Cynthia Kawele, a copper engineering Plant Fitter at Chambishi Metals since 2015 was born and bred in Chingola. She attended Kabundi High School where her favourite subjects were Biology and Physics, and she expected to go into nursing. But when a vacancy came up at Kokola Copper Mines, an uncle who had always taken an interest in her encouraged her to apply. The rest, as she says, “is history.”
A year later she joined NAFOM Contractors at Nampundwe Mine where she was responsible for maintenance of conveyor belts, Warman pumps, ball mills, Symons cone crushers and flotation cells.
Armed with a Mechanical Plant Fitting Craft Certificate from Mufulira Technical Institute, it’s all in a day’s work to work at Copper Sx, Tank House and Lime Plant repairing and maintaining the stripping machine, ball mills, Verderflex pumps, Warman pumps and cranes.
Cynthia has a nine-year-old son, but assures that if she had a daughter she would encourage her to follow her own dreams. Her down time is spent with her boy or going out for drinks with friends.
Despite enjoying sustained commercial growth in recent years, the global mining industry faces a looming skills gap. Alongside this trend, industry experts have observed that women are disproportionately underrepresented in the mining sector. In this context, the empowerment of women is not only a moral imperative, it has also become an economic necessity.
However, Mike Fraser, president and chief operating officer for Africa at Perth-based South32, says the mining industry’s culture needs to become “less alpha male” and has a long way to go to create a workplace that includes women. From safety gear to facilities, the sector often doesn’t cater enough for women. “Those kinds of conversations, while they are now emerging to the surface, are probably 20, 30, 40 years too late and I would say there’s still a significant amount of work we have to do.”