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In recent times there have been a number of enquiries of how one goes about becoming a qualified rock engineer. The purpose of this note is to try and answer this question, but also to provide some interesting background information on the Chamber of Mines (COM) rock mechanics certificates.


History of the certificate

The Chamber of Mines Certificate in Rock Mechanics (COMCRM) was introduced into the South African mining industry in the 1970’s by rock mechanic practitioners in an attempt to regulate and standardize rock mechanics practitioner competency. Initially the Rock Mechanics Departments in the various mining houses did their own internal development of what is now known as Rock Mechanic Officers/Practitioners. A shortcoming was identified when these persons wanted to move between mining houses, in that they could not produce an industry-accepted certificate of competency.

Based on this shortcoming, the Group Rock Engineers Committee (one of the sub-committees of the Chamber of Mines) decided to initiate a Rock Mechanics Certificate of Competency. The issuing of the Chamber of Mines’ Rock Mechanics Certificate commenced in 1977, with Ken Hattingh being the first person to be awarded this certificate. Initially the certificate was only applicable to hard rock tabular mining, although the soft rock tabular mining option followed a few years later. Initially, the entire examination was conducted underground – the candidates accompanied the examiners underground and were questioned extensively underground to test their competence. As time progressed, first one, then two, and finally three written papers were introduced in addition to the practical assessment.

The certificate has become a pre-requisite for rock mechanic practitioners to practice in South Africa. In 2002 this was written into law, with Regulation 14.1 (8) of the regulations related to the Mine Health and Safety Act (Act 29 of 2001) stating that:

“At every underground mine where a risk of rock bursts, rock falls or roof falls exists, and at every other mine where a significant risk of rock bursts, rock falls or roof falls exists, the employer must ensure that the input of a competent person is properly and timeously considered and integrated into mine design, planning and operations.”

In chapter 22 of these regulations, the competent person referred to in regulation 14.1(8) is defined as “…a person who is at least in possession of either the Chamber of Mines Certificate in Rock Mechanics [Metalliferous Mines], or the Chamber of Mines Certificate in Rock Mechanics [Coal Mines}, whichever is appropriate for the type of mine concerned.” For many years, Up until May 2007, the certificate only catered for underground tabular mines such as gold, platinum and coal. In May 2007 the syllabus was extensively updated and revised, reference to more recent textbooks were included and the scope of the certificate was expanded to include massive underground and open pit disciplines as specific options. Read More

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