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South Africa’s Women in Business: Pioneering a New Era in the Mining Industry

Trailblazing Female Leaders Transforming South Africa's Mining Sector

by Oluwatosin Alabi

1. Nompumelelo Zikalala, CEO of Kumba Iron Ore

Nompumelelo Zikalala

As the first female CEO of an iron ore giant, Nompumelelo Zikalala represents a groundbreaking figure in the mining industry. Her journey began as a process engineer at the Cullinan diamond mine, backed by a De Beers Group bursary. Rising through the ranks, she became the first female General Manager within De Beers Group and later the deputy CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines. Her leadership during the US$2 billion Venetia Underground Project showcases her extraordinary capability.


2. Thabile Makgala, Mining Executive at Impala Platinum (Implats)

Thabile Makgala

Thabile Makgala’s impressive career started when she became one of the first female mining engineer graduates for Gold Fields at the age of 18. Now an executive at Impala Platinum, she oversees significant operations and actively works towards increasing female representation in mining. Her role as Chairperson of Women in Mining South Africa and recognition as one of the Top 100 Inspirational Women in Mining by WimUK underscores her influential position.


3. Dr. Thuthula Balfour, Head of Health at Minerals Council South Africa

Thuthula Balfour

Dr. Thuthula Balfour, a qualified medical doctor and public health medicine specialist, plays a pivotal role in the mining industry’s health sector. With over 30 years of experience, she coordinated the industry’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and was named one of the Top 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining in 2018.


4. Raksha Naidoo, CEO of The Particle Group and Chairperson of Women in Mining South Africa

Raksha Naidoo

Raksha Naidoo’s almost two-decade-long career spans various leadership roles. As CEO of The Particle Group, she supports small businesses and women-owned projects in the mining sector. Her advocacy for gender equality and violence prevention has made her a key figure in promoting the next generation of leaders.


5. Dr. Leila Fourie, CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange

Leila Fourie

With over 25 years of international experience in financial services, Leila Fourie stands as a model for aspiring women in business. As CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, she holds influential positions, including co-chair for the United Nations Global Investors for Sustainable Development.

6. Dr. Pontsho Twala, Lecturer at Wits School of Mining Engineering

Pontsho Twala

Dr. Pontsho Twala’s journey in mining engineering began in high school. Her academic achievements and dedication to research during the Covid-19 lockdown highlight her resilience and commitment to her field. Her work extends beyond academia, as she also creates employment opportunities in her community through her bakery.

7. Dr. Adwoa Issaka, Unit Manager Safety at South Deep Gold Mine

Adwoa Issaka

Dr. Adwoa Issaka is notable for being the first black South African female engineer to earn a PhD in mining engineering from Wits University. Her focus on mine safety and sustainable mineral-based economic development reflects her dedication to improving the mining industry.


8. Julie Courtnage, Director of the Mandela Mining Precinct

Julie Courtnage

With over three decades of experience in the minerals sector, Julie Courtnage brings a wealth of knowledge to her role as Director of the Mandela Mining Precinct. Her background in environmental and sustainability science, combined with her extensive operational experience, positions her as a key influencer in shaping the future of mining in South Africa. Courtnage’s dedication to ethical and sustainable mining practices has been instrumental in driving the industry forward.


9. Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, Executive Chairperson of Kalagadi Manganese

Daphne Mashile-Nkosi

Daphne Mashile-Nkosi is a trailblazer in the mining sector, having co-founded Kalagadi Manganese. Her journey, marked by overcoming significant challenges, exemplifies her resilience and leadership qualities. Her role in various business sectors, including telecommunications and banking, along with her numerous leadership awards, highlight her versatile and impactful career.

10. Deshnee Naidoo, CEO of Vale Base Metals

Deshnee Naidoo

Deshnee Naidoo’s career in mining, spanning over two decades, has seen her rise to significant leadership positions. Her diverse experience across multiple geographies, including South Africa, South America, and Australia, has established her as a prominent figure in the global mining industry. Naidoo’s appointment as CEO of Vale Base Metals is a testament to her expertise and leadership skills.

These women are not just leading figures in their respective fields; they are also role models inspiring the next generation of female leaders. Their achievements demonstrate that gender is no barrier to success in the traditionally male-dominated mining industry. Their stories of perseverance, innovation, and leadership are reshaping the narrative of women in business, particularly in the mining sector.

Their contributions go beyond their organizations, influencing policy, promoting diversity and inclusion, and driving sustainable practices in the industry. They embody the spirit of transformation and progress, making significant strides in a sector crucial to South Africa’s economy.

The impact of these women extends to broader societal benefits, including job creation, community development, and environmental stewardship. Their leadership is paving the way for a more inclusive and sustainable future in the mining industry, setting a benchmark for other sectors to follow.

In conclusion, the remarkable achievements of these women in South Africa’s business sector, particularly in mining, are a beacon of empowerment and progress. They are not only transforming the industry but also setting a precedent for future generations, proving that with determination and skill, women can excel and lead in any field.

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