For International Women’s Day, Mining Global spoke with Rössing Uranium’s General Manager, Operations, Liezl Davies, about the challenges she has faced as a woman in the mining industry. With her background in industrial psychology she understands what needs to be done to attract more women to the sector and offers her advice for women pursuing a career in mining.
Q. What challenges have you faced as a woman in the mining industry?
Davies: “I think the challenges are the typical ones of not being the technical expert, so not necessarily having the experience or expertise in a technical area, so why would any team be led by you if they know things better? That's the challenge I was faced with. But the way to approach it from my side was to say, well, yes, you may know better than me in one area, but I have experience in a different area that can compliment what you do and help us bring Rössing to success.
“I think it is being open and honest, and straightforward, and not trying to pretend that I know something I don't, being authentic about it. It’s also important to call out when I'm faced with obstacles and say, you need to get on board, you need to be a team player, everyone needs to get get into the game, pull together to pull Rössing up through the depressed market and into the future.”
Q. What more needs to be done, from an inclusion and diversity standpoint, to attract more women into the mining industry?
Davies: “When we get to a phase now in our technological development where we have autonomous vehicles, and you don't need necessarily a haulage truck operator, but you need a more intelligent approach with workers who can operate the controls, or design the operating system the control room or the trucks are running on; employees who can design the pit lay out, and the cycle the trucks need to hang on. It just opens a completely different world where everyone can be there and from all walks of life and physical ability. The underground mining environment is now a place where all our workers can contribute."
Q. What advice do you have for women considering a career in mining?
Davies: “We are seeing more and more women being interested in the mining disciplines, that weren't there previously. I think we're doing quite a bit to motivate them at Rössing, and so they are motivated to actually study more the mining disciplines because they see other women succeeding in the industry and it gives them hope. You must not be fooled, it is a tough environment… But all jobs are stressful, so you need to find your happy place, your place in the sun, and this is the type of environment that spoke to me, and that I feel I could actually thrive in, as long as you are a team player, and you can get the job done.”
Q. What do you think, and hope, the future holds for women working in the sector?
Davies: “We have now moved to a stage where we have women operators, and we’ve got women foremen, women fitters and turners, geologists, metallurgists, engineers, managers and now a general manager. So, at almost at all of our levels straight there are women in operational areas, not only the traditional support roles like HR, training, or accounting. I tell our women they have a responsibility not only to themselves but towards the girls who will be the women of the future to create a mining environment filled with opportunities for them. They can be the ground-breakers for the next generation to come.”
About Rössing Uranium
Rössing’s mission in Namibia is to be a uranium supplier to the global nuclear power industry creating maximum return for its shareholders. The vision is to be the safest and most efficient, long-life uranium producer in the world.
Being the world’s longest-running, open- pit uranium mine, Rössing has produced the most uranium of any single mine since it became operational in 1976, exporting uranium oxide to nuclear power utilities around the world. Since inception to date, Rössing has supplied approximately 135,088 tonnes of uranium oxide to the world.
China National Uranium Corporation Limited (CNUC) became the new majority shareholder in Rössing Uranium, the world’s longest-running, open-pit uranium mine. This follows the sale of Rio Tinto’s 68.62% shareholding to CNUC on 16 July 2019.
CNUC is a subsidiary of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the main force in China’s nuclear market with significant involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle supply chain.