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"Curiosity led me to venture into what was a male-dominated domain," says Zandile Cindi, who joined our South Deep mine in South Africa as Senior Manager: Strategy and Business Development in early 2021. Read on to find out where curiosity has taken Zandile in her career, and about working in our industry.
A CAREER IN MINING
How would you describe your career so far?
I am a professional engineer and hold a BSC (Hons) in Mining Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand, and am also a member of the Engineering Council of South Africa, Association of Mine Managers South Africa and the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.
The early days of my mining career were spent underground, where I pursued a production route as a night shift cleaner (miner), followed by gradual promotions to stoper, developer, shift supervisor, planning, project management and eventually progressed into a technical and operations advisor role (for an executive) and principal advisor at a global mining company. My career advancement over the years was underpinned by a metalliferous blasting licence (GFBLA learner official), a shift supervisor certificate, a mine manager’s competency certificate and an advanced business project management diploma.
Before joining Gold Fields, I spent a part of my career at Rio Tinto, Assmang, Lonmin and in Technical and Management Consulting. This exposure allowed me to develop 'soft' people skills and solid core business skills, making me a decent team player and enhancing my ability to lead self and others.
My career choices have given me access to a diverse and unique environment, where I have been rewarded with a strong professional network. I have met and worked with some of the best coaches and mentors who have helped me thrive in what is perceived to be an arduous industry. The calibre of people in mining remains unparalleled.
When did you develop an interest in mining?
It all began between the ages of 9 and 12, with a nudge to my subconscious by Mr A Douglas (the former and late President of SAIMM) teaching me about shaft sinking and subsequently being dubbed "Little Master Sinker". My father who was an employee at Cementation Mining, where Mr Douglas held a leadership role, would occasionally take my sister and I to his workplace and that was the beginning of my introduction to mining.
What do you like most about mining?
The constant challenge that necessitate agility, boldness, and continuous re-invention of oneself. The people in mining and their relentless spirit in meeting their goals.
What kind of talents and skills are critical to the mine of the future? What kind of person is needed in our industry for the future?
The mine of the future is a continuous evolution. This means the workforce also needs to be evolving. We are exploring disintegrating traditional hierarchical structures to transform the workforce to suit the envisaged new way of working. This new way of working will be cross-functional, and jobs will be more meaningful and value-adding. The short- to medium-term pool of talent required will be tech-driven and data focused (Big data and Internet of Things). It will be coupled with character traits of curiosity (eagerness to learn), boldness (upfront and frank), agility (design/redesign quickly; fail fast and move on) and most importantly the ability to adapt (change will be a constant and it will be critical for one to adapt and repurpose/reskill accordingly).
Why do you believe learners, students, younger people should consider working in core mining?
A career as a miner is not for everyone. Shift work and long hours in deep underground sites, without sunlight, can be demanding mentally and physically. The underground work could be perceived as potentially unsafe, but advances in technology and safety protocols have led to significant improvements. Mining is without a question unique and demanding, but for those of us who have been in the industry cannot imagine doing anything else. There are many benefits in the mining world: it is people-centric; always evolving and a thrill seeker’s delight; offers relocation opportunities (mining takes place all over the world and in different climates) and opens the door to continued growth.
WORKING AT SOUTH DEEP
In a nutshell, what is the focus of your current role?
It is fundamentally about continuously redefining the operational and mining value chain experience and building an even stronger and more agile business.
What has surprised you most about South Deep?
The ability to adapt and adopt the "new way of working"; the seemingly seamless migration from conventional mining to a mechanised operation; the leadership and employee boldness to evolve a traditional deep gold mine into a world class operation; and the deployment of a brilliant turn-around strategy.
Why is this an exciting time to be part of the team?
Our audacious goal at South Deep is to rapidly improve productivity and maintain a sustainable mine for future generations. This ambition, accelerated by the impact of Covid-19, has encouraged us to expedite the re-imagining and deployment of systems and processes of work to meet our long-term goals and overcome challenges presented by the pandemic.
The inter-team consultations and interactions are swift and meaningful, and decision-making is prompt. No two days are the same and most tasks call for a different solution. The rate of learning and work execution is rapid.
The combined wisdom and experience of the team is unsurpassed, and the company values are held in high esteem and lived and practised by all stakeholders.