AfriRock 2017 plenary session

AfriRock 2017, the International Society for Rock Mechanics (ISRM) International Symposium for 2017, was held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa, from the 3rd to the 5th October 2017. This is the first conference of that name and the first African ISRM International Symposium since the Tuni-sian and Zimbabwean National Groups joined the African Region of the ISRM. The Symposium was jointly organised by the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) and the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering (SANIRE). It was well attended by 264 delegates from 42 countries. Each of the ISRM regions was represented: Africa (135 delegates), Asia (56, with 33 from China), Australasia (10), Europe (36), North America (13) and South Ameri-ca (14). Africa’s proud participation was evident through the number of delegates from Botswana, DRC, Egypt, Ghana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, together with a substantial number of delegates from South Africa.

Prior to the Symposium, the ISRM Board Meeting was held, over two days on the 30th September and 1st October, and the ISRM Commission and Council Meetings took place thereafter, on the 2nd of October. The ISRM Advisory Forum met on the evening of the 3rd October.

Dr Nick Barton and Prof. John Cosgrove presented their informative short course on the 2nd October, spanning a wide array of technical aspects such as empirical methods, rock mechanics, and structural geological methods useful for excava-tion in jointed and fractured media.

The Symposium opened on the 3rd October, commencing with addresses by the Symposium Chairman, Mr William Joughin; the President of the SANIRE, Mr Jannie Maritz; the President of the ISRM, Dr Eda F de Quadros; the President of the SAIMM, Prof Selo Ndlovu; and the Secretary General of the ISRM, Dr Luís Lamas. These were followed by the Rocha Medal presentation by Dr Bryan Tatone and the Franklin Lecture by Prof. Francois Malan. Four excellent keynote lectures were presented by Prof. Dick Stacey, Dr Nick Barton, Dr Luís Lamas and Prof. Sergio Fontoura, respectively. Technical papers were presented during plenary sessions, as well as during two parallel sessions. The Symposium proceedings con-tain 94 papers, 50 of which are from Africa (South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, and Egypt). Given that min-ing is a key driver of the economies in several African countries, many of the papers dealt with rock engineering research and case studies for mines. The civil engineering industry was well represented and some papers from the petroleum in-dustry were also included in the Symposium proceedings. Topics included geotechnical investigations, laboratory testing, new investigation technologies, monitoring, seismic analysis, numerical modelling, support design, slope stability, under-ground mine design, pillar design, stability of tunnels and caverns, dam foundations, hydraulic fracturing, reservoir engineer-ing, and borehole stability. The Symposium proceedings were provided electronically to delegates and will be made availa-ble to the industry at large in the near future on the following websites:,, and


Nick Barton and John Cosgrove course

The first Early Career Forum (ECF) was held on 4th October, where rock mechanics practitioners in the earlier phases of their career were given the opportunity to present case studies and research. It was a very successful undertaking and demonstrated promising talent and enthusiasm from Africa. The ECF delegates were funded by the ISRM Secretariat and the ISRM Education Fund Committee.

Recognition of technical excellence expertise was given in the form of recognition of ‘best papers’. The best papers were awarded to Dr Dave Roberts and Dr Ehsan Ghazvinian (young author) and the best ECF presenter was awarded to Edeshni (Candice) Munsamy. The Symposium closing address was given by Mr William Joughin.

A technical exhibition was on display adjacent to the main hall throughout the duration of the Symposium, creating ideal op-portunities for sponsors to showcase their products and engage in lively technical discussions during tea breaks and lunch. The Symposium was generously sponsored by IDS GeoRadar, New Concept Mining, Reutech Mining, TRE Altamira, Optron, Aciel Geomatics, Geobrugg, Groundwork, Maccaferri Africa, Minova, Rocbolt Technologies, QualiRock, SRK Consulting, FST Mining Engineering, M&J Mining and Sandvik.


Early Career Forum, ISRM Board and SANIRE President

In addition to the technical presentations and discussions, professional networking opportunities were aplenty. A cocktail func-tion was held on the evening of the 2nd October to welcome delegates. The banquet was hosted on the 4th of October at the Castle of Good Hope, a bastion fort built by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, which made for an unforgetta-ble experience.

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Banquet venue – Castle of Good Hope   Induction of ISRM Fellows

The post-symposium technical tours took place on the 6th of October. The Chapmans Peak Tour provided an excellent op-portunity to see the rockfall protection strategy installed to protect the incredibly scenic Chapman’s Peak drive in Cape Town. The tour also visited various local attractions and the fantastic geology of Cape Town and surrounding areas. Delegates were also given the opportunity to tour of one of the deepest gold mines in the world, Kloof 4 shaft at Kloof Gold Mine, and see the challenges associated with deep, high stress, seismically active mining. The mine is situated near the border of Gauteng and Northwest Provinces, approximately 75 km from Johannesburg.

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Technical tour Chapman’s Peak rockfall protection


Technical tour to Kloof 4 Shaft