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Sanip Gurung

As long as you are willing to work hard to understand the key concept of hard rock mechanics, underground mining methods and have a can-do attitude, then you can’t go wrong with specialising in geotechnical engineering.

What's your job about?

AngloGold Ashanti is one of the largest gold mining companies with operations all around the world.

Working as a Graduate Geotechnical Engineer at Sunrise Dam, my role is to ensure that the personnel working in the mine are not exposed to vulnerable parts of the mine which are likely to fail due to weak ground conditions.

Some of the key responsibilities of a geotechnical engineer are:

  • Inspect and monitor the ground conditions in the mine and issue geotechnical rehabilitation if required.
  • Collect geotechnical data by core logging and window mapping.
  • Perform empirical analysis and numerical modelling to advise the mine planning department of any changes to the mine design.

One of the key skills that a Geotechnical Engineer should possess is being able to identify the strength of the rock as well as good observation skills for assessing the ground conditions underground. Our role is to prevent the tunnel from collapsing, trapping personnel underground.

What's your background?

I was born in one of the smallest countries in the world, Singapore, and spent the first 12 years of my life there. My adventure then led me to India, a country bursting with culture and tradition and 4 years went by quickly while living there. Coming to Australia was another chapter in my life and moving from one country to another at a young age gave me the ability to adapt to different surroundings easily. My first mining role was working as a geotechnician/core logger up in the Pilbara. The next challenge for me was to secure a graduate position as a Geotechnical Engineer. Here I am one year later at Sunrise Dam and enjoying every minute of it.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes, it is possible. We don’t have a Geotechnical Engineering degree in Australia, most Geotech's are from a mining, civil or geology background. As long as you are willing to work hard to understand the key concept of hard rock mechanics, underground mining methods and have a can-do attitude, then you can’t go wrong with specialising in geotechnical engineering. One of the leading experts in rock mechanics, Evert Hoek was from a mechanical engineering background, hence we have a diverse range of people working in the geotechnical engineering industry.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

What I love the most about my job is that every day is different. We have so many responsibilities and duties that we perform each day, both technical and practical as well. My typical day could involve core logging, underground geotechnical inspections, open-pit monitoring, stope analysis report writing, prism report write up, window mapping, UCS testing paste samples and much more. But most importantly, the coolest thing about our role is a mix of being in the office writing reports, running numerical modelling and heading out in the field by performing inspections and installing geotechnical monitoring devices. Essentially, we get the best of both worlds.

What are the limitations of your job?

From my personal experience, coming from a non-mining background, learning the mining methods and cycle was the first obstacle. Secondly, getting used to the lifestyle of FIFO was difficult at first, however, you will get used to it eventually through making friends and being involved with sporting activities at the mine site. Lastly, the role of a Geotech involves lots of logical thinking and providing advice and interacting with other departments. There will be times when your recommendations are not considered or the contractors are difficult in terms of not completing the given task on time or up to standard, but in the long run, it will teach you how to deal with people and get the best out of them.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Be organised and prepared.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Be engaged and meet new people.