College of Science, Engineering & Technology

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

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.


From left: Prof Francois Mulenga, Chair of the Department of Mining, Mineral and Geomatics Engineering at Unisa, and Aidan Schoonbee, Senior Manager Concentrator, UG Construction & Vent Shaft at PMC

A memorandum of agreement signing ceremony between Unisa and Palabora Mining Company (PMC)  is set to take place on 12 April 2024 at the Unisa Science Campus. The partnership between Unisa and PMC is founded on value-improving practices. All the activities and set objectives under the partnership are set to ensure value for both PMC and Unisa with human capacity development being central to all operations. The partnership aims to empower employees from PMC with an opportunity to further their studies through an internationally recognised university with highly ranked engineering programmes.

Addressing various media houses, Aidan Schoonbee, Senior Manager Concentrator, UG Construction & Vent Shaft at PMC, 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.


From left: Prof Francois Mulenga and PMC employee Mahlatse Seerane, a Master of Engineering student

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 PMC 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.”


From left: Prof Francois Mulenga and PMC employee Kaya Mlambo, a Master of Engineering Student

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, PMC in particular.

Testimonials from Unisa mining engineering students who are based at PMC

“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.”

Kaya Mlambo, Superintendent Process Engineer at PMC

“I am looking forward to starting my Master of Engineering, specialising in electrical protection engineering under the supervision of Professor Adedayo Yusuff from Unisa.”

Caleb Monyela, Section Engineer at PMC

To date, a total of 11 Master of Engineering students and one PhD student have been enrolled at Unisa through the Unisa-PMC partnership. All 12 are funded by PMC for the studies at Unisa. The research projects carried out in 12 projects by students are aimed at solving PMC mining engineering problems, making use of the academic and technical support offered by the Department of Mining, Minerals and Geomatics Engineering at Unisa.


* By Dr Nozipho N Gumbi, Communication and Marketing Specialist (acting), Unisa College of Science, Engineering and Technology

Publish date: 2024/03/27

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