MIDRAND (miningweekly.com) – Vedanta Zinc International CEO Deshnee Naidoo has called on the South African mining industry to “change the gender narrative” and to engage in conversations about the lack of female representation in the industry.
According to recently published statistics by the Minerals Council South Africa, of which Naidoo is also a board member, the South African mining industry has a female representation of only 12.4%.
Delivering a keynote address at the eleventh yearly Women in Mining Conference, in Midrand, on Wednesday, Naidoo stated that the industry was still not seeing the required step change with regard to including more women.
She further noted that “unleashing women at their full potential, individually and as a collective, is the single, most untapped resource that [the industry has]”.
In line with the findings of the Responsible Mining Index of 2019, Naidoo mentioned that “very few mining companies show evidence of systematically showing that operations address gender issues”, despite companies reporting on initiatives, aims and goals towards increasing female representation.
For gender parity to become a commitment that the entire mining industry can agree to, she suggested that companies develop “clear, specific and measurable targets for increasing the number of female employees in an operation”.
Mining companies must allow the development of initiatives to achieve these targets, she said, emphasising that these should encourage training; the use of suitable personal protective equipment; construction of decent accommodation, change houses and bathrooms; and the addressing of sexual harassment.
“One of biggest challenges facing women underground is safety and the risk of sexual violence continues to be a challenge. [A] lack of toilets, ablution facilities, changing facilities and far few other women working near them, make underground mining, in particular, more difficult for women,” she lamented.
Naidoo emphasised, therefore, that attracting new entrants, specifically women, into the industry was key to developing a gender-equal mining industry.
Naidoo added that the mining industry often does not have solutions that are tailored for women.
“As the number of women working underground increases, the South African mining industry also needs to increase its focus on safety for them.”
Naidoo said one of the core imperatives for Vedanta Zinc International’s parent company, Vedanta Resources, was that of people upliftment, particularly among women and children. Vedanta aims to ensure a 30% women representation across the company’s 90 000 global employees, by no later than 2022.