Being part of an all-female drill crew at Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore Mine in the Northern Cape has not only fulfilled a lifelong ambition for Veronica Moratuwa De Koker to work in mining, but she is also one of the first female drill-rig operators in the industry. The crew was trained by technology provider Rosond of Midrand.
“I was very excited to hear that I would be one of the first women, which now surely means that others can follow confidently in my footsteps,” comments De Koker. Growing up in Dingleton, her interest in mining was piqued by the site of articulated dump trucks at nearby Sishen. Prior to her new role, she was unemployed and living at home.
Upon being recruited, De Koker underwent a month’s training at Rosond’s training centre in Postmasburg. This covered everything from to First Aid to basic rigging, firefighting, isolation and lockout procedures and, most importantly, training on Rosond’s next-generation drill rigs. The courses consisted of theoretical and practical components, followed by extensive evaluation and examination.
Once her training and induction had been completed, De Koker finally went to site, which she describes as a profound moment that was the culmination of a lifelong dream. She and her team were well-received at Sishen by their mostly male colleagues. “Everyone was very supportive,” she highlights. This is also testament to the diversity and inclusivity of the work environment and culture that Anglo American cultivates at all of its operations.
Sharing her views on women in mining, De Koker feels proud to be in the vanguard of such an important development. For young women with similar ambitions, De Koker advises them to finish matric and further their studies if possible. Once successful, young women must not be complacent in their pursuit of further opportunities either.
“They must know that they can’t relax because it’s tough out there.” De Koker adds she is determined to learn and grow even further now that she has achieved this important initial milestone. “The journey was not easy because I was in such a male-dominated environment. Looking ahead, my goal over the next five years is to hopefully become a drilling supervisor.”
The drill rigs are fully remote controlled, with operators working in an air-conditioned control room with its own restroom attached. This allows for a much higher level of safety because there is a lot less manual intervention in the actual operation of the drill rig. Much of the work that previously had to be done manually is now automated.
Being a drill rig operator traditionally required brute strength to handle and load the rods and heavy equipment, which made it a difficult environment for women. “In addition to our latest technology, the opportunity also arose to train various female drill-rig crew, an idea that Kumba was highly responsive to. We are very pleased that it has been such a resounding success, and are very proud of the various female crews now working full-time at Kumba,” concludes Rosond MD Ricardo Ribeiro.