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May 2010

Gold Fields Limited announced in late April that it will invest R26-million over three years in an effort to address skills shortages in the South African mining industry.

Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) Minister Susan Shabangu attended the announcement of this three-year sponsorship deal at an official handover ceremony at Wits University.

The sponsorship comprises investments in the engineering faculties at Wits and at the University of Johannesburg.

The sponsorship aims to forge an alliance between Gold Fields and these universities to promote the study of mining engineering, a core skill required to sustain not only the company, but also the greater South African mining industry.

Shortage of high level skills

The announcement comes amid a renewed sense or urgency among industry and government to address the lack of high level, scarce skills in the country. Only about 90 mining engineering students graduated country-wide in 2009 from an initial intake of around 200 students four years earlier.

“These graduates are highly sought after, not only by South African mines, but world-wide,” said a Gold Fields statement. “The slow supply of graduates is compounded by the departure of established mining engineers through emigration and retirement.”

A recent survey by the Landelahni Recruitment Group showed that South African mining engineers are in great demand across the globe and that only about 15% of them remain in the local industry for a long-term career.

In response, the DMR has identified skills development as one of the key issues affecting the mining sector’s global competitiveness. The department indicated that it intends to investigate the skills needs of the industry and to establish ways of facilitating skills development and the retention of skills in the industry.

Gold Fields chief executive officer Nick Holland said: “The industry is currently facing a skills gap crisis that is proving to be a serious challenge for the mining industry. We are pleased to be partnering with Wits University and the University of Johannesburg to help ensure that we create a pipeline of qualified engineers who can benefit Gold Fields and the industry in general.”

Professor Loyiso Nongxa, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Witwatersrand, added: “We are pleased to partner with Gold Fields on this project and we are confident that this partnership will yield benefits for the development of our country and the continent.”

In terms of the sponsorship agreements, the universities will receive a once-off capital injection of R8-million followed by 6-million a year for three years. In return Gold Fields will have naming right status for the infrastructure that it sponsors, as well as participation in advisory committees at the two universities.

Among other developments, the funds will be used to expand the fourth quadrant of the Chamber of Mines Building at Wits faculty of Engineering: to equip a new 101-seater mining design laboratory; upgrading and new equipment for the Mining School’s main design laboratory and salaries of full-time senior tutors at the faculty.

Other educational initiatives

The sponsorship is in addition to a range of other educational initiatives undertaken by Gold Fields. In 2009, the company spent around R165-million on education in South Africa, including its Gold Fields Academy and on-mine training. Gold Fields also awarded 124 university bursaries, 378 technical learnership and 40 post-graduate assignments in 2009.

In addition, the company has funded the National Engineering awards among seven universities for some years and is a major contributor to the Mining Education and Training Fund, which supports the salaries of senior academic staff in the field.

Gold Fields has previously supported the engineering departments at both Wits University and the University of Johannesburg directly, as well as other faculties as both universities.



With Aurora Empowerment Systems’ Grootvlei and Orkney gold mines on care and maintenance, it has now emerged that a Welkom based company called Virgile Mining, in partnership with a Chinese equity fund, which apparently has mining assets in Australia and China, may purchase both mines.

Representatives of the Chinese company are believed to have gone on an inspection tour of the Orkney and Grootvlei mines in mid-April.

According to an article in Business Report on 28 April, the partnership will offer R495-million rand for Grootvlei mine and R395-million for Orkney mine, both mines previously owned by Pamodzi Gold.

Virgile chief executive officer, Hettie Fourie, said in a Bloomberg report that the Chinese partner is “a reputable and reliable company, which is already doing big business in South Africa”.

However, the deal is dependant on whether Aurora is able to meet a deadline to pay for the operations itself. Aurora has reportedly raised $100-million from an American company to help finance the acquisition of the two mines.


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