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Women are succeeding in mining

Thabile Makgala, Executive: Mining at Impala Platinum, reflects on the role of women in this challenging sector.

Thabile Makgala

Thabile is the Executive: Mining at Implats, and chairperson of Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA). In 2018, she was selected as one of the “Top 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining” by Women in Mining UK.

Thabile has a Master’s degree in business administration from the University of Stellenbosch Business School and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mining Engineering (Cum laude) from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Did you encounter obstacles on your mining career path?

I encountered numerous obstacles while navigating my mining career path. As the first female mining engineering graduate at Goldfields Kloof and Driefontein division (now Sibanye Gold), I soon realised that the industry had not adequately prepared itself to accept women in mining.

The industry was not ready. The response to women’s needs (infrastructure, personal protective clothing and policies) was slow and very little was in place to address women’s issues. Regardless of impeccable qualifications, solid work ethic and the achievement of production targets, my abilities would continue to be questioned and tested.

Is the environment now more conducive to women progressing?

It is encouraging to witness so many women succeed in an industry that has largely been developed for and by our male counterparts. Although there have been positive steps taken to make the current environment more conducive for women, more deliberate and proactive action is still required.

What should be prioritised to empower women?

Women and men should hold equal representation in the workplace, and mining companies should prioritise and advocate for diversity, inclusion, parity and greater recognition of female leadership within their organisations.

Is mining a transformed industry, or is it transforming?

The mining industry is transforming, and legislation has been instrumental in driving this transformation. I sincerely hope that 10 years from now the fundamental elements such as empowering, caring, showing respect, connecting and growing our female talent would have been achieved. I hope that the conversation about women, parity and inclusion would have advanced, and that the industry would have made a concerted effort to transform, without the need for legislation.

What innovation will be beneficial to the mining industry?

Data and the analytics will prove to be the competitive advantage for mines of the future. Converting conventional mining practices to lower-risk mechanisation and automation is key for the sustainability of the South African mining industry.


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