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Occupational Certificate: Mining Technician (Strata Control Observer: Underground Hardrock) 
96464  Occupational Certificate: Mining Technician (Strata Control Observer: Underground Hardrock) 
Development Quality Partner - MQA 
-   OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
Occupational Certificate  Field 06 - Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology  Fabrication and Extraction 
Undefined  108  Not Applicable  NQF Level 03  Regular-ELOAC 
Passed the End Date -
Status was "Reregistered" 
SAQA 06120/18  2018-07-01  2023-06-30 
2024-06-30   2027-06-30  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 

The purpose of this qualification is to prepare a learner to operate as a Strata Control Observer:
Underground Hardrock.
A Strata Control Observer: Underground Hardrock inspects working places, evaluates rock mass conditions, measures compliance to support standards and creates awareness of sub-standard conditions in order to advance a safe working environment in an Underground Hardrock Mine
A qualified learner will be able to:
  • Conduct workplace inspections in order to generate a workplace strata control inspection report.

    Strata Control forms part of the discipline of Rock Engineering, one of the specialist disciplines within the mining environment. Rock engineering may be defined as technical mine engineering that bridges the gap between mining geology and production engineering. Its application turns geological and geotechnical information into rational mine plans, that facilitate maximum orebody extraction at least safety risk and lowest operating cost for the prevailing rock mass conditions. Rock engineering is concerned with the design of mining strategies, excavation layouts and support systems that ensure safe, stable and productive mining operations. There is a need for this qualification as there is a shortage of skilled Rock Engineers as identified in the Sector Skills Plan. This qualification is also necessary as the skills level amongst mining personnel has declined to such an extent that they can no longer conduct Strata Control operations as part of their day-to-day operations.
    Strata Control may be defined as a risk management tool, which in part ensures the proper control of the mining environment to minimise the risk of local instability. Effective strata control ensures that on a local scale, appropriate mining strategies and/or support actions are employed to overcome local and unforeseen or unpredictable changes to the prevailing geotechnical environment. This requires on-site training in the mechanics of, and reasons for, excavation failure and the roles and mechanisms of excavation support.
    The role of strata control also extends to ensuring adherence to mining layout and support standards, as well as the maintenance of quality control in support type selection and support installation. This is emphasised because the value of even the best available rock engineering advice is diminished if recommended standards and systems are not properly understood or implemented underground.
    The purpose of this qualification is to equip learners with the theoretical knowledge, technical skills and practical ability to function as a Junior Strata Control Officer/Observer within the mining environment. Junior Strata Control Officers assist personnel engaged in mining operations to ensure:
  • The safety and efficiency of mining operations.
  • The development of mining personnel skill levels.
  • Pro-active reduction in levels of rock related risk in mining operations.
    Seen on a national level, safe and productive mines operate at optimal level; with maximum orebody extraction, the lowest possible safety risk and best operating cost. This has spin-off benefits in terms of the sustained production of minerals, with increased generation of revenue for the economy, greater investment in South African mines by particularly overseas investors and sustainable employment opportunities within the mining industry for society in general.
    This qualification will equip the learner with necessary knowledge, skills and ability for promotion to the post of Junior Strata Control Officer. It is also intended to provide the building blocks upon which to build a further career in rock engineering. Attaining this qualification will improve the learner's skills, thus increasing his potential employability. The concept of the four different streams, with appropriate elective unit standards, means that the learner can move between the different mining operations areas by completing the necessary elective unit standards.
    This Qualification contains NQF 2 and 3 components and builds on the basic foundation of theoretical knowledge, technical skills and practical ability applicable to the discipline of strata control and rock engineering. 

    Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):
    RPL for access to the external integrated summative assessment: Accredited providers and approved workplaces must apply the internal assessment criteria specified in the related curriculum document to establish and confirm prior learning. Accredited providers and workplaces must confirm prior learning by issuing a statement of result or certifying a work experience record.
    RPL for access to the qualification: Accredited providers and approved workplaces may recognise prior learning against the relevant access requirements.

    Entry Requirements:
  • NQF Level 2 with Mathematical literacy. 


