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Cornwall students explore African mines

Ten students from the University of Exeter's Tremough Campus, Penryn, have had first-hand experience of Africa's mining industry. The MSc Mining Geology students have now returned from a field trip to Namibia, where they travelled 2,000 miles to visit seven mines in two weeks.

The Camborne School of Mines (CSM) students visited some of Namibia's biggest mines, owned by international companies like Rio Tinto and AngloAmerican. They also saw some of the smaller locally-run operations and had a tour of the offices of the Geological Survey of Namibia.

During the trip, the group learned how ores of uranium, gold, lead, zinc, tin, fluorite and diamonds are formed, mined and concentrated. They also had an insight into how an African country can exploit minerals to support its economy and how mining impacts on local communities. One of the world's leading suppliers of gem quality diamonds and the fifth largest producer of uranium, Namibia earns around 20% of GDP through mining.

MSc Mining Geology student Jim Yates said: "I was very surprised by how socially and environmentally aware a lot of the mines are. They all had a very close relationship with their local communities and many funded local schools and hospitals. On the other hand, we saw the environmental impact of some of the huge diamond mines on the landscape. The visit really fuelled my fascination with mining – it's a very complex industry."

A highlight for many of the students was visiting the Namdeb diamond mines. After checks according to the Namibia National Diamond Act and passing through very tight security, the students witnessed miners working through gravel to ensure every last diamond was found. They had a reminder of home when they saw the mine's latest exploration tool, the 'Sea Walker', which was made by Seacore, a company based in Falmouth and started by CSM graduates.

Professor Frances Wall, Head of CSM, said: "All of the mines were very welcoming and took a lot of time to show us round. We were pleased to meet a CSM graduate who is now a mining engineer at RoshPinah lead-zinc mine. We were told by most mines that they are having trouble recruiting enough geologists to cope with the current mining boom, which is great news for our students!"

Student Jim Yates said that following the visit he may consider working in Namibia in the future: "Africa is truly beautiful and the people are extremely polite – we could learn a lot from them. I would now consider working there after I graduate. In fact, I may be returning to Namibia soon as I was offered a summer placement at the RoshPinah mine."

Camborne School of Mines (CSM) was founded in 1888 and became part of the University of Exeter in 1993. CSM has an international reputation for research and teaching related to the understanding and management of the Earth's natural processes, resources and the environment. Its portfolio of undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree programmes provide an excellent basis for careers, in the UK or overseas, within the Earth resources, civil engineering, environmental and energy sectors. The vast majority of CSM graduates are employed in areas related to their degree. CSM is based at the £100 million Tremough Campus, which the University of Exeter shares with University College Falmouth as part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) initiative. The Campus is funded mainly by the European Union (Objective One), the South West Regional Development Agency, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, with support from Cornwall County Council.

For further information please contact Sarah Hoyle, Press Officer, University of Exeter, on 01392 262062/07989 446920 or email

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Combined Universities in Cornwall (CUC) project, both Phase 1 and Phase 2, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). University of Exeter is a partner of the CUC.


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Clare Morgan
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