Floating coal and exploring my home

So, my time in Cape Town has begun for the next 8 weeks and I have already been here for a week – I really can’t believe it! Since finding out how I would be spending my summer (unfortunately not summer in the Southern Hemisphere), 6000 miles (ish) away from home, I didn’t quite believe I would eventually be living and working in what is regarded as one of the best cities in the world!

View from my bedroom window
Not a bad view from my bedroom window!

So you may be wondering how I managed to spend so much time in such an amazing place…. Well, I was lucky enough to be awarded the Rio Tinto scholarship, a new initiative created this year to form a partnership between Imperial College and Rio Tinto, one of the biggest mining companies in the world.

This means that I along with 11 others (3 of whom are here with me in Cape Town) have been sent off across the world to universities, mines and research centres to get an insight into mining related work that goes on.

I arrived in Cape Town just over a week ago and have done so much already. I started work at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Monday and was thrown straight into my task for the next 9 weeks; being part of a research group that looks into Acid Rock Drainage from mine waste. It sounds glamorous I know!

Without going into the depths of the science, basically acid forms when coal mine waste is dumped, which then pollutes water. Research is being undertaken to prevent this happening by treating the waste before it is dumped.

I will be looking at a process called Froth Flotation, something which is also researched at Imperial, to improve the process in which sulphur (the thing that helps form the acid) is removed from coal before it is dumped.

The UCT campus, below the mountains
The UCT campus below the mountains

This will involve lots of lab work, which is meant to be very messy (cue for sympathy) but hopefully will prove useful to the mining industry as a whole! So those are the basics of the work I will be doing over the next 8 weeks and I will keep you updated with my progress over time.

So, Cape Town. What have I done so far you may wonder? Surely I haven’t been slaving away doing some crazy thing to do with floating coal for all of this time?! And you would be right!

So far I have climbed to the top of Lion’s Head, which is a peak adjacent to Table Mountain above the city. At sunset of the Full Moon, the sun sets in the West and the Full Moon is meant to rise in the East. Unfortunately, it clouded over about 5 minutes before sunset – typical, but the 360 degree views across the entire city were incredible (see photo).

This weekend, I along with Emma and Alice (2 of the other Rio Tinto scholars here in Cape Town) have spent time exploring the city centre, avoiding the periods of torrential rain (ironically missing the semi-heatwave in the UK), visiting museums in the city and walking to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Overall, I have had an awesome first week in South Africa and I am feeling very excited for the next 8 weeks and what it will bring.

I will try to keep you updated with everything I am doing from research at the university, to day drips at weekends and a local ice hockey match tomorrow (random I know!)

Bye for now,


Amazing sunset over the ocean
Amazing sunset over the ocean
Cape Town city and the coast
Cape Town city and the coast

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