Sebotse Pearl Nkoana making her mark in the mining industry

The number of women working in the mining sector has increased significantly in the past few years, a key indicator that gender diversity in the workplace has become a major priority for the industry.  

Industry players such as AECI Mining, a big supplier to the mining industry, are working hard to increase their female representation in the workplace through various initiatives, thus creating an all-round, more attractive reputation for the industry as a field in which women can thrive. As a business that acts as a true advocate for inclusion and representation, AECI Mining is home to some of the strongest women in the industry who have successfully challenged the stereotypes this industry is known for.

Sebotse Pearl Nkoana electronic product support technician at AECI Mining Explosives

One such woman is Sebotse Pearl Nkoana, electronic product support technician at AECI Mining Explosives. Her role entails facilitation of electronic initiation systems course material to end users, helping mining operations enhance their blasting practices through electronic initiation systems as well as through product support and blast investigations.

Having graduated with a BTech degree in Geology from Tshwane University of Technology, Nkoana completed her post-graduate internship as a grade control geologist with Kumba Iron Ore in Thabazimbi, Limpopo, before the iron ore market plunged in 2015, resulting in job losses.

As they say, when one door closes, another opens. After the unfortunate retrenchment, Nkoana successfully applied for an internship programme, which ran from 2015 to 2017. She joined AECI Mining Explosives on a full-time basis at the end of 2017 and has found her passion in blasting ever since.

Commenting on why she chose this career path, Nkoana says, “I grew up in a household where I was encouraged to do anything; my gender was never a barrier. Like any other male-dominated industry, I faced my fair share of challenges when I joined the industry.”

“Fortunately, there are those who walked before us in this industry and made an impactful contribution. It is due to these strong women that we are today afforded the same opportunities as our male counterparts and the respect that we deserve. We are judged on our contribution, not our appearance,” she adds.

Nkoana believes that the success of women in the workplace also depends on the support from the employer. “The culture at AECI Mining has always been instrumental to enhancing the growth of women in the industry. From the first day, I engaged with my line manager, who suggested a few courses he wanted me to consider, both externally and internally, to help advance my career. This culture of advancement streams from the top management right down to the bottom, supported by agile management techniques.”

A case in point, she says, is the recent establishment of the Millennial Council, which is sponsored by AECI Mining Executive, Edwin Ludick, and fellow members of the Executive Committee (Exco). The Millennial Council seeks to give the company’s young professionals an opportunity to shadow the Exco and experience aspects of leadership first-hand. One of the major objectives of this initiative is to expose members of the council to understand the AECI Mining leadership philosophy, processes, deliverables and work-life balance.

“In my view, this initiative is a key enabler to the development of open-minded leaders. It breaks down silos and builds alignment between generations, departments and geographic regions. It also creates a sense of purpose and belonging, and grows a sustained leadership philosophy. In addition, the members of the council are given the opportunity to gain exposure to the Executive Committee,” says Nkoana.

The inspiration within the company is remarkable, she adds. “The opportunities are afforded to all of us, regardless of gender or age. Brick by brick, we are all building towards one AECI.”

Looking to the future, Nkoana is aiming for further growth in the industry. “I would like to complete my MBA and follow in the footsteps of women who defied the odds and took their seat at the table. I want to be counted among the women who stood up to make their dreams possible in the mining industry,” concludes Nkoana.


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