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Exploration geology is not a nine-to-five job – but it can take you to interesting places
Author: Laura van Laeren (Faculty of Science: Media and Communication)
Published: 29/06/2022

​“Without a doubt, this is not a nine-to-five job. I love the outdoors and field work, in particular geological mapping, is absolutely the most enjoyable part of the job, even if it can be physically very demanding at times." – Dr Duncan Hall, PhD-graduate in geology (2016)

Dr Duncan Hall graduated from Stellenbosch University with a BSc Earth Science in 2009, followed by a BScHons in Geology in 2010 and finished his PhD in Geology in 2016. At present he works for the gold mining company Centamin as a Senior Exploration Geologist. Centamin is an international gold mining and exploration firm with projects in Cote d'Ivoire and Egypt. Dr Hall is based out of the office in central London but spends significant amounts of time in Egypt with infrequent short visits to west Africa.

Mineral exploration involves the same indoor-outdoor duality as most field-based sciences. Duncan is involved in planning and supporting ongoing fieldwork and uses specialist software to interpret results in order to plan future field programmes. “Despite all the fancy tech available, I always carry around with me a set of colour pencils for drawing maps and interpreted cross sections. Geology can be delightfully analogue. I find the cognitive engagement with the data when using pencil and paper is often more helpful than endlessly gazing at a screen," he says.

In the field, his work involves geological mapping and sampling, which requires a sound geological understanding and an understanding of cartography. “No good geologist goes to the field without their hammer, notebook, base map, and compass!" he adds.

“The thing I enjoy most, without a doubt, is the variety when I am in the field, where this is definitely not a nine-to-five job. I love the outdoors and field work is absolutely the most enjoyable part of the job, even if it can be physically very demanding at times. To do the fieldwork, someone actually pays me to travel to all sorts of out of the way places that very few people with similar backgrounds will ever see or experience."

One thing Duncan would urge people interested in following his footsteps to do is to learn other languages. “Lots of international travel is a given in this job," he explains. “I signed up for an introductory French course with Alliance Française in Stellenbosch and wish I'd made the effort much earlier. I would recommend picking the most widely spoken languages in regions where mineral exploration is likely to be concentrated. It is always helpful to know at the very least how to greet people in their mother tongue."

Duncan Hall.JPG

On the photo, Dr Duncan Hall. Photo supplied

This BSc-alumnus profile is part of the Faculty of Science's #100CareersinScience project. E-mail us at if you want to share your career journey with current students.