents of Sangorm and the second was to organize international rock engineering symposia. More latterly it was decided that a further objective should be to change the status of Sangorm to a professional institute.

Whilst a regional conference was held in 1988, the first truly international symposium was SARES 97, which was held in September 1997. This was followed by SARES 99 in September 1999. The symposia, which have been organized by SANGORM since 1989 are listed below.

* Sep 1989* - Advances in Rock Mechanics in Underground Coal Mining
* 1990 - Symposium on Shafts
* Oct 1991* - Impact of Rock Engineering on Mining and Tunneling Economics
* 1992 - Tuncon 92: Design and Construction of Tunnels
* Mar 1993 - Rock Engineering Problems Related to Hard Rock Mining as Shallow and Intermediate Depth
* Sep 1994* - The Application of Numerical Modeling in Geotechnical Engineering
* 1996 - The Human Element In Rock Engineering
* Sep 1997 - SARES 97: 1st Southern African Rock Engineering Symposium
* 1998 - Productivity and Codes of Practice
* Sep 1999* - SARES 99: Implementing Rock Engineering Knowledge