“The biggest joy I get from my work is when people from different mining disciplines sit together and manage to solve some of the technical challenges facing the mining company."
Byron Diergaard works for Sasol as a Chief Geologist and is the head of the geology department at a colliery. He graduated from Stellenbosch University with a BSc in Earth Science in 2007, a BScHons in Geology in 2008 and a MSc in Geology in 2013.
In his role as Chief Geologist, Byron manages a junior geologist and two geological assistants. An important part of his work is safety and production, which involves identifying geological related safety and production risks. This is done through vertical and horizontal drilling, underground mapping and then creating geological models. He is responsible for the coal qualities of the mine, for the creation of the orebody model and reserve estimations. “I also have to assist the mine in scheduling the best quality coal and providing geological insight into areas that will be mined in the future," he explains. “I help provide geological information into major capital projects such as new vertical or inclined shafts and development through major geological unconformities."
It's important that a geologist has good social skills in addition to their scientific knowledge. “Most work at the mine is people focused," Byron says. “There isn't much you can do without being able to influence different people at different levels. The biggest joy I get from my work is when people from different mining disciplines sit together and manage to solve some of the technical challenges facing the mining company. I can do technical work in conjunction with working with people from diverse backgrounds. I generally work in a technical services department. Thus, half of my work includes understanding what information the client wants or needs and explaining or providing it in a way that is simple or practical to understand."
Byron says that Stellenbosch University equipped him very well technically, especially with regards to critical thinking and problem solving. However, he learnt more during his studies than just his geology knowledge. “Resident and cultural life at Stellenbosch prepares you well for working with and understanding people. This is not necessarily something that academics teaches you, and can be a shortcoming for some," he said. “I would encourage students to be open to learning and understanding people. Technically you might be strong, but you will not get much done in a company if you are not able to work with people."
This BSc-alumnus profile is part of the Faculty of Science's #100CareersinScience project. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to share your career journey with current students.
On the photo: Byron Diergaard. Photo supplied