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“Women feature predominantly as resource company CEOs, executives and the so-called rain makers and pot stirrers.” That was the future of mining envisaged by Deshnee Naidoo, CEO of Vedanta Zinc International (VZI). She was speaking at the 11th annual Women in Mining and Career Expo which took place from 19 to 21 February 2020 at the Gallagher Convention Centre.

The event put a spotlight on female participation across various aspects of the mining industry. Naidoo delivered the opening address on the first day of the conference. Her speech was about reimagining mining at a gender diversity ratio of 50/50. Passion about championing the enhancement of women in the industry, Naidoo explained that when it came to recruitment, VZI looked at women as a first option.

She also reflected on her own journey and career in the mining industry. “If you told me 30 years ago when I was in grade 5, that this would be my fate, I would’ve told you that you are joking,” Naidoo said. She also added that one of the moments that stand out for her in her career was taking President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Minerals Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe, on a tour at Gamsberg Mine in the Northern Cape.

As a board member at the Minerals Council South Africa, Naidoo emphasised that it was important that men were included in conversations concerning women in the mining industry. “We need our male colleagues to actively understand the need for change,” she said.

Other speakers included Wilhemina Ngcobo, operations manager at Khumani Iron Ore. She spoke about the current statistics and inclusion of women in the mining industry for the past 11 years. Echoing Naidoo’s views, Ngcobo said that it was important to understand that inclusion was not only about women. She added that although female participation increased from 2% in 2002 to more than 12% in 2019, it was still very low considering that there were more women in South Africa’s population than men. She also touched on the challenges that women in the mining industry continue to be faced with such as equipment and tools as well as physical limitations.

Various speakers at the conference brought to light important issues affecting women in the mining industries. In addition, the three-day conference provided a platform for women to share their knowledge and experiences and celebrate each other’s achievements in the industry.  

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