There has long been ad-hoc bilateral international co-operation in a number of scientific drilling projects. However, a multi-national continental drilling program, comparable to the successful Ocean Drilling Program (now Integrated Ocean Drilling Program), was established in the mid 1990s after a conference on the establishment of an International Continental Scientific Drilling Program. Since then the ICDP has grown into a ‘mega-project’ institution. The ICDP comprises 21 members. These include 19 countries, the UNESCO and Schlumberger Services Inc. as a Corporate Affiliate. The youngest members are New Zealand and France, who joined in spring 2009. South Africa has been a member since 2006. The scientific aims of the ICDP are interdisciplinary and attempt to cover a broad spectrum of contemporary Earth Sciences in order to discuss how scientific drilling could complement on-going geo-scientific studies, and make it possible to address fundamental, unresolved questions critically relevant to both societal needs and an improved understanding of the Earth and its Lithosphere. ICDP operates across on all continents, including Antarctica, and has more than 50 active drilling projects and proposals for new drilling projects that fall within the general realms of : Climate Change and Global Environment; Impact Structures; Geobiosphere and Early Life; Volcanic Systems and Thermal Regimes; Mantle Plumes and Rifting; Active Faulting, Collision Zones and Convergent Margins; Natural Resources; Deep Earth Observatories. Technology and capacity building spin-offs are huge. Member countries can participate in any of the ongoing/planned drilling projects, and benefit from numerous short-courses and workshops, advice and technical equipment. They may design also their own deep drilling projects and submit proposals to ICDP for funding thereof, and apply for technical assistance. Project proposals are internationally scrutinized by a Scientific Advisory Group (SAG) that makes recommendations to the ICDP Board. I have now been on the SAG as the RSA representative for 3 years. To encourage more active participation of South African researchers and industry scientists, I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my SAG experiences and convey some of the excitement of ongoing drilling projects that range from deep drilling into volcanic magma chambers, active calderas, active faults (San Andreas), subduction zones, lakes for climate and biodiversity changes, impact sites, deep biosphere, biomarkers of ancient life, geothermal energy, deep mines (RSA, USA), hotspot tracks, and others, under very varied conditions from the tropics to the poles. A group of local and international scientists have recently submitted a proposal for a deep (5-10 km) drill-hole in Mpumalanga, and to build around this a rural college for drilling and related S&T. Phase One of this proposal has been accepted by the ICDP Board, and we will host an exploratory workshop soon. I will outline the aims and timelines of this project; ways to get involved, and solicit new ideas.


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