Skills & Knowledge
Goodman School hosts South African students
Ivanhoe Mines looks to Sudbury to develop highly educated professionals
Laurentian University’s Goodman School of Mines is playing a key role in the development of South Africa’s geological braintrust.
Eleven students with undergraduate degrees in geology from the University of Limpopo are working on their Masters and PhD degrees in Sudbury as part of Canadian-based Ivanhoe Mines’ social and labour plan for the development of its Platreef Mine in South Africa.
“The idea is to increase the research and teaching capacity at the University of Limpopo,” said Bruce Jago, executive director of the Goodman School of Mines.
The relationship was pitched by Ivanhoe executive chairman Robert Friedland in 2013 when he was in Sudbury for a guest lecture.
“He asked if we would help out with the Platreef project’s social and labour plan,” recalled Jago. “That’s how it all started.”
Ivanhoe Mines invested $1.2 million in the academic co-operation and development initiative, and soon after signing the Memorandum of Understanding, Jago received a call from the International Development Research Council (IDRC), a Canadian Crown corporation dedicated to helping developing counties.
“They asked us if we’d like some additional money, so I put together an application and we were awarded $570,000,” said Jago. The IDRC grant and additional funding in the amount of $500,000 from the Queen Elizabeth 11 Diamond Jubilee Scholarship almost doubled Ivanhoe’s contribution, increasing the number of South African students Laurentian could accept.
Since 2015, 15 students have participated in the program, “but that will probably double by the time it ends in two years,” said Jago.
The South African students are grateful for the opportunity to upgrade their academic credentials and enjoying their adventure in Canada.
Michael Langa came to Sudbury in 2015 to do a Masters degree and one and a half years in was upgraded to a PhD program.
“The standard of education at the University of Limpopo is good, but there were a lot of things we missed out on,” said Langa. “Here at Laurentian, there are professors from all over the world who are experts in their field, which makes the experience in Sudbury especially fulfilling and rewarding.”
In addition to his studies, Langa has found time to engage in several typically Canadian winter sports, including cross-country skiing, skating and snowshoeing.
Francisca Maepa also came to Laurentian for her Masters but was upgraded to the PhD program. Currently in her second year of the four-year program, Maepa hopes to embark on a career in industry and possibly return to academia sometime in the future.
Sharlotte Mkhonto, who came to Sudbury in 2017, hails from Burgersfort, 158 kilometres southeast of Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo province.
“I’m in geology,” she said, “because I grew up in a small town with 10 platinum mines. My mom works in finance for an andalusite mine and dad is a haul truck operator.”
Ivanhoe’s social and labour plan for its Platreef project also included the purchase of equipment for the geology labs at the University of Limpopo, including instrumentation for x-ray diffraction and fluorescence.
The Platreef Mine, 280 kilometres northeast of Johannesburg on the northern rim of the Bushveld Complex, is expected to begin production in 2020. It’s projected to be the lowest cost producer of platinum group metals in South Africa with a mine life of 36 years.