- Making history for women in mining at Implats
Implats is deeply committed to gender mainstreaming, which is to intentionally advance women in the workplace, and we have established plans and policies designed to give effect to this in a sustainable way. In parallel, our skills development programmes aim to create a pipeline of young diverse talent, with specific focus on increasing women representation, and succession planning to ensure advancement within the various career paths.
Nonkululeko Mabuza — known as Nonku to her peers — is the living embodiment of how our gender mainstreaming strategy can bear fruit. Nonku, made Implats history in 2019 after being appointed the Group’s first female Mine Manager. In June 2023, she shattered another glass ceiling after being appointed the first General Manager: Mining at our Impala Rustenburg operation, one of the world’s largest mining complexes focused on platinum group metals (PGMs).
Nonku started her career journey at Impala Rustenburg in 2005 as an Implats bursary student, pursuing Mining Engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand. After graduating, she was employed as a Mining Engineer in Training, participating in the Group’s graduate programme. In 2012, she was appointed as a Miner at Impala Rustenburg’s 1 Shaft and started shadowing Shift Supervisors in October 2013. In January 2014, Nonku obtained her Mine Manager's Certificate of Competency. Recognising her exceptional capabilities, she was appointed as a Mine Manager at 16 Shaft in 2019. Her exemplary leadership style resulted in a successful tenure as Mine Manager, typified by continuous delivery and outperformance, and ultimately her promotion to General Manager: Mining. Nonku was also the first woman elected to the council of the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa.
Her remarkable growth and development, starting from her days as one of our bursary recipients in 2005 to the exceptional leader she has become today, reaffirms our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion as fundamental pillars of our business operations.
Gender diversity is a business priority, ranging from setting targets to holding leaders accountable for results. The main focus is to address all areas where women are underrepresented and to close the gender gaps in retaining, hiring, promotions and pay. We started employing women underground in 2004 and targeted employment of women at entry level with the aim to develop and promote from within. Our training programmes reflect a significant increase in intake of women at tertiary education level and in-house training opportunities with the aim of presenting more opportunities for women in core and critical occupations. Mentoring is also a great way to build confidence in junior employees and programmes are implemented to upskill women on identified training programmes and succession planning.
Mentorship is one of Nonku’s passions, and it has enabled her to identify talent from a distance. She has contributed tremendously to nurturing young talent within Implats and within the mine-host community surrounding the Impala Rustenburg operations, where she is based. Her contributions to the mining industry have made her a noteworthy role model and inspiration, paving the way for young women aspiring to join the mining profession.
Her hard work, determination and hands-on commitment to safe production are evident in her work ethic and her career trajectory. She was a member of Impala Rustenburg’s flagship shaft team responsible for the operation's efficient production rollout, and she believes her team is the driving force to delivering set production targets. As she rose through the ranks, she focused on building strong production teams by incorporating the “care and growth” principles, which form part of the Group’s internal culture. In so doing, she has created an environment in which her team is empowered to thrive.
Implats has made commendable strides in ensuring women are recognised and supported, and Nonku is a testament to these efforts. She was one of the first appointees to Impala Rustenburg’s Gender Equity Forum, designed to promote gender equality to ensure long-term business growth and sustainability in a changing society. She continues to address issues relating to women's health and safety in the mining industry, and she collaborates with women in mining structures to ensure mines create an environment conducive to women's growth.
Reflecting on her journey Nonku says: “It was a challenge finding my own niche and authentic voice in the industry. But everything changed once I realised I didn’t need to operate in masculinity to succeed. When one is genuine about caring for the well-being of others, it becomes apparent in everything that you do and people will always follow a legitimate leader.”
“The industry was never ready for people who look like me to climb the ranks, so I had to actively create that environment — whether in the boardroom or in conversations — and initiate the availability to women of change houses, personal protective clothing and ablution facilities underground.”
Nonku is optimistic about the mining industry's future and the role that a new generation of leaders will play in ensuring it is a sustainable industry that evolves as technology and innovation advance.
“I believe you can learn from everyone on the mine, both those willing to teach and those who are not. It is up to you to determine what you want to get out of each encounter. Every leader's mind must be awakened in terms of skill transfer to younger professionals, as it is obvious that for our beloved industry to be sustainable, it must be left in capable and knowledgeable hands. Diverse teams have repeatedly proven to be successful in an ever-changing world.”
Gender inequality will not disappear on its own accord. This applies as much to employment practice as it does to the support provided to small businesses. As such, at Implats, we are committed to integrating gender equity into our policies, structures, systems and operations to strengthen and guide the collective effort of all employees to ensure women and men benefit equally from their work and that inequalities are not perpetuated.
Conscious strategies and intentional policies are essential to eliminate gender inequality in broader society. These should take the form of specific measures to recruit, develop and promote women, and to train, develop and support women-owned businesses — with the intent to address inequality in the workplace and the broader structure of the economy.
Developing and empowering female students, employees and entrepreneurs, together with eliminating unfair discrimination, practices and stereotyping of women, should be central goals. Women's full and equal participation at all levels of the economy should be the measure of gender equality.