Gold Fields and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) officially opened the Gold Fields Engineering Library at the Wits Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment yesterday. The Engineering Library is the key project in Gold Fields’ three-year R18 million sponsorship of the Wits School of Mining Engineering and will make a major contribution towards the alleviation of skills shortages in the South Africa mining sector. The library is located in the Chamber of Mines building on Wits University’s Braamfontein campus. The Engineering Library is providing modern and innovative facilities for undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students, academics and researchers. As part of the refurbishment of the Chamber of Mines building, the library was relocated to the ground floor to make it more accessible to students.Other projects funded through the Gold Fields’ sponsorship include the equipping of the Mine Design Computer Lab, a substantial upgrade of the Rock Engineering Laboratory and the establishment of the Gold Fields Associate Lectureship program.Gold Fields also currently funds bursaries for 13 undergraduate and several postgraduate students in the Wits School of Mining Engineering. In addition the company provides vacation work for all students who do not have bursaries, thus allowing them to graduate and enter the market place. In 2011, the company accommodated 40 students for vacation work.“We are pleased to see that our investment is yielding positive results. The Library is core to our long-term investment in the Wits School of Mining Engineering and we are confident it will make studying and teaching a lot easier and more fun for engineering students at Wits. Mining engineering is a core skill needed to sustain not only Gold Fields’ operations, but the local mining industry as a whole”, says Nick Holland, CEO of Gold Fields.Professor Loyiso Nongxa Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Witwatersrand adds: “We are hugely appreciative of the investment made by Gold Fields into the Wits School of Mining Engineering. It is an example of how a creative partnership between Wits and the private sector brings together our traditional strengths that enable direct benefits for our current students. More importantly, this investment will go a long way towards securing the future of the next generation.”Librarian Maryna van den Heever says that the Gold Fields Engineering Library offers improved reading and consultation facilities for students and researchers; state of the art computer workstations; a prominent display and browsing area for new books, journal subscriptions and exhibitions and a fully equipped information skills electronic classroom. “Other key features include the provision of electronic resources alongside traditional printed materials, the acquisition of a self-check circulation unit as well as convenient access points for persons with disabilities,” she adds.The partnership between Gold Fields and Wits University was solidified in 2010 when the company pledged R26 million on a three-year sponsorship deal comprising investments in the mining engineering faculties at Wits as well as the University of Johannesburg. This comes amidst the critical shortage of mining skills in South Africa, particularly mining engineers, with the average age of mining engineers estimated to be well into the 50s and skills being poached by off-shore mining companies. The Wits School of Mining Engineering graduates about 70 mining engineers every year and plans to raise this number to about 100 in five years time.Gold Fields has a well-established relationship with Wits and has previously supported several projects at the university. These include the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies, the Institute for Palliative Medicine, the Paediatric HIV Programme and the Centre for Mining Sustainability.