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It has always been my dream since high school to experience the underground mining environment until I finally got the opportunity to visit the South Deep Underground Gold Mine. I have only seen the underground environment in pictures, this made me paint a lot of (mostly incorrect) pictures of what underground conditions look and feel like.

On 11 August 2021, before we left for South Deep, I was full of excitement to a point where I could not sleep. I fantasized about what adventures the following day would present me with. Can you blame me? It was a dream come true for me. When we arrived at South Deep on 12 August 2021, the mandatory inductions lasted quite long resulting in a missed opportunity. I would spend another night fantasizing about going underground.



We returned to South Deep early in the morning of 13 August 2021. I was provided with visitors’ Personal Protective Equipment which I did not know how to put on since it was my first time, but my seniors quickly assisted me. As my excitement reached a peak, we embarked onto the cage. My heart was racing, the cage was moving at a speed I have never experienced. At some point, I was sure the ropes had snapped and we were simply falling.

I should have known better; safety is taken very seriously on South African mines. We arrived safely at 95 level of the Twin shaft, approximately 2km below the ground. After catching my breath, my first question was: “Does it get this hot every day?” to which one of the geologists responded: “Wait until we reach the stope or working area”.

We walked for approximately 1.7 km to reach the stope or working area. The mine design did not make it easy for us to get to the working area, as it had ramps (access ramps) to the stope. The fatigue started to kick in and as I wondered how I would get through assisting the team in carrying out a geological survey.

Finally, we reached the stope. Seeing everything I have been studying at school reminded me why I chose this field. It was as if finally the blindfold has been removed and I can now answer the “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question. My body did not fail me, as I managed to stay active the entire time regardless of the harsh underground conditions. I know I chose the right career path.

In that single day, I learned a lot about the technicalities of an underground mine, new terms, and most importantly, I learned how to endure the underground conditions. There was a knowledge gap I did know existed, and it is now filled.

Thank you to the Mandela Mining Precinct for the opportunity, thank you for reminding me why I chose this field. A very special thanks to Michelle Pienaar for believing in me when no one did, I will forever be grateful.


Written by:

Onismus Mamaila – CSIR Mining Geology Intern seconded to the Mandela Mining Precinct

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