Emerging miner Kalagadi Manganese’s Kalagadi manganese project was an initiative by women from the onset, says chairperson Daphne Mashile-Nkosi.

The company, 40%-owned and managed by black women, did not buy into an existing operation; it was formed around the project instead by the women leading Kalagadi Manganese – from the prefeasibility phase and raising the capital required to conducting the exploration and studies to take the project to feasibility stage, she says.

“Women were not brought in as strategic partners to gain points, but were the initiators of the project and the company,” Mashile-Nkosi adds.

Women are also at the coalface of the project, unlike most black economic-empowerment initiatives where empowerment groups devolve everything to management, and only receive reports and provide suggestions and recommendations.

At Kalagadi, there are senior women and black managers; the chairperson leads from the front and is actively involved in running the company.

The area of this R11-billion project overlies the Kalahari manganese basin, and entails the construction of a manganese mine and a 2.4-million-ton-a-year high-grade sinter plant near Hotazel, in the Kuruman area of the Northern Cape. The output required to produce this amount of sinter will be three-million tons a year.

An additional component of the project is the construction of a 320 000 t/y ferromanganse smelter complex in the industrial development zone (IDZ) of the Coega deep-water harbour, in the Eastern Cape. The plant will be designed to have the flexibility to produce silicomanganese as an alternative product.

The smelter will be situated in Zone 6 of the IDZ metallurgical zone, and could possibly be expanded to handle 640 000 t of ore.

Meanwhile, the final blast for the 300 m underground mine shaft was completed in February, keeping the company on track to achieving its mid-2012 three-million-ton run-of-mine production target.

“The project is built on sound fundamentals, and makes sense economically from a shareholder’s and funder’s perspective,” says Mashile-Nkosi.

The Kalahari is estimated to contain 80% of the world’s known manganese reserves, which is an important ingredient in steel. “Exploiting and monetising this resource responsibly is therefore key,” she adds.

An evaluation of historically available information indicates that up to one-billion tons of mineable ore could exist under the prospecting area, covering a section of 8 000 ha.

That said,women are still struggling to make inroads into the South African mining industry, given its history of male dominance, says Mashile-Nkosi.

“It is difficult for some to accept that women can perform well underground or argue plausibly about mining issues.”

Even though there are improvements in the number of women who enter and train in the trades industry to become fitters or artisans, there is still some ground to be covered for women to reach a level of prominence in the mining industry, she concludes.

Source: Mining Weekly