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Prestigious awards for Earth Science students
Author: Wiida Fourie-Basson
Published: 26/07/2019

Two postgraduate students from the Department of Earth Sciences, Lindo Makhathini and Jonathan Gloyn-Jones, walked away with two prestigious awards from the Geological Society of South Africa (GSSA).

Lindo Makhathini received the South African Council for Natural Scientific Professions' (SACNASP) award for an exceptional fourth-year Earth Science graduate from southern Africa, while Jonathan Gloyn-Jones received the GSSA's Corstorphine Medal for an MSc thesis in Earth Sciences with exceptional merit, worthy of international recognition. South African university. The awards were handed over during a ceremony at the GSSA in Johannesburg recently.

Interested in the origin of geological features

Makhathini, who matriculated from Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School in 2014, says her interest in Earth Sciences was sparked from her exposure to geomorphology at high school: “I became interested in geological features, especially the phenomena behind their origin."

It is no wonder then that her thesis, with Dr Bjorn von der Heyden as study leader, focused on determining the cause and the potential mechanisms behind the discolouration of orogenic gold deposits at Fairview Mine close to Barberton. The area's geological treasures include some of the best preserved and ancient Archaean rocks on earth, between 3.57 and 3.22 billion years old.

Lindo says her interest in the mining sector developed when she realised the significance of its contribution to the country's GDP. She is now working as a graduate geologist at Vedanta Zinc International's flagship project at Gamsberg near Aggeneys in the Northern Cape.

Currently she is gaining exposure to different aspects of the mining industry by completing tasks within the mining division (geology, mine engineering, geotechnical engineering and mine planning), the plant (metallurgy, electrical engineering) and the enabling departments (finance, commercial and health, safety and environment) in order to obtain a robust understanding of the business of mining.

Lindo plans to continue with an MSc degree. Being named as one of news24's 100 Young Mandelas of the Future in 2018, she believes everyone is capable of achieving anything that they set their mind to regardless of background, gender or ethnicity.

“Although working in a challenging environment can be difficult, I deal with it by being as assertive as I possibly can. I would like to encourage current students to follow their dreams as they are worth working towards. To achieve what seems to be impossible, you have to be willing to do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are," she comments.

Taste for challenging structural geology

Having grown up in the Western Cape, and with a keen interest for the outdoors and nature in general, Jonathan Gloyn-Jones started with a BSc in Earth Sciences at Stellenbosch. Here, a large component of his interest for geology was developed and fuelled by the enthusiasm and perspective of his lecturers and the direct “real world" applicability of the science.

“I got a taste for challenging structural geology while doing field work for my honours project in Namibia. The reason for pursuing an MSc was a combination of a very interesting project in the Barberton Greenstone Belt and working with a legendary supervisor, Professor Alex Kisters," he says.

His thesis dealt with characterising the structural controls of gold mineralisation within the Fairview Mine, located within the Barberton Greenstone Belt. This involved several weeks of mapping and documenting geological features in the underground mine workings, followed by interpretation of the recorded field data and determining relative tectonic stresses/forces and paleo-fluid plumbing systems in the Archean earth's crust. The focus of the project was to characterize and highlight the mechanical and chemical processes that led to the formation of the gold-bearing orebodies during the deformation of the Barberton Greenstone Belt, some 3 billion years ago.

He is currently working for TECT Geological Consulting on an array of different projects based in Southern and Central Africa.

“Future plans are to continue developing myself and working in the field of structural and economic geology, as thus far I am thoroughly enjoying it!" he comments.

This is not the first time that postgraduate students from the Department of Earth Sciences receive recognition for their research:

  • The Corstorphine Medal for an exceptional MSc thesis at a South African university was awarded to Kelly Swana in 2016 and Tarryn Cawood in 2017.
  • The John Handley Award in recognition of the best MSc thesis in earth sciences at a South African university was awarded to Matthew Mayne in 2015.
  • The Haughton Award in recognition of an exceptional Honours thesis at a South African university has been awarded thrice, to Bjorn von der Heyden (2009), Jean Loock (2015) and Stephan Dunn (2017).