by **Ernest Baafi, Ray Tolhurst and Bernie Goldie

 

Resource industries have much to gain from the University of Wollongong’s SMART
Infrastructure Facility created mainly through funding by the Australian and NSW
Governments and the university itself.

The National Centre for Simulation, Modelling, Analysis, Research and Teaching (SMART)
recognises that large scale infrastructure investments in Australia should be based on
rigorous, evidenced-based research.

It can bring together the disparate parts of an infrastructure project system, whether it is
transport, energy, water, telecommunications to understand and analyse their interdependencies
and inter-connections.

The SMART Infrastructure Facility’s mandate is to provide the data and analytical capability
to successfully create and execute integrated infrastructure plans for Australia. The SMART
National Data Centre provides an e-research capability and collaboration with infrastructure
planners, designers and researchers to better understand and model future growth of
Australian infrastructure projects.

SMART provides strategic advice, research and skills training across the whole infrastructure
industry and in particular:

  • National and whole infrastructure management including scenario analysis, modelling
    and visualisation of infrastructure systems and human interaction
  • Large scale infrastructure investment, including better use of existing infrastructure
    through new technologies and sequencing of greenfield investments to best meet
    priorities

The SMART Infrastructure Facility also features the Rail Institute that is committed to
integrated multi-modal transport research. It will support the capabilities that underpins the
next generation of passenger and freight logistics tasks in Australia. For information
regarding SMART and how resource industry companies can use its services, contact Tania
Brown, the Chief Operating Officer, at (02) 4298 1431; e-mail at Tania_Brown@uow.edu.au;
or visit the website at http://smart.uow.edu.au/index.html

Meanwhile, there has been considerable interest in engineering circles recently as to how the
University of Wollongong achieves such the success it does with their degree programs
related to the resource industries.

The University has demonstrated that it has been ‘smart’ in other related areas of late. For
example, last year for the first time ever, all three of the major student awards from the
professional body, the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) were
gained by students from the University of Wollongong. The G.B. O’Malley Medal, for the
best final year student/first year graduate presentation at a technical event, was awarded to a
Materials Engineering student (Phillip Drain), the Sir Frank Espie/RIO scholarship was
awarded to a Mining Engineering student (Gaetano Venticinque), and the Atlas-Copco
travelling scholarship to Sweden was won by a Mining/Environmental Engineering student
(Christopher Brunero).

Similarly, of the AusIMM’s 14 annual scholarships (involving 17 universities with course
recognised programs), three scholarships were awarded to Wollongong students. And
Wollongong students have won the annual thesis presentation competition run by the NSW
AusIMM Branches for the last five years in a row.

The University of Wollongong is the only Australian university delivering full, four-year
mining and other resource engineering degrees in a mining/metal production resource region.
The Universities of Adelaide, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia are all
located in capital cities, so that students don’t become “immersed” in resource industry
cultures. Up to now, the University of Ballarat has only produced three year technology
graduates, while with Curtin, most students overwhelmingly do their first two years in Perth
and only re-locate to Kalgoorlie for the last two years of their degree.

Wollongong, with a quarter of its students (as shown by the MyUniversity website) has the
highest percentage of part-time students enrolled in resource engineering degrees of all
Australian universities, many of whom are already working in the industry. This means that
in group work and other informal situations, other full-time students straight from high school
can engage in significant amounts of student to student peer learning, which is very difficult
to achieve at the metropolitan capital city universities.

The Illawarra Branch of AusIMM, the Mine Managers Association and the University of
Wollongong each year host the Australian Coal Operators’ Conference, as the major annual
research and development event for the coal mining industry.

For the resource industries, specific research strength areas at Wollongong are the
Engineering Materials Institute; the GeoQuest Research Centre; the Intelligent Polymer
Research Institute; the BlueScope Steel Metallurgy Centre; the Energy Pipelines Cooperative
Research Centre; the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials; and the Centre
of Excellence in Geotechnical Engineering and the Rail Innovation Co-operative Research
Centre. A recent research success story is the Australian Coal Research Association Projects
(ACARP) $4 million funding of two major projects — Automated Roof Support Systems and
Development of a Polymer based Roof Support Alternative to Steel Mesh. More information
regarding these research programs relevant to the resource industries can be found at
http://www.uow.edu.au/eng/research/index.html or by contacting Lorelle Pollard (Tel: 4221
4227, e-mail: lorelle@uow.edu.au),or URL:
http://www.uow.edu.au/research/strengths/index.html

For information regarding Wollongong’s programs related to the resource industries, it is
recommended that inquiries should be initially forwarded to Associate Professor Ernest
Baafi, Mining Engineering Program Coordinator, phone (02) 4221 3031, or by e-mail to
ebaafi@uow.edu.au, or visit the website http://www.uow.edu.au/eng. Company operational
and HR staff may be particularly interested in contacting Associate Professor Baafi to discuss
opportunities for them to take part in the University’s careers fair to be held on Tuesday 19
March 2013, the AusIMM Students Meet Industry Nights, student field trips to their sites, (in
recent years Wollongong mining and materials engineering students have visited sites
throughout NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the north island of New Zealand), or the flexible
learning, distance-based postgraduate programs in Rolling Stock Engineering and
Engineering Asset Management.

** Associate Professor Ernest Baafi is the Mining Engineering Program Coordinator at
UOW; Ray Tolhurst is Past-Chair, AusIMM Illawarra Branch; and Bernie Goldie is Media
Manager at UOW