Dave Michael was a driving influence in the South African Coal industry, was a member of SACPS for more than 50 years, many of them as a Fellow. He was Chairman in 1994 and 1995, Coal Man of the Year in 2002 and the Chairman of the organizing committee for the ICPC 2002 in Johannesburg.
He was born in Liverpool and moved to nearby Meols, hence he was a lifelong Everton supporter. He was a sports nut, particularly football, rugby and cricket. He studied chemistry at the University of Liverpool and played scrum half for the University first team.
Dave first arrived in South Africa to work for AECI in 1972, then worked for three years at Hwange Colliery before returning to the UK to get married and work in London for four years. He then returned to South Africa and worked for Anglo American Coal Division as a technical trouble shooter.
He joined the fledgling coal division of Rand Mines, first at Douglas / Van Dyks Drif, then as Plant Superintendent at Rietspruit Colliery before moving to Head Office in 1980. During this period, the coal industry in South Africa was entering a massive growth phase. The Transvaal Coal Owners Association (TCOA) was the hub for inland sales, as well as the low ash sales to Japan and RBCT was expanding from 12 million tonnes to 44 million tonnes per annum in 15 years.
This required new mines and new markets, and Dave was fully involved in both elements. The South African coal industry has always been associated with exceptionally strong technical marketing elements, with consistency of export products being a massive marketing edge with a close collaboration between marketing and coal processing. Dave, together with Simon Carves designed and commissioned the Middelburg Mine Services plant in 1983. This plant had numerous innovations, including the first circular stockpile ahead of a South African coal plant. Solid bowl centrifuges were also installed, for use on the thickener underflow, which did not perform as guaranteed, but the currency collapse in the interim ensured that a good profit was made when they were returned. It was little known that the plant had a cyclone high up in the eaves of the plant to test dense medium cyclones on fine coal using an early incarnation of Derrick screens to recover magnetite. Screen cloth life however, was a severe problem at that stage.
Dave was on the Operations Committee of RBCT for many years, through its biggest growth phase, and with others made sure that coal processing was integral to RBCT’s development. His chairmanship and committee membership of the SACPS was thus during a period of huge growth for the coal processing industry in general and the SACPS in particular. The training element of the SACPS was developed to incorporate the Advanced Coal Preparation course, the technical evenings were hugely popular and the dinner moved from attendance by 10’s then hundreds and ultimately close to a thousand. The success of the IOC in 2002 meant that the Society changed from an amateur organisation to its present form with a secretariat, conference organisational skills and above all positive cashflow!
Dave was made a Managing Director for Randcoal’s Duvha, Khutala, Majuba and Rietspruit collieries but left shortly after the merger of Rand Coal and Trans Natal which formed Ingwe Corp. He then worked as a consultant for JCI Projects on the development of their Moatize project, now owned by Vale. A drilling programme, which was devised by Dave and Pat Cochrane including large core boreholes, identified that the coking coal fraction exists only in the small coal fraction and Dave did the initial plant design on that basis.
In his last few years Dave suffered a number of strokes and his health deteriorated dramatically. Dave will be sorely missed by all the people that he worked with, trained and inspired over the years. He is survived by his three children and four grandchildren.