It is with great pleasure that we announce the graduation of Griff Gigler, Resource Geologist for Tecoma Strategies, with a PhD in Geology from the University of the Witwatersrand!

Griff enrolled at Wits for a Masters degree by research in 2014, working on a project sponsored by Eurasian Resources Group (ERG – Then Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation/ENRC). His work focussed on Cu-Co deposits owned by ERG in the Democratic Republic of Congo, integrating the analysis of large corporate geological and geochemical datasets with micro-scale labwork on rock samples, with a view to better defining mineralisation models and identifying vectors to Cu-Co mineralisation in the region.

In 2016, after delivering his MSc thesis to supervisors, Profs Judith Kinnaird and Paul Nex, Griff converted his studies to PhD level. His thesis, entitled: ‘The transition from hypogene to supergene mineralisation at the Mashitu South Cu-Co deposit, Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo’, can be downloaded from the Wits University website. In his time at Wits, Griff also published the paper: ‘Element mobility in the weathering environment and surface vectors to mineralisation – A case study from the Mashitu South Cu-Co deposit, Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo’ in the Journal of Geochemical Exploration and has two other papers based on his thesis in press/preparation.

On site in DRC, 2014. Left to right: Judith Kinnaird, Pete Cheshire, Griff Gigler, Paul Nex and Florian Huthmann.

Tecoma Strategies took Griff on in September 2017 – part time at first – but by 2018 Griff was working full time whilst completing his PhD. “Tecoma has always supported my studies” says Griff. “The culture here is one of continuous lifelong learning and self-improvement. The demands of consulting are hard, just as those of postgraduate study, but at Tecoma my studies were seen as an asset to the company and I was offered the flexibility to work on academic pursuits when I needed to”.

Griff graduated in a ceremony at Wits in December 2018. “These days, PhD’s are so often seen as purely academic in nature, with little application to the practical world of mining”, Griff says. An MESci Exploration and Resource Geology graduate from Cardiff University in 2013, Griff’s ambitions have always lain within the mining industry. “I’ve heard from and been cautioned by many other students that a PhD will actually make me less employable by industry than stopping study at Masters level. There’s some foundation to these worries – PhD’s are, by nature, designed as a prerequisite qualification for academia, not industry.”

Griff Gigler (centre) on graduation day with supervisors Judith Kinnaird (front centre), Paul Nex (right) and Head of School Roger Gibson (left), 2018.

“People’s motivations for further study are important in whether or not their higher qualifications are indicators of excellence or mediocrity – not necessarily the qualification itself. In my case, as for many of my postgraduate peers at Wits, the mining downturn in 2013 coincided quite unfortunately with my MESci graduation, and attractive jobs were few and far between. The opportunity for further study came along with a bursary and the promise of adventure – so I took it.”

A native Welshman, Griff jumped at the chance to develop his abilities on a foreign continent. “I saw the opportunity to start another Masters and convert to a PhD as a way of staying in touch with the mining industry, develop my skills and contacts in an established mining district, and one day give me an exit to retire to academia if I ever wanted it. I enjoy teaching almost as much as doing!”

Although the enquiring, challenging mind fostered by doctoral study can indeed be a hinderance in the procedural environment of junior employment for at an established mining firm, Griff ventures that it can set one apart in the consulting industry. “As a consultant, you are expected to bring fresh perspective to the table, to challenge the status quo and to question entrenched ideas in order to add value to a client’s project. These tenets are also at the core of academia.”

Griff Gigler co-presenting at the GSSA Economic Evaluation of Mineral Deposits short course, 2018, hosted by Matt Mullins of Tecoma Strategies.

Griff has the following advice for anyone studying, or considering studying for a PhD in geology who wants to go into the mining industry: “Make sure your motivations and positioning are right. Don’t let your studies be just something that you fall into for lack of better direction. Try to position your work so that you remain close to mining projects and contacts, and so that your work has direct relevance to industry. Upskill yourself for industry where you can, concurrent to your studies. Opportunities to do this are often free or cheap as a student.”

“Don’t make the mistake of assuming that studying for, or having a doctorate, make you superior to anyone else. I’ve been taught many of my more useful pieces of knowledge in this industry by professionals with a BSc or no degree at all. Equally, seek employment with companies who will value the enquiring mind and hard work that will help you to complete your studies. Do not undervalue your commitment to achievement, nor compromise for those who are intimidated or made insecure by intellectualism and a challenging nature. Seek mentorship from wise, pragmatic individuals who are able to recognise, apply and translate knowledge into value, and action.”

“If you go about it in the right way and with the right attitude, you can fashion your PhD into an incredibly powerful string to your bow of geological and business skills, rather than letting it become a mark of being ‘too academic’.”

Griff cites Tecoma Strategies as the tempering force to the steely knowledge imparted by his degrees. “Tecoma has taken me in and made me a valued member of the team. A degree teaches you how to learn. The mentorship of Matt Mullins, Colin Carey and our associates has taught me how to take what I know and learn and use it to extract value for our clients. I will forever be grateful for the wisdom of Matt, and for his generosity and graciousness in recognising my potential.”

We feel confident that Griff will bring to his role the inquisitiveness, work ethic and willingness to learn and teach imparted to him by his degree, together with the Tecoma-fostered values of open-mindedness, integrity, and a results-driven attitude.

Griff Gigler being capped on stage at graduation, 2018.

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