Coal mining company Kangra, a subsidiary of mining investment company Menar, located in Saul Mkhizeville, in Mpumalanga, is currently establishing a new Women in Mining (WIM) initiative to further empower and safeguard women at the mine.
Kangra human resources (HR) officer Buhle Nzuza explains that the WIM committee is currently being established. “Kangra was placed on care and maintenance, [owing] to Covid-19 lockdowns in March 2020, which negatively impacted on domestic and export markets, and only reopened in February 2021 when market conditions improved. This delayed the establishment of the new WIM initiative.”
The current draft plan in place states that the committee will have five foundational measures that the company needs to monitor for progress, namely reaffirming zero tolerance for gender-based violence through ‘Stop Abuse of Women’, ensuring that reporting and other mechanisms are in place to deal with any issues that arise, providing a reporting system for gender diversity issues, developing and deploying ongoing companywide pulse check surveys and ensuring that personal protective equipment for women is easily available.
Nzuza notes that, in terms of attracting women in the mining sector, Kangra has employed 30 young women from the community to enable them to uplift their skills. They are currently deployed in various departments, including underground mining, underground and surface engineering, procurement and human resources.
Gender Equity Compliance
Kangra and its sister company Canyon Coal, are proud employers of highly capable women in a variety of specialist fields.
By the end of May 2021, Canyon Coal had 79 female employees accounting for 26.5% of its workforce, with 28 in core mining positions and 23 in mining support services positions. Including contractors, Kangra employed 95 women. This translates to 40% of its workforce with 82 women occupying core mining positions, four in middle management and nine in junior management. Core mining includes articulated dump truck (ADTs), excavators, dozers and graders.
Canyon Coal HR manager Dineo Maphutha notes that Canyon Coal prioritises key and core career opportunities in mining for females, such as operators of ADTs, excavators, dozers and graders, among others. “For women to achieve full integration into the sector, mining companies need to implement programmes that empower more women in mining from a coaching and/or mentorship perspective and stress the need to eradicate all forms of barriers to entry for females in the mining environment,” she states.
Maphutha adds that programmes that emphasise diversity as a catalyst for transformational leadership in mining, and that embrace emotional intelligence as a vital quality for women in leadership positions, are also required. She points out that Canyon Coal is consistently evaluating its programmes to empower women.
From the Coal Face
Women mining professionals from Kangra and Canyon Coal’s Khanye and Phalanndwa collieries, in Mpumalanga and Gauteng, respectively, share some words of wisdom and advice for women who are interested in joining the sector.
Kangra underground and surface safety officer Isabel Ramashapa (28) says mining is so tough it will either make or break you. “So as a young girl, I was mentally prepared for the challenge. You need to equip yourself and be willing to learn, mining is extremely interesting,” she says. She has advice to colleagues and prospective female employees: “Be yourself and be authentic. Be firm and content. It is possible. Show up in the mining industry and shine.”
Kangra boilermaker Lungile Promise Nzimande (25) has realised that women do not get special treatment because they are women in mining. Her experience suggests a need to “find yourself a support network, whether it’s other women at work with whom you can share your experiences or just someone who knows the industry and can give good advice”.
Khanye Colliery team leader and junior blaster Nompulelo Masilela (23) has advice for women who are scornful of mining, seeing it as merely a “dirt-and-dust industry” that is not conducive for women to develop careers, having discovered that “there is so much more to mining”.
Phalanndwa Colliery ADT operator Nonhlanhla Maseko (35) says, although she found operating an ADT tough and tiring work, she enjoys it and finds it greatly rewarding. “I encourage young girls to become ADT operators. They should always be striving to study new things – maybe mining engineering, electrician, boiler mak[ing ]– so they can advance [their] careers in mining.
“I also want to say that although this is a male-dominated sector, all my male colleagues have been very supportive of me and my female colleagues. Canyon Coal provides a healthy, safe and secure work environment for us as women.”