Lubanzi Dlamini, a University of Zululand (UNIZULU) honours student is walking tall after recently receiving the Outstanding Honours Research award from the Society of South African Geographers (SSAG).

This is a new award and It is the first time that it has been awarded by the Society. Dlamini is thus one of the first two winners of the award in recognition of the efforts put into their honours research reports, the outstanding quality of the research produced and the motivation to continue producing quality research.

Her work was assessed against that of students enrolled in geography departments within twenty-two universities.

On behalf of SSAG, Awards Officer Dr Manfred Spocter congratulated Dlamini, saying her “honours research report has been adjudicated to be one of two winners of the SSAG Outstanding Honours Research Award for 2020”. He advised her to continue with the hard work and making a positive contribution to society.

Dr Sifiso Xulu, Dlamini’s supervisor, believes Dlamini has “distinguished herself as a capable and hardworking student with a high level of intellectual ability and academic preparation”. He added: “She was particularly outstanding with remote sensing applications for mining restoration and her remarkable research skills gave rise to a publication in a DHET (Department of Higher Education and Training) accredited international journal. Collectively, these earned her BSc Honours thesis a distinction and also the SSAG award. As such, I have every confidence she would do very well in her master’s project and beyond. Special thanks to Geography Department colleagues for preparative honours programme, and to Ms Zinhle Ntuli and the Research Office for allowing Lubanzi to attend the research writing retreat workshop.”

Dlamini’s research is titled “Monitoring Mining Disturbance and Restoration over RBM Site in South Africa Using LandTrendr Algorithm and Landsat Data”.

In her research, Dlamini states: “Considering the negative impact of mining on ecosystems in mining areas, the South African government legislated the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (No. 28 of 2002), to compel mining companies to restore the land affected by mining. Several studies have used remotely sensed data to observe the status and dynamics of surface mines. Advances in remote sensing along the cloud-based Google Earth Engine (GEE) now promise an enhanced observation strategy for improved monitoring of mine environments. Despite these advances, land rehabilitation at Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) is mainly restricted to field-based approaches which are unable to reveal seamless patterns of disturbance and restoration.

“The study revealed that RBM has progressively been mining different portions of the mineral-rich coastal area after which restoration was undertaken. The duration of mining over each site ranged from 2 to 6 years. The LandTrendr outputs correspond with independent reference datasets that were classified with an overall accuracy of 99%; it captures mine-induced disturbance efficiently and offers a practical tool for mine restoration management.”

By Precious Shamase