Sibanye-Stillwater has donated their 2D/3D reflection seismic data worth R50m to the Wits Seismic Research Centre of the School of Geosciences.
The data will be used by Wits geophysicists and postgraduate students for training and research purposes. The seismic data was acquired between the 1980s and 2000s for gold exploration at their mining operations in the Witwatersrand basin.
Professor Musa Manzi, Director of the Seismic Research Centre, said this donation from Sibanye-Stillwater is extremely important for research and postgraduate student projects. “Seismic data has the capability to provide excellent images of the Earth’s subsurface structure. For accurate structural analysis, an effort should be made by geophysicists to improve the quality of old data. For example, our students will use the state-of-the-art software packages donated to the Centre by major international companies and develop new techniques to re-process these old seismic datasets to improve the imaging of deep-seated mineral ore deposits and to mitigate hazards (e.g., methane explosion and seismicity) faced by miners in deep underground gold mines. Furthermore, our research may also help mining companies improve their mining methodologies, thus reducing costs in a poor economic climate,” he said.
The Wits Seismic Research Centre in the School of Geosciences was established in 2015 by Professor Manzi to assist in easing the significant shortage of skills in geophysics in Africa. The Centre specialises in providing world-class geophysical training to undergraduate and postgraduate students from across Africa (and beyond) who are pursuing careers in the minerals industry, oil and gas exploration, and academia. The Centre’s fundamental, innovative and outstanding contributions to science are concerned with the development and application of sophisticated mathematical seismic techniques to gain a deeper understanding of Earth processes, and particularly in exploring for mineral deposits and oil and gas reservoirs in sedimentary basins across Africa.
One of the most essential components of successful mineral exploration, is reflection seismic surveying, which indispensable for oil and gas exploration. Data gathered through seismic surveys allow geophysicists to visualise the subsurface of the Earth using waves of sound to image geologic structures. The data assists mining companies to determine the location of deep-seated mineral ore and hydrocarbon deposits, and improve mine safety. The 2D/3D reflection seismic data donated to the Centre will enable students and academics to conduct impactful research in this field.
Mr Johan van Eeden, Unit Manager at Sibanye-Stillwater, and Mr Philip Staley, Senior project geologist at Sibanye-Stillwater, highlighted the importance of the mining industry in utilising latest technology developments in seismic processing through close relationships with academic institutions. They stated, “The donation of this nature is instrumental for building sustainable relationship with corporate institutions and academia in the country, and for the support of innovative research that may improve optimisation of orebody extraction at the their mining operations.”
The Centre has had a significant success with recruiting postgraduate students with the requisite high-level skills to utilise the donated software and datasets, so that the Centre becomes a world-leader in the field as well as the premier training facility on the continent. The Centre currently hosts more than 25 postgraduate students (MSc and PhDs) who are conducting their research on various scientific topics related to minerals, oil and gas exploration, as well as on mine safety.
In addition to this donation, the Centre has already received generous software and other petroleum data donations from local and international oil and gas companies, which shows that companies are supportive of research, capacity building and student training in Africa. These make the Centre unique in Africa and a platform of great benefit as they promote research opportunities in both hard rock mining, and in oil and gas related problems. The hydrocarbons-based research at the Centre is also important since South Africa’s prospects and potential for further oil and gas discoveries remain exceedingly positive.
Originally published in Wits University, on 24 July 2019