Young member network international study tour to South Africa

The tour was split into two locations with the first leg being held in South Africa’s largest city Johannesburg, and the final leg in the picturesque Cape Town.

Landing at OR Tambo International Airport after a lengthy 14-hour flight, we were excited to kick off their study tour with their first hosts AEL Mining Services. AEL was established in 1895 as the “the dynamite company” due to the discovery of gold and the resulting Witwatersrand gold rush. Today AEL is the largest supplier of explosives and initiating systems in Africa.

Our tour began with an exploration through the Dynamite Company Museum, which included equipment used at the original factory in the late 1890s.

The museum was followed with a guided tour through the bulk emulsion plant and initiating factory, taking note of the missing roof on one of the adjacent factory buildings. The whole operation spanned the size of a small Australian suburb which was impressive.


{{image2-a:r-w:200}}The second day of our tour had us visiting AfriSam. Since 1934, AfriSam have been a supplier of construction materials to South Africa, including 41 readymix concrete plants. Our visit began with a meet and greet with the AfriSam graduate engineers at their newest readymix plant – the Jukskei aggregate plant. After a brief presentation and some question time the engineers guided us through the crushing plant, pit and readymix plant. After viewing this operation, the tour continued with a caving expedition at Sterkfontein Caves.

The Limestone Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind are famous for the discovery of the 2.5 million year-old human ancestor “Mrs Ples” and the four million year-old ape man “Little Foot”. To finish the day we had a quick visit of the redundant Sterkfontein Quarry due to exposing underground caves of archaeological significance.

The first weekend of our tour gave us some free time to explore the local surroundings. A Red Bus Tour of Johannesburg gave us a unique appreciation of this concrete jungle and its more than 4.5 million inhabitants. Some of the highlights included seeing FNB Stadium, which was built especially for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the township of Soweto, the 1976 Soweto Uprising memorial and Mandela House. These were just a few of the highlights of this confronting and overwhelming city.

A short two-hour flight to the highly regarded Cape Town began the second leg of our tour. We had high hopes for our time at “The Cape” and were well armed with a list of attractions to see and do. The number one attraction locals advised us to visit was Table Mountain, which shadows the city below and sits just under 1100 metres in elevation. Being fit young go-getters we had conquered the mountain within half an hour of arriving in Cape Town, and what a rewarding experience it was! The remainder of our free time was consumed by another terrific Red Bus Tour including visits to Groot Constantia (the oldest winery in Cape Town), Mariner’s Wharf, Signal Hill and testing the icy waters of Camps Bay Beach.


{{image3-a:r-w:200}}Our first hosts in Cape Town were Blasting & Excavating (Pty Ltd). B&E was established in 1972 to provide drilling and blasting services to the South African construction, quarrying and mining industries. We were taken to several quarry sites where B&E were operating and were able to see pit development and blast results in different resources including dolemite, granite, breccia and hornsfels.

The next day saw us touring another construction materials supplier Afrimat. Afrimat was established in 2006 when 13 smaller family businesses combined. Today it operates 34 quarries including mobile crushing, ready mix, drill and blast, transport and bricks. After meeting with Afrimat directors we were escorted through their Brewelskloof Quarry which provides concrete aggregates and road base materials.

The quarry visit was followed up with an exploration of Afrimat’s main laboratory and workshop and questions and answers. One of our questions in particular was met with great laughter when we asked whether Afrimat and AfriSam were brothers, ie Matt and Sam who had parted ways and begun their own separate businesses. Apparently this wasn’t the case!

Our final day for site visits had us teamed up with Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC). PPC was established in 1892 to become a leading supplier of cement and related products. A flat tyre on the way to the quarry saw us sitting literally “in the middle of no where” for 90 minutes while we waited for a jack and wheel brace to arrive. Luckily Blake rolled up his sleeves to show these South Africans not only can we win a cricket world cup we can change a mean tyre too! A great tour was conducted of De Hoek Quarry and followed by an informative tour through the cement factory, including vision from within the operating kiln, and observing the cement bagging process.

With the site visits concluded, we were fortunate enough to be invited to deliver a presentation on the Australian Young Members Network at the South African annual conference and exhibition. Naturally we stole the show with an award-winning presentation that was both informative and humorous!

Most importantly, we supported and shared ideas with our South African brothers who are in the process of setting up their own Young Members Network. We left with high hopes, as they are fortunate enough to have a great council that will support them just as we have here in Australia.

By Craig Potts

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