Black-owned Kalagadi Manganese reports that the African Development Bank (AfDB) approved its €150- million loan in May.
Kalagadi Manganese chairperson Daphne Mashile-Nkosi says the money from the AfDB loan will be invested in the development of a manganese mine and infrastructure needed for the sinter plant and smelter project.
“The loan was approved as a result of Kalagadi Manganese supporting the AfDB’s focus of enhancing private-sector competitiveness, gender equality, women empowerment, development of women businesses and entrepreneurs,” Mashile-Nkosi tells Mining Weekly.
The approval of the loan is a significant milestone for Kalagadi Manganese, as it is the first loan to be approved for a mining project in South Africa by the bank.
The company reports that it has to date spent R2-billion on the mine development and infrastructure and that the mine recently started horizontal development. “Other recent developments include the ongoing construction of the first floor of the sinter plant and the civil engineer- ing works for the road infrastructure,” she says.
Current infrastructure in place includes a 20 km temporary water pipeline, with the aim of constructing a 70 km permanent water pipeline before June 2012.
“We are also working on building an electric power transmission line in the Northern Cape, to support the energy demand that will stem from the mine and sinter plant, once in operation,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Kalagadi Manganese reports that a skills shortage is posing a significant challenge in the mining industry. Mashile-Nkosi believes the mining industry in South Africa is dominated by white males in general and that it is challenging to be a black woman conducting business in the industry.
“The odds are against women, and particu- larly black women. When black companies and black individuals become affirmative action candidates, they are not given the proper leadership skills training but are used as pawns to front the company. These individuals should be developed and challenged enough to be able to manage projects in future,” she says.
To deal with the skills shortage challenge, Kalagadi Manganese has an agreement in place with its contractors that between 80% and 90% of employees should be sourced from the province.
The company has a good relationship with the Department of Labour to assist in sourcing skilled employees, whenever the need arises.
Kalagadi Manganese says it currently has two female process engineers at the sinter plant and other women employed on the mine, with a female chief geologist. It reports that it has recruited more women at the smelter project, with 13 women employed for piling.
In future, it plans to set up a bursary scheme funded by external funders who share the vision of empowering the Northern Cape community and women, in general, from disadvantaged backgrounds to create the opportunity for skills transfer to take place.
“The bursaries will be aimed at dealing with the localised mining-focused skills shortages, as the area has significant resources and mining activities are expected to increase in the near future,” she says.
Another challenge is resistance to change within the mining industry. “I call this project a protest project, because I have always been told that I will never get into the mining industry and here I am proving my critics wrong. To date, I have achieved 70% of the project’s aims and I want to inspire young black females to also follow their dreams and break boundaries,” notes Mashile-Nkosi.
Kalagadi Manganese reports it is ironic that, even though it is a majority female- owned company, most contractors still attend presentations without female representatives on their teams.