The University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to welcome on board alumna Nozipho Dlamini, technical services manager at Anglo American’s Greenside colliery, who has accepted two high-profile advisory positions at the University.
A mining engineering graduate from UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology (EBIT), Dlamini is now a member of the Convocation Board, where she will act in an advisory capacity on alumni matters as well as for Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe. She is also on the Mining Engineering Advisory Board, which comprises leaders from the industry and academia who advise UP’s Department of Mining Engineering on industry trends to ensure that its programmes remain relevant and widely recognised.
“The University of Pretoria holds a special place in my heart, and I am always willing to serve the institution and make a contribution to my alma mater as it continues to grow and find its place among the best tertiary institutions in the world,” Dlamini says. “It is therefore with great pride that I accept these two positions.”
EBIT is particularly proud to have contributed to the careers of female leaders in highly specialised fields, especially those in which women are traditionally under-represented. Dlamini is one such UP graduate. In fact, she was appointed as the first female vice-president of the South African Colliery Managers’ Association, a professional body for managers in the local coal mining industry.
As technical services manager at Anglo American’s Greenside colliery – one of SA’s most productive underground coal mines – Dlamini leads a team of technical experts. The team consists of mining engineers, who do production planning and scheduling for the mine; geologists, who ensure that the best quality ore is mined; and rock engineers, who ensure the safety and stability of the underground environment through statistical designs and support standards. Dlamini also steers a team of environmentalists, surveyors, ventilation and occupational hygiene engineering specialists, mining project engineer and business improvement specialists.
She graduated with a degree in mining engineering from UP, and went on to obtain an honours and a master’s degree in technology management from the University’s Graduate School of Technology Management. Born in Bethal, Mpumalanga, and raised in Soweto, Dlamini was drawn to science and mathematics at school because the subjects held the promise of exciting career opportunities. And she seems to have found a dynamic career that she loves.
“Mining is one of those industries where one wishes for longer days because, in some instances, one sees the results of efforts almost instantly,” she says. “I enjoy leading a team of technical specialists and seeing the synergy between them as they work towards a common goal.”
But managing a large, multidisciplinary team also keeps her on her toes. Her day starts with meetings to discuss productivity trends, before catching up with team members to review performance and to set short- to medium-term goals. The rest of the day is spent in problem-solving sessions and strategy review sessions. At the end of the day, she does a reconciliation of all the work done and gets ready for upcoming tasks and events.
When considering the challenges of the mining industry, Dlamini says that mines struggle to retain female talent in core technical roles. “While a lot of work has been done to improve infrastructure and personal protective equipment for women, a working environment that accommodates and supports women should be standard across the mining industry,” she says. “The challenge lies with long hours and inflexible work schedules. Some women have left the industry to spend more time with their families or have taken on roles that give them more flexibility in terms of time. However, digitalisation and automation will take mining to the next level and allow for more flexible work schedules. There is a lot of exciting work to be done in that space,” she says, observing that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that more work can be done remotely if systems are set up and teams are empowered, accountable and have autonomy.
“In terms of coal mining, host community development and sustainability issues, environmental concerns and reduced investments are among the key challenges,” Dlamini adds. “So keeping a coal mine sustainable, profitable and in harmony with the mine’s surrounding environment is an interesting challenge.”
Yet, it is the very thing that keeps her motivated. She says she constantly needs to think outside the box to improve productivity and sustainability. “Working with a dynamic team and ensuring that I can create an environment for them to be creative, engaged and challenged is what keeps me going.”
Dlamini’s advice to young women is to use their formative years to learn, to gain experience and technical expertise to solidify their credibility. She encourages them to focus on finding a mentor and coach who will challenge their thinking, demonstrate leadership and guide their development in the right direction. She also advises women to be bold in the pursuit of their goals and to take up seats at decision-making tables.