Great strides have been made over the years to promote gender equality in various industries. However, despite finding itself at heights never before achieved, gender equality is still lagging in some important economic sectors, especially mining. By Mpinane Senkhane
According to the Chamber of Mines South Africa, women only represent 18% of the workforce in the mining industry. While this is a remarkable improvement over the past couple of years, there is still much room for growth for the role women can play in the South African industry.
Blasting is considered the most economical method to liberate rock since the energy released in a detonation is highly efficient. Harnessing explosive energy is achieved in the blast design, but it is equally important to control the energy through its distribution and containment in the rock mass. Careful consideration is therefore needed to mitigate risk, manage community reaction and minimise the impact on the environment. AEL Mining Services believes that in this previously male dominated area, even the fairer sex must be developed in the same way their male counterparts usually are.
Maida Ntuli is a senior mining engineer at AEL Mining Services. She qualified from the University of Johannesburg with a BTech in Mining Engineering and is a qualified explosives engineer. As a subject matter expert, Ntuli has conducted numerous value-adding projects in diverse mining methods both locally and abroad.
Ntuli is especially well informed in the various predictor equations that have been proposed by industry-leading researcher equations that have been proposed by leading researchers to predict environment impact prior to blasting. She holds valuable insight in the importance of understanding the different controllable and non-controllable parameters in blasting.
Meagen van den Berg is the divisional director for the SADC Underground Business. She graduated from the University of The Witwatersrand with a BSc in Mining Engineering as well as an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science. Van den Berg is a qualified AEL explosives engineer and has worked in various departments and regions since joining the company in 2009.
Sandy Etchells is technical and quality manager: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Guinea at AEL.
She has 13 years of industry experience in the field of mining, both on surface and underground operations, geotechnics and explosives. Etchells has led projects across several countries including but not limited to Egypt, DRC, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Lesotho as well as South Africa in the commodities of diamonds, gold, copper, coal, platinum and iron ore.
Currently, she provides technical services in francophone West Africa to provide support to AEL customers with blasting and explosive application areas, as well as AEL backline support for product-related areas.
In its pursuit for equality in mining, AEL Mining Services has invested in these women, and many more like them, and in doing so, the company is contributing to ensuring that women working in the industry will have the same opportunities as men – and that they are confident that they are safe to pursue them.