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May 2008


Mintek hosted the gauteng semi-finals of minquiz, the country’s premier annual national science competition for grade 12 learners on Thursday, 15 May at Mintek in Randburg.

The minquiz competition aims to encourage interest in careers in science, engineering and technology, especially in minerals and metallurgy, and to promote an awareness of the importance of minerals and metallurgical to South Africa

A record number of 87 schools, represented by 161 learners took part in the gauteng provisional semi-final of minquiz 2008. 

Mintek’s operating division presented a number of interesting live scientific demonstrations and exhibits. 

The top learners in the preliminary written test were Katlego Zabalala (Sekamontsoane High School) in the Gold category and Jan-Willem Steeb (Hoeskool Linden) in the Platinum category. 

In the oral quiz, St Barnabas College was awarded first place in the Gold category, with Sutherland High second and Afrokombs College third. Hoerskool Linden took top honours in the platinum category, followed by Afrikaans Hoer Seuns in second place and Hoerskool Waterkloof third. 

Massive economic growth in developing countries like India and China has boosted the price of important commodities like copper, nickel and platinum over the past few years with demand outstripping supply. Mining companies are striving to meet this demand by increasing their production output, which has led to a corresponding demand for suitably qualified people to support expansion projects. 

It is generally acknowledged that there is a skills shortage in the mineral and metallurgical sector worldwide. South Africa has been particularly badly affected by this shortage because its qualified workforce is being attracted to commodity-rich first-world countries. 

Mintek, through its minquiz science competition, is trying to help turn the tide of this skills shortage.

How does Minquiz work

Participating learners individually write a preliminary multiple-choice question test, followed by a team competition during a live, on-stage oral quiz, also with multiple-choice questions.

The Minquiz Provincial semi-final is held in each of the nine provinces. Schools may enter a team in either the Gold or Platinum category. 

All nine provincial teams compete in the Minquiz National Final on 17 and 18 July 2008. Each provincial team is made up of the top learners in the Gold and Platinum categories based on their marks during the provincial semi-final written test.

Prizes to be won

The winning learners and their schools receive cash prizes, trophies, medals and certificates, depending on how far they progress in the competition. 


The European Union (EU) recently contributed R2.1-million to a South African tourism project aimed at uplifting communities. The Kruger to Canyons Birding Route, which secured the funding, forms part of a network of routes managed by BirdLife South Africa. The routes focus on conserving bird and their habitats by performing birding tourism.

Rio Tinto has been working with BirdLife International for some years to inspire employees and engage communities in birding and environmental initiatives. The success of its Zululand Birding Route was the main inspiration for the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route

Launched near the end of 2007, the Kruger to Canyons route is co-funded by Rio Tinto and one of its operations, the Palabora Mining Company. The Palabora Foundation, the mine’s corporate social investment arm, applied for EU funding to support the project in 2006, but news of its successful grant application did not arrive until the end of January this year. 

With more than 500 bird species in the region, fantastic infrastructure and accommodation, this corner of South Africa is the perfect location for visiting birders. Birding enthusiasts are known to be one of the higher-spending groups of tourists, with one report estimating that US$600-million is spent worldwide on birding activities each year. 

The primary role of the route is to provide information to visiting birders, which it does through a variety of different mediums such as a website (, route maps and a route brochure. The route is also promoted at a number of domestic and international birding trade shows. There is a growing network of birder friendly establishments, endorsed by BirdLife South Africa, which, as a requirement, have an environmental management plan in place and actively support local community projects. 

The route is not only about tourism – it has been designed as a conservation and community avitourism development project with a large emphasis on local communities and conservation initiatives. Local communities are encouraged to participate in the projects by training to become birding guides or by joining (or starting) tourism related business along the route. BirdLife South Africa also co-ordinates educational and conservation programmes to encourage enthusiasm for the birding routes. Activities that the route has initiated include regular wetland clean-ups around the townships, day trips to the Kruger Park for school children, competitions to build bird feeders and birdwatching days. 

Martin Taylor, the route’s project manager, is enthusiastic about the opportunity for the region. His favourite quote comes from last year’s Global Ecotourism Conferences, where Lelei Tuisamoa Lelaulu described ecotourism as: “the largest voluntary transfer of capital from rich to poor in the history of the earth.” If the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route can assist in the upliftment of local communities through avitourism then the route would have achieved its objective. 

In any case the Kruger to Canyons Birding Route looks set to become one of the world’s premier birding holiday destinations.


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