Tshiamo Legoale Famelab International Champion
Famelab International Champion 2017 ©

Still Moving Media

Tshiamo is from the Platinum City of Rustenburg and obtained her undergraduate qualification in Geology with the University of the Free-State, Mineral Resource Management with Wits University and is currently pursuing an MSc with The University of the Free State. She joined Mintek in 2012 as a scientist, and is based in the Small Scale Mining and Beneficiation division, working with marginalised communities and assisting them in the legal mining of local geological orebodies. Her hobbies include theatre and board-gaming. She is passionate about sustainability studies, community development through science, wetland conservation and white chocolate.  

Some of the projects she has headed include

  • Phytomining:- Using wheat as a gold hyper accumulator from tailings dumps 
  • Water filtration :- The use of readily available material such as river sand and coal in the treatment of water
  • Cigarette bud cleanser:- Extraction and use of chitosan from cigarette buds to purify water
  • Phospho-acidulation:- The use of lemon peels in producing a fertilizer.

In front of a packed audience, the 27 year old Tshiamo, a Geologist and researcher at Mintek, a global leader in mineral and metallurgical innovation, made South Africa proud by winning both the audience and the judges’ vote at the FameLab International competition which took place in June at the Cheltenham Science Festival, in the UK. She is the first South African contestant to win the international title.

In South Africa, “we have an estimated 17.7 million tons of gold waste. All this gold was mined out previously, but tiny amounts of this gold remains in the dumps,” said Tshiamo who is researching a method of using wheat to harvest gold from these dumps. This innovative research could be a ground breaker for South Africa as it could provide socio-economic benefits for communities based around these dumps. Tshiamo describes this as a “win-win” as it solves an environmental problem and could benefit the poor.

“Winning it was a surprise to me because all 31 contestants had wonderful research. They all had really good presentations. I’m very grateful for all the support that I got from back home. Social media showed me a lot of love and support. When I felt unconfident they gave me likes and that boosted a bit of my confidence,” said Tshiamo about her win.