    This qualification is made up of the following compulsory Knowledge and Practical Skill Modules:
    Knowledge Modules:
  • Rock Engineering Practice (Strata Control 1), at NQF Level 3, Credits 20.
  • Mining Engineering Practice (Strata Control1), at NQF Level 3, Credits 8.
    Total number of credits for Knowledge Modules: 28
    Practical Skill Modules:
  • Measure and record dimensions of mining excavations, at NQF Level 3, Credits 28.
  • Record the type, spacing and installation quality of installed support, at NQF Level 3, Credits 12.
    Total number of credits for Practical Skill Modules: 40.
    This qualification also requires the following Work Experience Modules:
  • 311701005-WM-01, Exposure to Rock related workplace inspection processes, at NQF Level 3, Credits 40.
    Total number of credits for Work Experience Modules: 40. 

    1. Measure and record the dimensions of mining excavations.
    2. Record the type, spacing and installation quality of installed support. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Descriptions of the actual size of the space that rock will take up in various scenarios regarding the volumes and mass of rock will be accurate.
  • Implications of the mass and volume of rock in various mining scenarios on strata control in underground hardrock mines will be accurate and based on professional rock engineering principles.
  • Naturally occurring Geological discontinuities found in Hardrock mining excavations are accurately explained in terms of: a. Influences of forces on rock strata. b. Definitions of the various types of discontinuities in rocks (faults, slips, joints, fold, dykes, sills, potholes, weathering, fissures, bedding planes, bed separation); c Hazards and risks associated with the various geological discontinuities.
  • Interpretations of mine plans accurately identify: a. All geological features ; b. all infrastructures indicated on the plan; c. Identify the direction and coordinates on the plan d. Distinguish the elevation and gradient (dip and strike) e. Identify the boundaries and pillars f. Identify the types of excavations (shafts, sub shafts, drives cross-cuts, drives, travelling ways. g. Identify the position of survey pegs and stations. h. Identify restricted areas and abandoned workings. i. Identify all dams. j. Lines indicating the planes of sections; k. Water plugs l. Falls of ground.
  • Accurate measurements and records of the distance, spacing, dimensions and conditions of mining working places, support and geotechnical abnormalities in controlled work environments within different workplace contexts (Stopping, development, room and pillar mining) are made.
  • Correct process are always followed to take the measurements safely, and accurately.
  • Records are neat, accurate, complete and relevant when recorded in the feedback report.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Accurate explanations of the concept of support principle within a geotechnical context will be made (The explanation must include the concepts of: Beam creation/reinforcement, suspension, point loading vs area coverage.)
  • Accurate explanations of each of the generic support types are given in terms of the mining operations context. (Generic support types must include the following: Pack support. Elongated support. Backfill type. Tendon support. Canopy support. Fabric support.) A description of support types is given in terms of those used on the specific mine. (Description must include the following: Support unit name. Sketch of the unit. Construction/Installation methods.)
  • Using different underground hardrock scenarios relating to rock strength, stress and fractures, accurate descriptions of the results of excessive stress fracturing and how this impact on strata control is given.
  • Using a range of pillar dimensions and the planned dimensions and type accurate explanations of the likely pillar behaviour and associated hazards are given.
  • Incorrect drilling and blasting practices are explained in the context of installed support. (Large burden. Drilling into rock surrounding excavation. Poor drilling direction. Overcharging. Poor tamping. Short holes. Poor timing.) Strata control related effects of incorrect drilling are explained in the context of installed support. (Damage to surrounding rock mass. Falls of ground. Irregular face shapes. Stress concentrations. Ineffective pre-conditioning. Damage to support units.)
  • Strata control related effects of incorrect blasting are explained in the context of installed support. (Blast fracture propagation into hanging wall or sidewalls. Blast damage to support units. Excessive hanging wall vibrations. Blasting gas intrusion into weakness planes in the surrounding rock. Falls of ground).

    Integrated Assessment:
    Integrated formative assessment:
    The skills development provider will use the curriculum to guide them on the stipulated internal assessment criteria and weighting. They will also apply the scope of practical skills and applied knowledge as stipulated by the internal assessment criteria. This formative assessment leads to entrance into the integrated external summative assessment.
    Integrated summative assessment:
    The external integrated assessment will take place once the learners have successfully completed all the theory and practical skills modules as set out in the curriculum. The must also provide proof of gaining the required work experience and obtain sign off on the workplace evidence as set out in the curriculum. 

