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Geotech under spotlight in Cape Town

Some of the world’s top academics and practitioners in soil mechanics and geotechnical engineering met in Cape Town late last year while bright young engineers also shone.

Among the focal points of the 17th African Regional Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering was the use of geosynthetics in solving common geotechnical problems, according to Linda Spies, senior geotechnical engineer at SRK Consulting.

“This emphasis was on applying academic research to develop practical and affordable solutions with geosynthetics – in line with the conference theme of Innovation and Sustainability in Geotechnics for Developing Africa,” said Spies. The applications include coastal protection, tailings dams, roads over marshy areas and geogrids for stabilising foundations.

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In addition to the strong African contingent, there were also top international geotechnical engineers attending. Allied to the event was the 7th African Young Geotechnical Engineers’ conference, where SRK intern Mampho Maoyi won the Best Speaker award.

Presenting on experimental studies in partially saturated flow through natural fracture systems, Maoyi joined SRK recently after completing her MSc in engineering geology at the University of Pretoria.

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“The paper was based on my MSc research, which included the fundamentals of different flow mechanisms and flow regimes,” she said. “My PhD will be taking this further into empirical studies aimed at helping solve industry problems.”

The work has a potentially wide relevance to fields like mining, contaminant transport, construction foundations and hydraulic fracturing. The next African Regional Conference on Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering will be held in the Algerian capital of Algiers in 2023.

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