Never in her wildest dreams did Nozipho Dlamini ever thought that one day she could be celebrated as one of the respected and first black women mandarins in the mining sector. She has just recently been inaugurated as the first black female president of the South African Colliery Managers Association (SACMA). This represents major progress given that mining is historically a male dominated industry.
Holding top positions
Dlamini is currently the technical services manager at Thungela Resources Limited at Greenside Colliery having first worked at Sasol and Anglo American mines. It was during her stints at these two big mining companies that she amassed the necessary technical skills that saw her become a much sought-after female mining engineer. Dlamini boasts more than 14 years’ mining experience and has held various management positions ranging from underground manager to business improvement manager, section manager and technical services manager.
Dlamini graduated from the University of Pretoria with a BEng (mining engineering) degree in 2007. This was followed by a string of other qualifications including a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in mining engineering, a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours in technology management engineering, and a Master of Science (MSc) in technology management from the University’s Graduate School of Technology Management. She also serves as convocation advisory board member at the University of Pretoria’s department of mining engineering and is a member of the University’s Council.
Attracting financial offers
But Dlamini says her interest in mining came about after she could not secure funding to study her then favourite subject; African Literature as she harboured a dream of becoming an author. Fortunately, she was also good in mathematics and science and this attracted offers from various companies who wanted her study for various field in engineering. During her matric year she was invited to visit one of the companies that operates a big petrochemical plant in Secunda. And after being exposed to the coal mining operations particularly how the giant conveyor belts fed coals into the bunker, she was hooked and never looked back.
Improvements in the mining sector
Dlamini is happy with the progress that has been made to address some of the challenges faced by women in the mining sector. She says there has been significant improvements in infrastructure to accommodate women who work in the industry. For instance, she says, there are bathrooms underground and safety for women in mining has also been enhanced including providing them with the required protective gear.
However, she says, “The biggest challenge we pick up are difficulties in recruiting and retention. There is also a distinct lack of mentorship for women and not enough opportunities being afforded to women. It’s a chicken and egg scenario; if you have less women in industry, you attract less women and you can’t retain the women. And the scenario will continue unless there are intentional steps on increasing the representation of women in mining,” says Dlamini.
“Mining offers a wide variety of operational and technical roles. The industry has made major strides in mechanisation and automation. Most jobs are not physically demanding, and those that are can still be done by women. What is important is your intellectual capability, energy, drive and ambition. My hope is that women strive for the very highest of the offices in the mining industry. This representation will ensure there’s advocacy for equal work places, practices, policies and ultimately a more equal world,” says Dlamini.
Inspiration to more women
During her inaugural address, Dlamini expressed excitement in being elected the first black female president of the SACMA saying she hopes this will inspire more women to join the sector. “The association has stood the test of time and has navigated major transitions in the country. This is a testament to the resilience and strength of the people who have led it, and I am honoured and proud to join the ranks of these great leaders,” says Dlamini.