University of Johannesburg: Masters mining student Carol Mgiba on traversing the challenges of a male dominated industry

​It was in her final year of high school that Carol Mgiba decided she was going to pursue a career in mining.

After attending an open day at a university with her mind already set on engineering, she chose to go the mining route as she sought a more practical way to become an engineer.

“After looking through the prospectus, I was excited about mining and becoming part of the designing phase of a mine. It is a career that helps you to think about the business of things. The main purpose of sinking a shaft and getting resources is to make money. I wanted to be part of the process of getting those resources and be part of the optimisation team. It was more of a practical engineering side for me and I wanted to be part of that.”

Not a lot of women go into mining and Mgiba saw it as a great place to start her career and make a name for herself.

“Working in the industry wasn’t quite the way I thought it would be. Because I am a woman and have a family to take care of, there are challenges. My first few years I was part of big teams like geology, surveys, rock engineering and I learnt a lot about the different departments and how they work.”

Mgiba added that the trajectory in mining was good. The ranks level up from a miner to a shift boss to a mine overseer and then becoming a manager of an operation.

“If you are deterred in any way and can’t perform your job, it will limit your growth in the ranks. I was affected by that but I realised I could then change things for myself and specialise in other avenues like rock engineering.”

Mgiba enjoys rock engineering and doing research and has found it to be more accommodating for her as a wife and mother.

“I can have family time and career time. I don’t feel pressured to do too much at the same time.”

Mgiba studied Mining Engineering at the University of Johannesburg and is now doing her Masters in Sustainable Mining focusing on artisanal mining and small-scale mining.

“I am trying to upgrade artisanal mining to small-scale which is much safer through applying rock engineering principles. The move to small-scale will make it more productive and safer.”

For young girls who are looking to pursue their own careers in the male dominated industry, Mgiba offers this advice: “It’s a rewarding field where you can learn and create for the industry. It’s not just about maths and science and book knowledge but also what you are bringing to the industry. It’s a place where you can self -actualise and realise your own greatness. There is a lot that needs to be done and it can be done.”

Mgiba is currently lecturing in the Department of Mining Engineering and Mine Surveying at the Doornfontein (DFC) campus. She lectures on Environmental Management to first and second year students.