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From rough diamond to geophysics trailblazer

By June 19, 2024No Comments

From Ga-Dikgale, a modest village nestled 45 kilometers northeast of Polokwane, Dr. Moyagabo Kenneth Rapetsoa’s academic journey is nothing short of inspiring. Kenneth, a former Mandela Mining Precinct (MMP) intern and beneficiary of the SAMERDI Research Centres initiative, has successfully completed his Phd.

Growing up in an area untouched by significant industrialization and mining, Kenneth is driven by a powerful urge to uplift his community through academic research and scientific innovation. “My early inspiration came from Prof. Musa Manzi, who I saw on television when I was in high school,” he says. This encounter sparked Kenneth’s interest in geophysics, leading him to pursue an academic and professional career.

The MMP is mandated to facilitate the development of skills, capacity, and capability in mining RDI. To this end, the MMP runs an internship program and has established research centers at the universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, the Witwatersrand, and the Free State.

Kenneth had the privilege of being part of the MMP internship program under the Advanced Orebody Knowledge program, where he had the opportunity to participate in research and implement cutting-edge technologies for mining exploration and development. “I participated in hands-on activities and gained skills in various geophysical methods, such as in-mine seismic surveys, ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistivity tomography, light detection and ranging, and thermography,” he says. Through scientific research and data collection, Kenneth gained valuable insights into innovative approaches for acquiring geological information ahead of tunnel faces, contributing to enhanced safety and efficiency in underground mining operations. “My internship experience not only expanded my technical expertise but also deepened my understanding of the complexities and challenges inherent in the mining industry, and this inspired me to pursue further research and innovation in the field,” he adds.

His PhD journey started as an MSc in 2018 at the University of the Witwatersrand and was converted into a PhD in 2021. His study focused on “Innovative Surface, Tunnel, and In-Pit Geophysical Methods for Mineral Exploration and Mine Planning: Case Studies from the Bushveld Complex Mines, South Africa.” This ground-breaking study aimed to develop and combine advanced seismic techniques, data analysis methodologies, and geological interpretations to improve the efficiency and accuracy of mineral exploration and mine planning.

The choice of this subject stemmed from Kenneth’s commitment to addressing practical challenges in the mining industry, particularly in South Africa’s mineral-rich regions.

The Bushveld Complex, known for its vast mineral deposits, presented an ideal setting for his research. “By enhancing geophysical methods, I aimed to contribute to safer, more effective mining practices that could drive economic growth and sustainability in South Africa and beyond,” he says.

Highlights from Kenneth’s PhD journey:

  • Innovative Research: Utilized novel approaches for seismic data acquisition, including Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) and MEMS accelerometers, leading to precise data analysis and better mapping of subsurface structures.
  • Fieldwork: Extensive fieldwork in Bushveld Complex mines provided practical insights complementing his theoretical studies.
  • Collaborations: Kenneth led projects with his mentor, Prof. Musa Manzi, resulting in high-impact publications and international presentations, working with notable geophysicists and companies.
  • Community Engagement: He led a non-profit organization, offering extra lessons to high school students in Ga-Dikgale, inspiring future scientists.
  • Academic Recognition: Kenneth was a finalist for the Next Generation Explorers Award (2023) and received the Steve Kearney Award (2022), holding leadership roles in geophysical associations.

Looking to the future, Kenneth’s aspirations are firmly set on expanding his work on seismic equipment and data analysis techniques. His particular interest lies in their applications for sustainable mining practices and environmental monitoring. He envisions joining the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Seismology, drawn by its cutting-edge research and collaborative environment, which perfectly align with his professional and academic aspirations.

In the long term, Kenneth envisions a role where he can bridge the gap between academic research and industry application, fostering innovation that drives economic development and sustainability. He remains committed to community engagement, seeking opportunities to mentor young scientists and contribute to educational programs in marginalized areas.

Kenneth’s inspiring journey from a small village in South Africa to becoming a geophysicist is a testament to his dedication, innovation, and vision.


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