    Rock engineering is the discipline of designing and supporting stable excavations in rock. By understanding the properties of the rock quantitatively as well as qualitatively the design of stable excavations in mines is made possible. In addition, rock engineering entails an understanding of available support types and their performance. This is used to select the optimum support required for the stability of excavations, considering relevant factors such as safety, length of service and economics. Rock engineering also includes a working understanding of mining induced seismicity, including mechanisms; mine layout to minimise seismicity and support systems to minimise rock burst damage.
    An international comparability study of qualifications for careers in Rock Engineering was done in order to evaluate the extent to which this qualification is comparable with international learning and development practices. For the purpose of this study countries with comparable mining conditions were selected. The focus was on Australia and Canada.

    As in most countries Rock Engineering is a specialisation area of Mining Engineering. Most Australian universities provide a Bachelors' Degree in Engineering or Mining Engineering with a postgraduates specialisation in Geotechnical Engineering which included the theoretical and practical applications of Rock Engineering as it is applied in South Africa.
    The TAFT Colleges and private providers offer short courses in Strata Control for mining operators and technical support staff. No comparable programme or qualification to the Occupational Certificate was found in Australia.

    Rock Engineering is seen as an interdisciplinary field of study. The Rock Engineer is specialists who have studied extensively in the areas of Mining and Geotechnical Engineering. At undergraduate level the Geotechnical Engineer will engage is subject matter related to fields like the following:
  • EOSC 329, Groundwater Hydrology.
  • EOSC 330, Principles of Geomorphology.
  • EOSC 350, Environmental, Geotechnical, and Exploration Geophysics.
  • EOSC 429, Groundwater Contamination.
  • EOSC 431, Groundwater Remediation.
  • EOSC 433, Geotechnical Engineering Practice.
  • EOSC 434, Geological Engineering Soils and Weak Rocks.
  • CIVL 408, Geo-Environmental Engineering.
  • CIVL 410, Foundation Engineering.
  • GEOB 308, Quaternary and Applied Geomorphology.
  • GEOB 370, Advanced Geographic Information Science.
  • MINE 403, Rock Mechanics Design.
  • MINE 480, Mine Waste Management.
    Strata control training is provided as short courses and on job coaching for mining operators.

    International comparability in this instance has not revealed comparable qualifications for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The required level of competence (Level 2/3) is rather low while formal qualifications in Rock Engineering are typically at degree Level.
  • The Southern African mining industry finds itself in a unique situation, in that most mining operations are very labour-intensive, with the workforce generally having a low standard of education. Comparable operations in the international arena such as the Canada and Australia are highly mechanised, with well-qualified operators. In line with this approach, international mines do not have rock engineering departments-strata control issues are handled by the production personnel, while higher-level rock engineering is contracted to specialist consultancies. For this reason, international comparability for Strata Control qualifications from Levels 2 to 4 is extremely difficult. While there may well be study material available for these levels, it is intended for use by production employees and is not of a specialist nature. 

    Both horizontal and vertical articulation is possible.
    Horizontal articulation (In development) can take place to the:
  • Occupational Certificate: Mining Technician: Ventilation Observer, at NQF 3, SAQA ID94572.
    Vertical articulation (In development) is possible to the:
  • Occupational Certificate: Mining Technician: Strata Control Practitioner (Underground Hardrock), at NQF 4 SAQA ID 94038. 



    Qualifying for external assessment:
    In order to qualify for an external assessment, learners must provide proof of completion of all required modules by means of statements of results and work experience including Foundational Learning Competence or equivalent.

    Additional legal or physical entry requirements:
    Meet the regulatory medical and physical requirements for working in an underground hardrock mine.

    Criteria for the accreditation of providers:
    Accreditation of providers will be done against the criteria as reflected in the relevant curriculum on the QCTO website.
    The curriculum title and code is: 311701005: Strata Control Observer: Underground Hardrock. 


    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.