Mining industry in South Africa looks to advance women
At last week’s Women in Mining Conference in Johannesburg, Mineral Resources Minister Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi addressed occupational challenges faced by women in the mining industry, including safety and security, and encouraged the industry to advance women’s rights and equal participation in the economy.
"Women should fully participate in this important sector that has the potential to grow South Africa's economy and thus improve the lives of all," Minister Ramatlhodi said.
"That is the only way we can truly eradicate the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.”
• Related content: Women in Mining and the Organizations Empowering Them
According to estimates, the gender pay gap in South Africa is roughly 15 to 17 percent with mining and other heavy industries still lagging behind in terms of gender pay equity.
The Department of Mineral Resources is looking to change that, implementing a wide array of programs to promote women participation in the mining industry from general workers to executive positions.
"We continuously encourage the industry to implement legislation that will protect and advance the cause of women," Ramatlhodi said during the conference.
• Related content: STUDY: Mining Companies Need More Women in the Board Room
"We need to develop implementable results that will transform the industry and increase investment in line with the goals of the National Development Plan.”
Phumeza Mgenge, an organized Labor representative, emphasized some of the challenges women in the sector face, including sexual harassment, fatalities, injuries and body protection gear not fitting, and encouraged women to educate themselves.
The status of women in South Africa has changed drastically since 1994 as the South African Parliament had 2.7 percent representation of women. After the 2009 general elections, women representation reached 42 percent. Women currently comprise 41 percent of the cabinet.
Low carbon world needs $1.7trn in mining investment
According to a new report from consultancy Wood Mackenzie, mining companies need to invest nearly $1.7trn in the next 15 years to help supply enough copper, cobalt, nickel and other metals needed for the shift to a low carbon world.
Cutting carbon emissions
The United States, Britain, Japan, Canada and others raised their targets on cutting carbon emissions to halt global warming at a summit in April hosted by US President Joe Biden.
Meeting those targets will need large-scale deployment of electric vehicles, storage for power generated from renewables and electricity transmission, all of which require industrial materials, such as lightweight aluminium and metals used in batteries such as cobalt and lithium.
Wood Mackenzie analyst Julian Kettle calculated miners needed to invest about $1.7trn during the next 15 years to “deliver a two-degree pathway - where the rise in global temperatures since pre-industrial times is limited to 2°C”.
“At an industry level, there seems to be reticence around investing sufficient capital to develop future supply at the pace and scale demanded by the energy transition (ET),” he said.
Mining firms are wary of making heavy investments after their experience of the last decade when they invested in new capacity just as demand peaked, leading to a collapse in prices and revenues. They also need to please investors, who are unlikely to want to see dividends diverted to capital spending.
Rising demands of investors related environment, social and governance (ESG) issues further add to the challenge.
Australia, Canada and Western Europe carry a low ESG risk but some of the best resources are in high-risk areas, such as Democratic Republic of Congo, which sits on about half the world’s cobalt reserves according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “Given the need to meet tough decarbonisation and ESG targets, Western governments, lenders, investors and consumers will need to get comfortable operating in jurisdictions where ESG issues are more complex,” Kettle said.
Kettle said government support was needed to help miners comply with ESG issues to ensure production from high-risk areas was conducted in an acceptable way to consumers.
“Then, and only then, will the West be able to secure sufficient volumes of the raw materials needed to pursue the energy transition in the timescales envisaged.”