Research and Consultancy Services in the Mining Industry in Zimbabwe: A Coordinated Approach Through the Mineral Resources Centre
Fernandes, T R C
Dirks, P H G M
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Education in the engineering fields can be considerably enhanced if it is designed to address the immediate and long-term needs of society. In this context education not only comprises the provision of basic training, but also includes the careful planning and execution of applied and fundamental research. This paper focuses on education and research institutions that provide services to the mining sector in Zimbabwe and describes a new approach to meeting high-quality teaching, research and consultancy requirements against a background of diminishing government funding. Key units within the University of Zimbabwe providing services to the mining industry include the Institute of Mining Research, The Departments of Geology and Physics in the Faculty of Science and Mining Engineering and Metallurgy in the Faculty of Engineering. Within government, services are provided principally by the Departments of Geological Survey, Metallurgy and Mining Engineering, and the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre. The major source of funding for all of these institutions is Government. There is a degree of overlap between these institutions, some of which were established more than 30 years ago with terms of reference appropriate for the time. With decreasing funding exacerbated by a harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe there is need to revisit the charters of these organizations and to review the provision of services to the mining sector. Recognition of this situation has led the Department of Geology to spearhead a new initiative to establish an alternative structure through which consultancy and research in mining related topics can be coordinated at the University of Zimbabwe. The Mineral Resources Centre (MRC) was established to facilitate fund-raising activities through consultancy services, research, postgraduate training and capital investment. By representing a group of like-minded stakeholders, the MRC can address larger projects, and thus secure more funding than individual entities will be able to obtain. The MRC is designed to be a lightweight structure that will not replace any of the existing teaching and research departments. The MRC is not be bound to any particular faculty within the university, and may even include stakeholders from outside the university. Interested parties are invited to participate on a voluntary basis in accordance with the management and quality- control guidelines laid out by the MRC. Participation is on a contract basis and will be determined for each project. Service providers that participate in the MRC agree to use their resources in the best possible way, so that services can be presented in unison. In combining forces between various departments with expertise in Earth Sciences, it is envisaged that a wider audience can be reached, a better service can be provided and a larger resource base can be tapped both within the private and the public sectors. The MRC may help coordinate capital investment, and human resource development in the various participating entities. Considering the limited availability of financial and human resources in Zimbabwe, coordination and prevention of unnecessary overlap is in itself a valuable exercise.