Industry requires formal skills recognition

Mining Weekly Article

By: Jonathan Rodin

Sixty-two mining industry stakeholders, including mining company representatives, drilling contractors and equipment suppliers, last month attended the first South African Exploration Drilling Forum, initiated by iron-ore mining major Kumba Iron Ore, in association with the Drilling Industry Certification Authority of South Africa (Dicasa) – an association of drilling contractors established in 2010 to develop an assessment and certification framework for drillers and drill-rig assistants.

The purpose of the forum was to provide a platform for role-players in the exploration industry to begin discussing issues of common interest.

Dicasa chairperson Colin Rice used the forum to present recent developments in the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) initiative for a new driller qualification as well.

Rice highlighted these developments as significant to the industry as, despite the importance of exploration drilling, there are no nationally recognised drilling qualifications currently in the National Qualifications Framework (NQF).

As a result, operational staff with a lifetime of experience have no means of having their skills formally recognised, no clear career path and goals and no means of enhancing their level of understanding of the processes in which they are involved.

Further, as is the case with many other industries in South Africa, the drilling industry is an ageing one, so attracting new entrants to the industry is critically important.

As a representative of Dicasa members’ interests in the QCTO driller qualification initiative, Rice emphasises the importance of the QCTO, as it is responsible for the design, development and maintenance of occupational standards and qualifications, thereby ensuring the quality of workplace education and training in South Africa.

He explains that the purpose of an occupational qualification is to qualify a learner for occupational practice, as well as occupational specialisation.

Rice tells Mining Weekly that, because of the nature of exploration operations, it is essential that the new driller qualification is practical and applicable, and that it recognises the wide range of specialised skills in the South African drilling industry.

He adds that a driller qualification must, eventually, become a qualification that convincingly proves a learner’s competence as a driller.

Rice adds that sector education and training authority the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) has been appointed by the QCTO to develop the driller qualification and, over the past year, a significant amount of good work has been completed under the auspices of the qualification development facilitator.

He says that, while the work is not yet available for public comment, the interests and requirements of the exploration industry have been well catered for, and he believes that the new qualification will play a big role in taking the industry into the future.

Rice explains that the mining industry, and therefore the exploration industry, is under pressure to improve health and safety performance. He adds that this pressure has been responsible for several industry initiatives that seek to meet mining house expectations, including the new driller qualification.

Rice also highlights DrillSafe – another initiative launched by Colin Rice Exploration and Training – as a means of disseminating hazard and accident alerts in the exploration drilling industry. This initiative has been recognised as important as there is currently no formal reporting or recording mechanism for exploration industry incidents and accidents.

Rice tells Mining Weekly that a second Drilling Forum is planned for later in the year.

Edited by: Samantha Herbst

Creamer Media Deputy Editor