Robert Harwood

Robert is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, working as an environmental geologist for Oryx Mining and Exploration Ltd. His main role in a Geological Exploration project is the running of the project from the early stages (Reconnaissance) to identifying the ore reserve. These exploration targets are mainly for gold, platinum, cobalt, phosphate, copper, coal and rare earth elements (REE). This work involves working with in-country geologists and geological field technicians. Robert and the exploration team are responsible for completing the field mapping, geochemistry, and geophysics, up to the stage of identifying the ore body and drilling it. Aside from the geology side of things, he is also involved in the environmental impact of the area during the exploration program, which is monitored at all times.

Whilst studying as an undergraduate geologist, Robert worked for an Exploration Company in Africa during his summer holidays. This continued on graduating from university and gave him an introduction to various African exploration projects and working with seasoned geologists over the years and with a very good South African Exploration Company. This involved not just field work but also working in the office in research, including targeting mineral deposits in Sub-Sahara Africa. Working in various African countries and dealing with various people such as the village chief, contractors, as well as Government officials on projects has given him the experience to work in most Sub-Sahara Countries without any major difficulties.

On completing the IES-accredited MSc in Environmental Management & Sustainable Development at Manchester Metropolitan University, Robert became a graduate member of the IES. “This was quite fortunate as it brought to my attention the importance of being part of an accredited scientific institution.”

One of the best aspects his role is the variety of work locations in Sub-Sahara Africa, from their main offices in South Africa to Uganda in the north and as far west as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

“These locations are mainly areas that no geologist has visited for up to 50 years or more and when the detailed geological map you have created is put onto geological software and printed out for the first time and you locate a possible ore body it is quite an achievement. In some cases there are no maps (e.g. DRC) of the area and roads that you are exploring in, so you have to create your own."

“What I have experienced in working in Sub-Sahara Africa is that every day is an adventure and some adventures are good ones and some are bad ones, however with forward planning and experience you can normally eliminate most of the bad ones from re-occurring, but you are sometimes caught out as a new ones appears for the first time. So never become complacent no matter how well you think you know the country you’re in!”

Every project is exciting and has new challenges. However one of the most memorable is the discovery of an REE deposit in East Africa, where Robert and his colleague geologist may have discovered a world class REE deposit, which is currently ongoing. This was quite demanding as the terrain was quite difficult to explore due to being mountainous and covered with thick vegetation, exploration was carry out every day so one had to be quite physically fit for this to be undertaken. The construction of a road on the mountain was also quite an experience as was the construction of a bush camp and the logistics involved in this particular exploration program. Currently Robert is working on a promising gold project in Uganda.

In the future Robert hopes to continue to work in Sub-Sahara African and hopefully have the opportunity to visit and geologically explore Namibia, Ethiopia, Madagascar and travel further afield to other parts of the world. He would also like to continue his training, through attending more environmental and geological courses, and hopefully gaining a PhD in an environmental or geological project.

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