PGM and base metals mining company Ivanhoe Mines, the University of Limpopo and Laurentian University in Canada signed an agreement this week officially launching an educational collaboration between the two universities.

The collaboration, initiated and sponsored by Ivanhoe's South African platinum subsidiary, Ivanplats, was celebrated at a signing ceremony on the University of Limpopo campus attended by officials from Laurentian University, the University of Limpopo, Ivanhoe and the South African and Canadian governments.

A principal goal of the five-year partnership, which is renewable for a further five years, is to develop and equip the University of Limpopo's geology department to become a centre of excellence in geosciences.

This will be achieved through measures that include:

  • improved training and curriculum choices in economic geology and mineral exploration at the University of Limpopo;
  • increased teaching and research capacities at the graduate student level;
  • equipping laboratories;
  • purchasing an outdoor vehicle and trailer for field excursions; and
  • collaborating with Laurentian University to improve the University of Limpopo's learning programmes.

Ivanplats also will provide in-service training opportunities for students from both universities and assist them in conducting research on the Northern Limb of the Bushveld Complex.

Drilling at Ivanhoes' Platreef project in South Africa
Drilling at Ivanhoes' Platreef project in South Africa

Ivanhoe Mines, through Ivanplats, has allocated a total of US$2.5 million to the Limpopo and Laurentian universities to fund their partnership during its initial five years.

In addition to Ivanhoe's investment, Laurentian University of Sudbury, Ontario, has been awarded C$500 000 in scholarship funds for the project through the Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science and Technology (QEII-GSST) Program.

Combined with a C$570 000 scholarship awarded to Laurentian by the International Development Research Corporation, these funds will create educational opportunities for 35 University of Limpopo students to study in Canada.

Scholarship funding from the three sources will support under-graduate, Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) positions at Laurentian and be focused on topics and research in mineral exploration and economic geology.

The QEII-GSST scholarship will fund up to 15 graduate students and faculty from the University of Limpopo to pursue MSc and PhD studies at Laurentian's Department of Earth Sciences.

The funds also will support a number of Laurentian's graduate students to travel to Limpopo for three-to-four-month internships over the course of the first five years of the funding agreement with Ivanhoe. These advanced graduate students will teach and assist junior faculty at the University of Limpopo.

Ivanhoe Mines executive chairman and founder Robert Friedland said the two universities are natural partners to work toward shared objectives. "We are confident that this initiative will help to facilitate the University of Limpopo's development to become a centre for excellence in mining education and, in the process, help to realize the potential for economic growth that is inherent in South Africa's heritage of abundant natural resources.

“Laurentian, with its Goodman School of Mines, has partnered with the domestic mining industry to provide some of the qualified people who are essential for industry operations. The University of Limpopo now can begin drawing on Laurentian's vast experience to enhance its preparation of young South Africans with knowledge and skills that are required tickets to productive, rewarding careers in their modernizing mining industry," Friedland said.

Ivanplats MD Dr. Patricia Makhesha said the Limpopo-Laurentian university partnership is a pillar of the Ivanplats Social and Labour Plan.

"Part of our commitment to contributing to sustainable communities can be fulfilled through investments in deserving institutions with the capacity to fundamentally change the socio-economic landscape of the region in which we operate. The University of Limpopo is one such institution, a centre of learning and hope for young people who can qualify to participate directly in mining operations around their communities. By investing in this partnership, we are investing in providing skills that will help to enable those young people to become the future miners and leaders of tomorrow."

University of Limpopo Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof. Mahlo Mokgalong said the development of skills for the mining sector was crucial for the continued growth of the mining sector, a pillar of the South African economy.

"This new collaboration will contribute significantly to the University of Limpopo's offering to skills development in the mining sector. As a tertiary institution, we are determined to remain relevant to South Africa's overall economic growth. This partnership with Laurentian University and Ivanplats helps to strengthen our academic programmes in ways which will allow young people to actively participate in the sustainable economic growth of Limpopo province."

"We are immensely proud to be a part of this multi-faceted educational agreement, which will help us fulfill our mission to advance global mining education. We look forward to working closely with our partners at the University of Limpopo and with Ivanhoe," said Goodman School of Mines at Laurentian University executive director Dr. Bruce Jago.

A portion of the funding will be used to hire a full-time academic tutor/program administrator to provide educational and administrative support for the successful completion of designated educational programs for Limpopo students, along with other support typically offered to all Laurentian international students.

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