Published On: 1 September, 2021Categories: Archived

Nkwe Platinum Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Zijin Mining Group, and leading original equipment manufacturer SANY Southern Africa, have jointly sponsored an entry-level excavator training programme to six women from the Garatau PlatinumMine’s communities, writes Munesu Shoko.

In a sector where women constitute just 12% of the 400 000 workforce, the initiative by Nkwe Platinum and leading Chinese original equipment manufacturer SANY Southern Africa, seeks to empower women by affording them the opportunity to tackle tasks that are traditionally regarded as men’s work.

Nkwe Platinum Limited is the 74% undivided shareholder of the Mining Right in respect of the Zijin Garatau Platinum Mine, which is situated on the eastern limb of the Bushveld Complex, in Limpopo Province, South Africa.

To commemorate Women’s Month, the companies came together to provide an entry-level excavator training programme to six women from Nkwe Platinum’s mining communities. During the week long training programme, the women learnt about basic components and the structure of excavators, and were also afforded the opportunity to perform basic functions of the machine. Speaking to Capital Equipment News, Samuel Zhang, GM of SANY Southern Africa, notes that women are dramatically under-represented in the mining industry.

Empowering women with top quality excavator operator skills and training, using state-of-the-art equipment, he says, will give them the competitive edge to advance in the sector. “We are pleased to embark on this training programme with Nkwe Platinum,” says Zhang. “We sourced two experienced trainers and offered a new 36 tonne SY365H Pro excavator for the training programme.

“We believe that women empowerment is critical for economic growth. When society talks about growth, women have traditionally been left out. We believe that true community development is achievable when women are empowered.”

Zhiyu Fan, MD and CEO of Nkwe Platinum Limited, agrees, saying that Nkwe Platinum and the Zijin Mining Group believe that the inclusion of women in the mining sector contributes significantly to mining communities’ sustainable development and long-term economic growth. “We recognise the potential that women can unlock for successful mining operations and understand that their skills development forms a vital foundation for a more productive community,” says Fan.

Challenging the status quo
Shudufadzo Siphugu, finance manager at Nkwe Platinum, says the technical aspects of mining have traditionally been regarded a men’s territory, with women relegated to support functions.

With this operator training programme, she says, Nkwe Platinum and SANY Southern Africa are challenging the status quo.

“The traditional cultural stigmas associated with the mining profession have always prevented women to take jobs such as operation of large mining equipment. As a progressive mining company, it is our duty to dispel the notion that women are not capable of operating these huge machines. This initiative is a clear demonstration to young women within our mining communities that women can be at the mine face, too,” says Siphugu.

Advocate Vuyokazi Nontso, risk and compliance Manager at Nkwe Platinum, is proud of what the six women achieved during the week-long training.

When Capital Equipment News visited the training site on the third day of the programme, the trainees could independently operate the 36-tonne excavator, showing few signs of being novices.

“This is a clear indication that women are capable to operate the big mining machines. The problem is that they are not afforded opportunities to do so. There’s no doubt that women work just as hard as the guys do. In most instances they feel as if they have to outdo their male counterparts to get the credit. And I would say, based on my experience, 99% of the time they out-do the guys,” she says. “All women want is a fair deal when they get to a jobsite and to be treated just like the rest of the crew. Give them that and you will be surprised at what you will get from them work-wise.”

Commendable effort
The government has commended Nkwe Platinum and SANY Southern Africa for this collaborative effort designed to

empower women in a male-dominated industry. Shalen Gajadhar, spokesperson for the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, says there is greater need for women to be trained in industries believed to be under the ambit of men only. Sectors such as mining and construction are believed to be spaces reserved for men only, he says, with women resigned to administrative or secretarial duties.

“The theme for Women’s Month 2021: The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Realising Women’s Rights, speaks to

the role women can play in society if they are able to enjoy true equality. Women’s economic exclusion remains one of the biggest barriers they face, and economic dependency is a contributing factor to women ‘tolerating’ abuse and

mistreatment,” he says. “It is therefore imperative that job opportunities in male-dominated sectors be created to attract, retain, develop and promote women. Opening new sectors to women allows for more employment opportunities, changing the circumstances women find themselves in. One such sector is mining. Mines operate close to towns with the potential to provide opportunities to thousands of women who are otherwise confined to lives of poverty. “Gajadhar says the department is encouraged by the efforts of mining companies like Nkwe Platinum

who, in a co-sponsorship with SANY Southern Africa, have identified a gap in women representation as operators of

heavy mining equipment. “Programmes like these benefit women such as Agnes Kgoetiane and Janet Mankgela, both from Maandagshoek, near Burgersfort in Limpopo, who have been mine labourers but expressed an interest in operating excavator equipment,” he says.

“This programme is welcomed, especially during Women’s Month 2021, as it calls for the economic empowerment

of women, one of the apex priorities of government and civil society. Women’s economic justice remains a dream for

many women who are marginalised and excluded due to a myriad intersecting inequality vectors resulting in multidimensional poverty for many women and girls. Programmes by the private sector to empower women must form part of standard operational plans to increase women participation in the economy. The department encourages the mining sector to showcase similar programmes aimed at empowering women,” concludes Gajadhar.

Publication: Capital Equipment News

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