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SAISC to Hold Second International Conference on Structures for Mining and Related Materials Handling

Following the success of SMMH2009, the first ever international conference on the design of structures in the mining industry, held in South Africa towards the end of 2009, and in response to the demand for a follow-up conference, the Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) has announced that it will host SMMH2012 in October 2012, once again in South Africa.    

SAISC executive director, Dr Hennie de Clercq, says that it is appropriate that the second conference also take place in South Africa given the leadership role of South Africa in this particular industry.

“Such is the extent of our global leadership in this field, the set of SABS standards for the design of mining related structures, developed under the auspices of SAISC, are generally recognised as the leading standards in the world,” de Clercq says.

However, while hosting SMMH2012 in South Africa will serve to establish the platform of this specialist conference series, the vision is that future SMMH events will see rotation between relevant international locations such as, among others, Australia, Canada and South America with continued and possibly increased involvement of the international sister organisations of the SAISC. SMMH conferences will be hosted every 3 to 5 years.

Regarding the conference theme, de Clercq says that structures play a significant role in the operations of any mine and South African engineers have developed a high level of skill in the design of these structures. In spite of their importance on mining sites and possibly on account of their very common presence on most mines, the specific challenges faced by designers of these structures are rarely covered in any depth at other conferences.

“Mining conferences predominantly focus on minerals, processing and commercial aspect,” says de Clercq, “while, on the other hand, conferences for structural engineers could potentially include relevant mining content, there is typically already so much to cover on general buildings, bridges and mega structures, they can rarely accommodate papers on the very specific design demands of headgears, gantries, conveyances, chutes, shafts, stackers, reclaimers and similar structures that are typically erected or operated in highly corrosive conditions, often in very remote areas, subjected to unusual loads and impact, including accidental loads and unpredictable rock movement.”

According to de Clercq the key feature of the inaugural conference were the presentations by practicing local and international engineers, adding relevance to the content.  

“When one considers that many mines have been around for several years and that just a little rust in the wrong places can be life-threatening, it becomes clear that practical, cohesive action plans are required to avert future disasters. The 2009 conference was an important step in formalising this process and we hope to continue with this momentum in 2012,” de Clercq says.  

Dr Geoff Krige, long-time principal structural engineer at AngloAmerican and Chairman of the South African Mining Equipment Standards Committee says that one of the central aims of the conference is to bring together engineers from around the world whose focus is specifically mining structures. “There is a strong fraternity of dedicated specialists in this field who are both capable of and willing to make a difference to the mining industry and this conference helps them get in touch with the relevant global audience,” he says.

Krige added that while the previous conference affirmed that South Africa is the leader in structural mining engineering in the world, there is still a need to develop its academic research capacity to ensure that techniques are state-of-the-art. “Our miners tend to invest heavily in research in processes which will help get the product out of the rock cheaper and quicker, but much less in the mechanical issues. I hope, from a local perspective, that one of the results of these conferences is the acceleration of the process whereby management increasingly recognises both the human and financial benefits of adopting state-of-the art structural engineering on the mines,” he said.

Krige will coordinate the full day Workshop on Design Standards on Monday, 15 October 2012. The focus will be on SANS 10208 (the South African Standard), but relevant sections from other international design standards will be incorporated.

A new addition to the conference programme is a workshop day focusing on maintenance of these structures.

The SAISC has invited anyone interested in presenting a paper at the conference to submit an abstract of not more than 500 words as soon as possible. For more information on this please consult the website The deadline for abstracts is 9 December 2011.

SMMH2012 will be hosted from 15-18 October 2012 at the Riverside Lifestyle Resort on the banks of the Vaal River, Vanderbijlpark, approximately 50km from Johannesburg and centrally located to major mining activity in South Africa.

Sponsors for SMMH2012 include:  AceCad, Vital Engineering and CadexSA. Visit the website for information on remaining sponsorship opportunities.

For further information visit
or contact the SAISC: +27 (0)11 726 6111,

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