With August being women’s month, Mining News caught up with a few mining ladies from coal producer Exxaro. In this three-part feature, the successful women answer questions about working in the industry.

Precious Ramushu
Precious Ramushu
Ramushu is a blasting technician at Leeuwpan mine. Her responsibilities include optimising the drilling and blasting activities on the mine whilst saving costs, planning and designing blasts and ensuring that planned blasts are safely executed in a way that minimises environmental impacts.

She answers the questions as follows:

How did you get started in the industry? 

It all began when Exxaro gave me an opportunity to showcase my skills during my internship in 2016. I was sent to the Colliery Training College (CTC) for my blasting training then got absorbed as a blast assistant. I worked my way up to an acting blaster which led to my current position. Exxaro indeed empowers possibilities.

Has this always been something you’ve wanted to do?

Yes, I was intrigued by mining from a young age. I’ve always liked challenges and working in the blasting department has exposed me to such.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the industry?

Proposing convenient ways of executing work strategies to colleagues of different ages coupled with vast experience. It is not an easy task to influence experienced people to move with time and do things the modern way.

Do you think these challenges had anything to do with the fact that you are a woman?

Yes, but I am pleased that the stigma of being led by a woman is gradually vanishing in my workplace

How did you overcome such challenges?

Continually sending them for training, asking for their feedback with regards to training they had attended and asking for their inputs 

How are you received by your male colleagues?

Very well. I’m grateful for their immense support.

What is your view on female representation in the mining industry in South Africa currently?

Female representation is currently being addressed as more women are being given opportunities in the mining industry. Women still need to be developed and be given support. It is only about placing women in positions and waiting for them to prove themselves but being able to provide a support system that will nurture women to perform better in their respective jobs.

What do you think needs to change to create more opportunities for women in the industry?

Skills development and mentorship should be prioritized for women. Companies should empower, develop and prepare them for more senior positions.

What advice would you give to a young woman wanting to pursue a similar career path as you?

Opportunities are opening for young women in the mining industry. Work on your craft and have defined goals. Break boundaries as there are no limitations. Go for it!

Eugenia Ndzendze
Eugenia Ndzendze
As a digital value chain lead, Ndzendze is responsible for the development and sustainable implementation of a digital strategy at Leeuwpan mine.

Here are her responses:

How did your career start in the industry? 

I was exposed to mining industry at a very young age since I grew up in Rustenburg. I got a bursary from Kumba Resources in my matric year and studied Metallurgical Engineering at Wits then worked for Kumba Iron Ore.

Has this always been your career choice?

I have always wanted to be in mining, but the idea of digital in mining back in the days was a bit far-fetched. I am a believer in continuous improvement and innovation. I’m glad it has landed me in a position where I can be a disruptor in the industry.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?

The biggest challenge has been resistance to change. The industry is slow in adopting some of the basics that have improved other industries like lean in manufacturing. The second challenge is, the industry is stuck in hierarchical organisations which at times restrict innovative thinking. The third challenge is mining operations are mostly located in remote areas making it a challenge to support a family-oriented lifestyle.

Do you think these challenges were unique to you as a woman?

I think most challenges are experienced by most skilled young people, but I think it becomes even more challenging for women as some of the perceptions still exist that mining is a men’s world with such intensity that women cannot take.

What did you do to overcome the challenges?

I’m an extreme extrovert, so keeping quite or holding back is not natural for me. I grew assertiveness qualities over time and how to communicate disagreement in a way that leads to change. I have had good mentors who helped me navigate the various phases of my career and the various cultures at the time. You cannot succeed alone so you have to be open to people so they can know and take interest, and you have to show up yourself with the commitment and drive to overcome/navigate the challenge.

What motivated you to keep going in difficult times?

I’m a bit stubborn, that helped. I also try to not take things personal, and assume people don’t know better, the sooner they understand things get better.

How are you received by your male colleagues?

I think male colleagues receive me well, they just sometimes get surprised by my assertiveness and most of them praise it.

What do you think female representation South Africa’s mining industry currently?

Representation of women in the industry is still low, especially higher positions in technical functions.

What do you think needs to change to create more opportunities for women in the industry?

A lot of work needs to be done to groom and prepare women in leadership roles. Companies need to actively set up mentorship and sponsorship programmes to help women in career growth.

Any advice for a young woman wanting to pursue a similar career path as you?

Go for it, find someone you look up to for mentorship, find an influential person to be your sponsor. Work smart and always remain assertive to what you believe.

Want to read more about women in mining? Read Inside Mining’s Women in Mining SIP.

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