Questions and Answers

Prof Nellie Mutemeri (moderator) – Mining Practice Lead, MutConsult

Georgette Barnes, President, Association of Women in Mining in Africa

Amina Tahiru, CEO, AC Zenon, Ghana (gold miner)

Pastor Pauline Mundia, Gen Secretary, Association of Zambian Women in Mining (gemstone miner)

Lindi Nakedi, MD, Gubhani Exploration, South Africa

Stella Opakas, Director Mineral Resources, Turkana County, Kenya

Zenzi Awases, President, Women in Mining Namibia

COVID-19 is taking its toll on job losses. How have women in Africa been impacted? Any statistics to share?

Zenzi Awases “We do not have statistics yet. We need to do a continental survey. But the impaces include job losses, loss of contracts, reduced hours, double work i.e carers and working from home, as kids are being home schooled. “

I'm interested to know what each of you think women thriving in mining looks like. How big would you like that be?
  • Zenzi Awases “Personally, thriving at work in LSM would be when I get recognition for my contribution – and I don’t mean a “well done” only – trust me enough to promote me and not only to be a 2iC (second in charge).”
  • Georgette Barnes “When there is no more need for WIM Groups and Advocacy”
  • Nellie Mutemeri “Gender equality, equity and justice. Women should be well represented in all aspects and at all levels of the mining value chain, as professionals, entrepreneurs and equity participation in mining ventures at all scales. This will require good gender equality policies and women’s empowerment initiatives, mainstreamed into government programs (which a provide a framework for all other actors and stakeholders). Women should be supported to acquire all the means to meaningfully participate (i.e. skills, capital etc). Equal opportunities to supply and get assistance with financing for major projects. “
I feel pity for our SSM in gemstones for loss of market as result of tourism being devastated. What of local markets in Africa? What are strategies post COVID-19? Tourism will certainly bounce back and markets will recover.
  • Pauline Mundia “In the gemstone SSM sector Zambia. Marketing and Trade amidst covid-19 pandemic for sustainable development growth.
    • Rebrand the marketing tools such as establishing a user friendly website for interaction with potential buyers and sellers or producers.
    • Introduce an Open Tele-Marketing and Trading Hub for minerals from Africa.
    • Engage the relevant trade support institutions to facilitate smooth movement of our products.
    • Leverage marketing and trade finance in order to reduce transaction costs in export movements.”
  • Georgette Barnes “More linkages between African countries to encourage trade and movement(continental tourism, & Implementation of ACFTA”
How has your organisation and those around you managed to 'cope' for the lack of a better word, until now... And what are the plans... And what are the requirements/needs to get properly back on your feet... Even under COVID conditions

Amina Tahiru “Financial and technical support, so as to know how to handle and protect myself and my workers from the virus.”

Gold has breached a 30 year old barrier of US$ 1,700/ty oz. Small scale miners in gold should take advantage of this positive development. What are plans to take advantage of rare opportunity?

Amina Tahiru “I can collaborate with other women in gemstone mining from different countries so that we can add value to our products.”

I was wondering about the tourism and gemstone mining connection. It is really interesting to learn about that area of mining. Are there formal markets where gems are sold and how big is the tourism-to-buy-gems sector?

Pauline Mundia “A lot of tourists come to Zambia to view the famous Victoria Falls or Musi-o-tunya as locally known, meaning the smoke that thunders. We have also a number of game parks. There are no specific formal markets for gems but have a general market place for curios and rough gems in Livingstone which is open to tourists everyday. There are also shops in the tourist capital in Livingstone which specifically sell Zambian gemstones mounted on both silver and gold.

How is mental health services supported in the mining sector at big companies or also among SMEs?

Zenzi Awases “The month of May was celebrated as Mental Health month globally. My personal experience has been that most mining companies, at least in Namibia, made a concerted effort to drive the message of emotional well-being home. Some even adopted their efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

How can we protect women from increased vulnerability due to this pandemic? What can be done?

Stella Opakas “We can work through women groups at various levels by informing them of the areas where women are vulnerable as some of these vulnerabilities with time tend to become the norm and acceptable. Second we need to inform them where they can go for help as the helplines and support centres are in place but are underused.”

