The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) School of Mining Engineering celebrated the achievement of the first Kenyan to hold a Ph.D. degree in mining Dr. Joseph Muchiri Githiria. Following this feat, Dr. Joseph becomes the first Kenyan to hold this degree in Mining in his home country.
Shortly after the completion of his studies near the end of last year, he returned to his post as lecturer at Kenya’s Taita Taveta University, located between capital city Nairobi and the coastal city of Mombasa, where he looks forward to giving back to his community by building the country’s nascent mining sector.
His Ph.D. in mine planning focused on improving a stochastic approach to cut-off grade optimization directed at maximizing net present value (NPV) by concurrently varying metal price and grade-tonnage distribution in an algorithm.
Commenting on the feat, Professor Cuthbert Musingwini, Head of the Wits School of Mining Engineering and supervisor of Dr. Githiria’s doctoral thesis said that, his graduation is a summary in the school’s history of engagement with students from all over Africa.
“As one of the most respected the schools globally, we are delighted to regularly draw talent from around the continent,” says Professor Musingwini. “We are proud to support in mineral enhancement throughout Africa, while pursuing our broader strategic objectives of being a leading research-intensive university by 2022.”
Dr. Githiria’s graduation comes few years after Kenya formally created a stand-alone Ministry of Mining in 2013. He was an ex-student in the ‘pioneer’ Mining and Mineral Processing Engineering (MMPE) course in 2006 at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Howbeit, there was still not much activity in local mining when he finished his five-year course in 2010.
After a while quarrying works of a cement producer in Kenya, he enrolled at Curtin University in Western Australia for an 18-month Master of Engineering Science degree. Specializing in mine planning, thereon, he graduated in 2013.
“Some important oil discoveries in the north of Kenya around 2012 changed the government’s perspectives towards mining. Suddenly everyone began talking about the extractive industries,” he said.
He further stressed that Kenya now needs to learn from countries like Australia and South Africa when developing its mining sector – and to tackle the challenge of engaging all stakeholders in charting the country’s mining future.
Dr. Githiria is a proud member of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM).
“It is inspiring to see the Kenyan government’s participating in the promoting of mining, as well as the emergence of a Kenya Chamber of Mines and the growth of academia in mining. We still need to partner more closely, nevertheless, as partnerships are the only way of building a strong minerals sector. I am also a strong believer in the value that academia can bring to the industry, with our strong research focus.”
Local capacity – in terms of the talents – is steadily being built in Kenya, he says, supported by partnerships with other countries and organizations.
“The support that I got from the Wits School of Mining Engineering and particularly from Professor Musingwini, is indicative of the expertise and goodwill that we can attract partners around the world,” he added. Dr. Joseph Muchiri Githiria becomes the first Kenyan to hold a Ph.D. in Mining
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), for instance, is gearing for partnership between Taita Taveta University and two German universities – the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden and the Technical University of Freiberg. This will create a center of excellence at the Kenyan university to offer postgraduate-level qualifications in mining engineering, mineral processing, and environmental engineering.