5 minutes with Ursule Ntumba, Kinsevere’s first female mining engineer

Written by MMG Limited     December 16 2021 at 6:36 PM

MMG deploys a number of training initiatives to upskill regional teams, recognising the contribution that women employees bring to technical roles. We sat down with Ursule Ntumba, Kinsevere’s Senior Mine Engineer and first woman to take up the role, to hear her views on advancing more diverse talent.

You once said that “perseverance and courage” have helped you to get on in your career since your first days working as a graduate. What are the other essential attributes and skills required in your work?

Mastering mining operations remains the key to success. Once acquired, it becomes the most important prerequisite in planning and the mine’s operation.

Women in mining are often employed in office-based roles. For those seeking mine site/field work, what’s your advice? Should they study at university or pursue on-the-job training by taking up entry-level mining work after completing basic courses like learning to drive a dump truck for example?

I would ask the new generation to exceed what my generation has achieved. Set yourself a plan and aim higher by graduating from university – and not just for a first level mine position. But for those who don’t have access to higher education and who have struggled to get ahead in life, on-the-job training can be a pathway. The important thing for any woman working in mining to say is “I am competent” and to demonstrate this in the field!

According to management expert McKinsey, women make up about 8 to 17 per cent of the global mining workforce. What needs to be done to attract and retain more women in the industry?

We need to start by stopping telling women that they shouldn’t be working in the mines. New technology and current operating methods mean that the physical efforts required as in the past are no longer required. There are other mining roles that women can take up such as topography, geology, mine planning and other non-physical work.

What would you do to make lasting changes to get more women working at mine sites?

Encourage applications from women at all levels.

What is your most memorable mining engineer career highlight that you can share with us?

I will always remember a ‘misfire’ incident when I was working as a drill-and-blast engineer. We discovered, that half of ‘the lot’ had not exploded. As a result, we had to clear more than 100 mine holes. I can still see the scene. It was intense! In the end we were able to hook up again and fire once again. This event emphasizes the critical role of teamwork and to always comply with safety standards.

MMG’s current ‘value share’ is We Respect Each Other. How do you bring this value to life in your daily work?

My career start was difficult because, in addition to working as a woman in mining, I was among the youngest. Some colleagues assumed that I had nothing interesting to contribute owing to a widespread cultural or popular belief among some communities that mines ‘have a female spirit’ and that women’s presence in the mines is ‘seen as competition by the spirit’ – making it difficult to extract minerals. But over time, other employees realised that I was determined to do my job properly and that discouraging me from pursuing my profession was useless. By remaining open, respecting the views of others and also sharing mine, cultural barriers are falling away. I work as a team with my colleagues to achieve a common result.

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