Carol Mgiba took many people by surprise when she decided to pursue a career in mining. This is because this is field that has always been traditionally associated with men and it took enormous amount of passion and self-belief on her to choose this career path.
It all started early on when she was in the final class of her high school after she attended an open day at a university. When she perused a glossy university prospectus outlining mining she was overwhelmed with incredible sense of excitement. It dawned on her that in order to fulfil her ambition she first had to study engineering at university.
Sinking a shaft
Miss Mgiba says she chose mining because this is a career that helps one to think about the business of things. “The main purpose of sinking a shaft and getting resources is to make money. I wanted to be part of the process of getting those resources and also be part of the optimisation team. It was more of a practical engineering side for me and I wanted to be part of that,” says Miss Mgiba.
She says the job presented some challenges to her especially because as a woman she had a family to take care of. The process of mining exposed her to the various aspect of the field including geology, surveys, rock engineering and she learnt a lot of things about the different departments and how they work.
Her hard work and commitment paid off for her as she began to rise up the ranks starting as a miner to shift boss to a miner overseer and then becoming a manager of an operation. Miss Mgiba adds: “If you are deterred in any way and can’t perform your job, it will limit your growth in the ranks. I was affected by that but I realised I could then change things for myself and specialise in other avenues like rock engineering.” She says she finds rock engineering enjoyable as it involves research but more importantly it suits her as a wife and mother.
Artisanal and small-scale farming
Miss Mgiba, who studied her undergraduate degree in mining engineering from the University of Johannesburg (UJ), is currently studying for her Masters’ in sustainable mining where she focuses on artisanal mining and small-scale mining. She is also lecturer in the department of mining engineering and mine surveying at the Doornfontein campus of the UJ where she teaches environmental management to first and second year students.
Miss Mgiba says she is trying to upgrade artisanal mining to small-scale which she argues is much safer through applying rock-engineering principles. She says moving to small-scale makes mining more productive and safer.
Advice to young women
Miss Mgiba has advice for young girls who want to follow career in male dominated science fields. “It’s a rewarding field where you can learn and create for the industry. It’s not just about maths and science and book knowledge but also what you are bringing to the industry. It’s a place where you can self -actualise and realise your own greatness. There is a lot that needs to be done and it can be done,” she says.