New Wits professor brings career of rock mechanics experience

7 November 2018 – Johannesburg: With a long career in rock mechanics research, operations, consulting and academia, Professor Bryan Watson has been appointed associate professor in the School of Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Professor Watson has been an adjunct professor at the School since July 2016, and brings extensive experience in mining research and development, mining operations, numerical modelling, instrumentation and laboratory testing. Among his qualifications is a PhD from Wits University, a work which was voted the world’s second best doctoral thesis of rock engineering in 2011.

In that year, he also won the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) silver medal award for an outstanding publication, and the Salamon award for best rock engineering paper in South Africa from the South African National Institute of Rock Engineers (SANIRE).

A winner of the innovators award from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Professor Watson has researched and written prolifically on rock mechanics – with 18 major research reports, 13 journal publications and 14 conference papers.

He began his career with Anglo American Prospecting Services in Vereeniging as a field officer, moving on to become an assistant rock mechanics officer in Witbank for Amcoal Research and Development. He then worked for the Chamber of Mines Research Organisation (COMRO) – later CSIR Miningtek – where his focus moved to the geomechanical testing of hard rock, and also the monitoring of rock mass behaviour around shallow and intermediate depth platinum mines.

As senior researcher at CSIR Natural Resources and the Environment, Professor Watson then spent almost five years on proposing and leading multi-million Rand projects in diverse disciplines such as numerical modelling, geology, instrumentation and rock mass rating systems; the unit also implemented and managed underground instrumentation programmes.

He was chief rock engineer at Gold Fields Driefontein Gold Mine in Carletonville, going on to become unit manager rock engineering at the company’s South Deep Gold Mine in Westonaria – where he managed the rock engineering and seismic departments, designed and implemented new mine layouts, monitoring systems and appropriate support requirements.

Professor Watson has been an external consultant to global engineers and scientists SRK Consulting since 2016, and holds professional membership of the South African National Institute of Rock Engineers (SANIRE), the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM), and the North American Rock Mechanics Society.

Bryan Watson – Associate Professor, Wits School of Mining Engineering