Women in mining

Women in mining

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes.” Clare Boothe Luce

NIOH hosted a Women’s Month edition of their monthly Research Forum. Research Forum is a platform where members of staff at the institute debate the research they are planning or have been working on. The August Forum entitled “Women in Mining” and the presenter N Kgokong emphasised the challenges faced by women who mine. These include the provision of the ill-fitting and impractical personal protective equipment (PPE), sexual harassment from colleagues as well as rape and in more extreme instances murder.

Little is known about women who mine, in particular the health of these women. The Pathology Division conducts autopsy examinations on miners as part of the compensation process, the results of these autopsies can be used to further investigate the health of women miners. The findings of these autopsy examinations together with demographic data and occupational histories are captured on a database known as PATHAUT. With over 112 000 entries, this database has been the source of over 150 peer reviewed journal articles. In order to gain a more in depth understanding of the health of women in mining we set out to interrogate PATHAUT for women during the years 2005 to 2016.

The PATHAUT data shows alarming rates of pulmonary tuberculosis amongst women in the asbestos and gold mining industries, as well as an unsettling trend of premature death in women. A more detailed article on these trends will be published in the near future however in depth engagement with the industry regarding the protection of the health and safety of women in mining is essential.

A woman miner lashing ore underground

A woman miner operating a winch


Dr Asanda Benya is a researcher who set out to study women in the mining industry. In order to this she become a miner in 2008 and again between 2011 and 2012. These images are from an article she authored titled “Gendered Navigations: Women in Mining” in the Review of African Political Economy.

Author
Ntebogeng Kgokong