Unisa partners with Palabora Mining Company to create research-based solutions

Prof Francois Mulenga from Unisa, with Palabora Mining Company’s Aidan Schoonbee. Supplied

Prof Francois Mulenga from Unisa, with Palabora Mining Company’s Aidan Schoonbee. Supplied

Published Apr 3, 2024


Nozipho and Gumbi

Collaborations and partnerships between South African higher education institutions and industries are highly advocated by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande.

He has stated that such partnerships are critical to curriculum renewal, thereby enhancing student employability and addressing the lack of industry knowledge and experience.

A memorandum of agreement signing ceremony between Unisa and Palabora Mining Company is set to take place on April 12 at the Unisa Science Campus.

The partnership between Unisa and Palabora is founded on value-improving practices. All the activities and set objectives under the partnership are set to ensure value for both Palabora and Unisa with human capacity development being central to all operations. The partnership aims to empower employees from Palabora with an opportunity to further their studies through an internationally recognised university with highly ranked engineering programmes.

Addressing various media houses, Aidan Schoonbee of Palabora said: “Although we are different organisations, we both have the same desire to grow and develop people.”

He continued: “Unisa focuses on conducting industry-based research that changes business and impacts lives. This is the sweet spot that we both find commonality in.”

Unisa’s expertise will provide a pathway to human capacity development through student supervision and higher degree offerings as well as the publishing of research papers.

Reflecting on the newly formed partnership, Professor Francois Mulenga, Chair of the Department of Mining, Mineral and Geomatics Engineering in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology at Unisa, said: “This partnership is about creating access to education for Palabora employees while contributing towards research-based innovations to sustain the business.

“It is about carrying out research that enables us to understand how the ground behaves as you mine in the wilderness. As you do that, you get to understand ground movements and prevent the effects of mining activities on wildlife.”

As part of engaged scholarship initiatives, the Mulenga-led team of staff and researchers from Unisa aim to initiate an engaged project within the Phalaborwa community wherein learners from local communities will be made aware on the importance of choosing pure mathematics as a subject of choice and guided regarding different career prospects within the field of sciences, engineering and technology. These, the team believe, are the future leaders and managers of mining companies, Palabora in particular.

Kaya Mlambo, Superintendent Process Engineer at Palabora, said: “The Master of Engineering research topic that I am working on under the supervision of Professor Mulenga is quite exciting. It is about extracting value out of waste and as you do that, you are able to extend the operations and life of the mine by about 40 years. This will secure employment into the future.”

Caleb Monyela, Section Engineer at the company, said: “I am looking forward to starting my Master of Engineering, specialising in electrical protection engineering under the supervision of Professor Adedayo Yusuff from Unisa.”

To date, a total of 11 Master of Engineering students and one PhD student have been enrolled at Unisa through the partnership. All 12 are funded by Palabora for the studies at Unisa.

The research projects carried out in 12 projects by students are aimed at solving Palabora mining engineering problems, making use of the academic and technical support offered by the Department of Mining, Minerals and Geomatics Engineering at Unisa.

Pretoria News