Fewer strikes 'if more women in mining'

Johannesburg - Women in the mining industry face mammoth challenges, from a lack of suitable physical facilities and protective clothing, to outright sexual harassment, according to Debbie Ntombela, who specialises in mining law at Hogan Lovells.  

“All over the world, mining is a male-dominated industry and I think South Africa is leading in terms of developing women in mining," she said.

"That said, it’s a tough place to be, whether you are in the public or private sector. You always have to prove that you are 10 times better than your male counterparts."

Transforming the industry

She said in many instances men have not really accepted that women can work in mines.

Aspects of the physical reality of mining, especially in mining operations, continue to be unwelcoming for women.

“The physical conditions women work under are often inappropriate,” said Ntombela.

“You still find ablution facilities that both genders are expected to use, creating circumstances that are ripe for harassment.”

She believes it could take another 10 years before women are truly accepted as part and parcel of the industry, especially underground.

“Women are loyal, diligent and hardworking and if there were more women in the industry, I believe we wouldn’t have all these strikes," she said.

"The first thing we think of is, I have a child and I need my salary.”

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