Some of the little things that are seen as "natural responsibilities" for women can compound the added challenges during this time. How does this aspect impact our leadership and adoption vs our male counterparts? How we can rise above it?

Zenzi Awases “Great question! We always hear the phrases “you are not ready” or “we are concerned about your flexibility” when we dare to take on the conversation of leadership. That said, if there is one thing the lockdown period has shown us all is that, women are flexible – we make things happen. I have always maintained that leadership should not be defined by gender. It shouldn’t be – a good leader should have the right mix of technical and people skills as well as business acumen. I have found that while we naturally have people skills, as women we spent most of our careers trying prove our technical ability (even if you have graduated cum laude) – this combination will get us up to supervisory to middle management level. What we lack (in most cases) is business acumen. However, even that is changing if you consider the amount of female MBA students who hail from the mining industry, mostly self-funded – and that is how we are rising above it. Soon the industry will have no choice but to recognize that.”

Technology is being used to address some of the issues women are facing. What are other innovations have you seen, or are you creating in order to answer some of the challenges that COVID-19 has presented? Are we also looking outside of the mining space to adapt solutions?
  • Lindi Nakedi “Technology in the exploration space has been around in terms of automation of rigs and rod handling technology which decreases the number of workers on any site and also increasing opportunities for women to become operators as well but this has an effect on job losses for support staff. Unless if we reskill and retrain the current staff to fill other roles that become necessary to support the site.”
  • Pauline Mundia “As Association of Zambian Women in Mining we have created  a Food Initiative Drive to help our members cushion the cost of buying food for their workers as well as providing them with face masks. This initiative is in collaboration with our marketing colleagues in Kenya and the USA who have also made donations. Any member who sells gemstones through our online market has to surrender a 10% of the proceeds as a way of paying back to the community in the mining area. So the 10% pay back and the donations are used to fulfil the food initiative drive. So far we have had one successful food drive.

We are also engaging the ACP-EU UNDP low value minerals programme to help in mitigating the covid-19 pandemic in the small scale mining sector by providing grants so that funds can be used to sensitise mining communities on how to keep safe and healthy during this trying time. Also the grants can be used to help in buying face masks, hand sanitizer etc and some food because many people have been laid off and even those in employment their employers who are actually our members are struggling financially.”

In the age of the fourth industrial revolution and with that directly affecting and providing opportunities for all, how do you think women in mining across the continent can use online platforms and digitalization to curb the effects of COVID-19?

Lindi Nakedi “The acquiring of didgital skills will benefit us in innovating new ways of operating in our oragnisations as well as exposing us to the data sciences. Taking the time to relook at how we have done things before and coming up with new ways using emerging technologies. The biggest problem in mining has been a slow adoption approach to methods and systems that can simplify as well as make the industry more efficient without compromising on quality outputs. This reset time that covid 19 has brought about has almost levelled out the playing fields because if we all have the ability to work from home, it means that we are also now utilizing other competencies as people that don’t require the strength that the mining industry had first painted the industry to need (the reason why men were allowed and not women). So covid 19 is accelerating our progress towards the fourth industrial revolution.”

Are there any additional challenges that are also exacerbating the health issues? Ones that have already existed pre-COVID-19? Or are we seeing previous challenges to the country or particular regions diminishing? And what opportunities are you seeing for strengthening frameworks that you did not see before?
  • Georgette Barnes “Lack of extensive use of PPEs in the informal mining sector, no formal health insurance plans and crowded work spaces definitely will exacerbate health issues, trying to resolve these for COVID could help us adapt better.”
  • Stella Opakas “Yes there are. In the northern part of Kenya there is currently locust infestation and floods from the long rains. These have posed a serious threat to our food security. As a result, there are people who are taking advantage of the artisanal miners and buying from them at the buyers terms and conditions owing to the fact that the cost of food has gone up. The pandemic has created an environment of harmonised communication, where government communication is central from health bringing in other departments. I think this provides an opportunity of informing artisanal miners and people in that space, more so in the remote areas where the business opportunities available now are limited and the pace of things of things has slowed down. The pandemic has brought an opportunity to reset and upgrade those that were previously left behind.”