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About WMI

The Wits Mining Institute is a one-of-a-kind laboratory with a significant research agenda to transfer surface digital technologies into the underground environment.


Promoting innovation and sustainability in the extractive sectors through skills and technology.


The WMI is a platform of long-established expertise in mining-related fields of study dedicated to inform the emergence of a 21st Century model of mining that is both sustainable and competitive. The future role of mining in the social economy depends heavily on:

  • our capacity for innovation in every associated dimension, including extractive technologies;
  • the full range of up-, side- and down-stream economic linkages;
  • the distribution of socio-economic benefits;
  • health and safety;
  • the environmental externalities and post-mining economic sustainability;
  • while also establishing an enabling environment for the industry’s future.

“I like what you are doing, but let’s do more…”

This is the closing line that Mr. Nick Holland (CEO of Gold Fields) left me after our first meeting in 2010. This short line, along with a one-page letter listing five points on research topics to consider, have become the inspiration for the re-invention of the Wits Mining Research Institute to become the Wits Mining Institute - one of six 21st Century Institutes hosted by Wits University.

Thinking about Nick’s letter led me to the realization that the current mining industry is out of sync with the century we are in, and triggered my thoughts on what a 21st Century mining industry should be and look like.

The second inspiration came from Mr. Martin Hobbs (then MD at Aveng Mining) while on tour through the newly-built fourth quadrant of the Chamber of Mines Building. We just took occupation of the new section and while we walked through all the empty spaces I was telling him about how we are going to convert the building into a ‘mine’, complete with surface, vertical shaft and ‘tunnels downstairs’. In his soft-spoken manner he said “I don’t see much apart from vision. I like it and will support you…”.

Since that time Nick’s tunnel and the Aveng shaft became ‘features’ in the building and, after a significant donation from Sibanye Gold in 2014, the conversion of the building into a Mock Mine, equipped with the digital systems that will enable the research required for Nick’s letter, became the Digital Mining Laboratory of the Wits Mining Institute.

Today it is a one-of-a-kind laboratory with a significant research agenda to transfer surface digital technologies into the underground environment – the enabler for a mine that can (automatically) observe, evaluate and take action. (Fred Cawood, Director WMI)