Living the dream
Lindiwe Nkambule, Chief Geologist at Glencore Eastern Mines, was first drawn to the profession during a high school science expo. Today, among her long list of responsibilities, she leads a team that ensures safe and successful mining operations.
How did your career in mining begin?
It began right after obtaining my BSc Honours in Geology from the University of Pretoria in 2014. My interest in Geology was sparked during a science expo in high school. I love that Geology is a broad field that offers varying career options. During my undergraduate studies, Glencore Alloys offered me a bursary that helped pave my path in mining.
Upon successfully completing my studies, the company offered me permanent employment at Glencore Eastern Chrome Mines. I started out as a Junior Geologist and worked my way up to my current position through on-the-job experience as well as a few academic qualifications.
Tell us more about your role at Glencore?
I lead a team of Geoscientists. We are responsible for offering specialist geological services to the three mining operations under Glencore Eastern Chrome Mines. One of my key responsibilities is interpreting geological data for the evaluation of the orebody, advising on the character of the ore deposit and related geological disturbances for effective short, medium, and long-term Mine Planning. I monitor and manage operational processes to identify high potential geological risk areas, liaise with other departments and advise on remedial actions to ensure maximum exploitation of the orebody.
I also ensure that the surface and underground exploration drilling programme is planned well and executed effectively — to ensure that mining and prospecting areas are well covered. I also assist and monitor consolidation and regulatory compliance to mineral resources, and reserves estimates, across the Eastern Chrome Mines.
Another important aspect of my job is to effectively manage the geology team and contractors, therefore ensuring that all geological work is carried out safely and that all hazardous geological structures that could have an impact on the stability of the hanging wall, safety, production and quality of ore are communicated.
In your experience, what is the relationship between mining and science?
Science is employed throughout the mining life cycle — from exploration to extraction, right through to processing. Among other things, the information that we gather from geophysics assists in identifying geological anomalies. The acquired data from exploration drilling is used to improve geological models and the information is used to assist in short, medium, and long term Mine Planning. The mineral resource and reserve classifications are based on the confidence levels of geoscientific knowledge. Meaning that before any mining takes place, there has to be exploration. Ultimately, the scientific knowledge that we gather forms the very basis of mining.
What role does science play in mining?
The first phase of any mining operation is identifying the minerals of economic interest. Geology, geophysics, and geochemistry are some of the science disciplines used in the initial phases of the mining life cycle. For mining to take place successfully, there has to be an in-depth understanding of the minerals of interest, which is achieved through scientific methods. Science is critical for further technological advancement in the effective and continuous extraction of minerals within the earth’s crust.
Any advice for women looking to pursue a career in mining?
The mining industry is such an exciting field to be in. The industry may be filled with several challenges, especially for a woman but manoeuvring around the challenges builds character and resilience. It is important to build a strong support network early in your career. So, if you want to pursue a career in mining, one of the most important things is securing a good mentor. Identify what you are passionate about and let that drive you. As a woman in mining, always remember this quote, “If you are easily offended you can easily be manipulated”.