Interview: Senzeni Moyo, Geotechnical Officer and Council Member of ZINIRE

Senzeni Moyo

Senzeni Moyo, Can you share your personal experience of entering the mining industry as a woman? What motivated you to pursue a career in this field?

I joined the platinum mining industry as a Geological technician, which required me to work on a shift schedule. The night shift was difficult and draining at first. For 4 years, I was the only lady on my production shift before I was joined by a few more ladies. The initial period was tough, as one had to prove their equal capabilities on the job. As my first focus was on proving myself, I gained confidence in my job faster and earned respect from my male colleagues. My honours go to all my male colleagues I worked with on this shift. My motivation to join the mining industry was mainly due to my resilient, disciplined, and risk-taking character which led me to choose a career path that is not very common among women.

You’ve been Treasurer at ZINIRE and a member of various professional affiliations. How has your involvement in these organizations contributed to your professional growth and the advancement of industry standards?

My involvement in various Rock Engineering, Geology, and Mining professional institutions has assisted in my interaction with high-level professionals and obtaining technical skills from original expert sources. Rubbing shoulders with high-level professionals is a lifetime experience on my professional front. Professional institutions always provide the latest information and news about my career path. My inclusion as an executive member of ZINIRE ignited an interest in other ladies to join the Rock Engineering profession. Organizing technical visits conferences and collaborating with the Young Rock Engineers Foundation has allowed me to pass on my knowledge and skills as an executive member of ZINIRE. The creation of a platform for the continued interaction of professionals has assisted the industry in updating practices and standards within the working environment.

As a Geotechnical Officer, what have been your key achievements and responsibilities during your tenure, both in your current role and in previous positions within the company?

My responsibilities span from rock engineering designing to quality assurance and control. The focus of my responsibilities is on the management of regional ground stability in mining excavations, including the prevention of localized fall of ground incidents and accidents. The key functions include designing, implementing, and monitoring stable excavations through mining layout and support design. The major achievement in my role is in participating in producing competent rock engineering designs that ensure stable mine roof support and a safe working environment for mine workers.

Could you elaborate on your experience in database management and its importance in the context of rock engineering standards and procedures?

Database management is crucial in rock engineering as all designs and recommendations depend on the raw data provided. Collecting information as mining progresses is as important as analyzing the data consistently. Consistency in data analysis will provide early warning signs in the event of a change in the geotechnical environment or process. Standards and procedures play an important role in implementing design recommendations in underground working areas. My experience has taught me that procedures for database management are equally important, as they provide a quality control measure on the information provided from various sources.

How do you approach quality assurance and control in rock engineering, ensuring adherence to industry standards and best practices?

Quality assurance and control are vital for ensuring the accuracy of rock engineering recommendations. They act as a checkpoint for validating assumptions, conceptual models, and values of rock mass properties used in design calculations. The principle of ‘doing it right the first time’ is crucial in minimizing or eliminating potential flaws in the initial stages of a model, design, or implementation process. Incorrect data collection, including inaccurate assumptions, can lead to disastrous consequences during ore extraction. Therefore, it is critical to ensure the accuracy and validity of all inputs and implementation processes to prevent catastrophic failures.

Your role involves project implementation and control. Can you provide examples of successful projects you’ve managed, and how you ensured their successful completion?

Mining a box cut, creating portal entrances, and establishing declines to reach the reef position from the ground level was a major experience in my career. This job demands great attention to detail to ensure success, as the life of the mine depends on it. The stability of a portal entrance is crucial for the long-term operation of a mine. I gained experience in slope stability analysis and monitoring when I was given a rock engineering and supervision role in an open-pit project. The underground projects have focused on designing large crusher chambers and silos in varying geotechnical complexities. Other geotechnical projects include the review of surface settler pond structures and the rehabilitation of long-standing box cuts.

You’ve been involved in training and development for best practices. How do you identify training needs, and what strategies do you employ to ensure effective training delivery?

In order to determine the training requirements of workers in the mining industry, it is important to analyze leading indicator trends in various mining activities. The mining process involves several different activities such as drilling, excavation support, sampling, charging, blasting, and lashing. Each of these activities requires a unique approach. By monitoring and analyzing incidents and accidents related to rocks, I can identify the key areas that require upskilling. This will provide a better understanding of the areas where workers need to be trained to improve their performance and safety at work. Planned Job Observations (PJOs), workshops training reviews, and impact reviews are tools that assist in identifying the training needs.

Can you share insights into your involvement in continuous improvement initiatives, particularly in implementing systems and procedures to enhance mine support and performance?

My role in the central department includes researching and identifying the relevant ground monitoring systems, providing procedures for monitoring, and implementing the monitoring systems. The continuous improvement initiatives include the introduction of geophysical scanning equipment for slope stability monitoring and underground structural mapping processes. Geophysical scans assist in the identification of unstable ground conditions beyond the surface of an excavation. The introduction of real-time monitoring instruments such as closure sensors, stress meters, and seismic stations has improved the tracking of deviations to provide early warning signs within underground excavations.

See Also
Ministry of Mines and Mining Development

Your educational journey includes pursuing an MSc in Mining Engineering (Rock Engineering). How do you foresee this advanced degree impacting your career trajectory and contributions to the mining industry?

The MSc in Mining Engineering program has the potential to enhance my educational and professional technical capabilities and enable me to achieve new heights in my profession and career. This program’s advanced level of knowledge will equip me with the necessary skills and expertise to become a highly proficient mining professional. With this knowledge, I aspire to become a successful and widely respected Rock Engineer in the mining industry. Additionally, as a researcher, I will utilize my skills to document technical knowledge in areas that require further exploration.

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in mining, based on your own experiences and insights?

A career in the mining industry demands an individual who is focused, principled, and steadfast. It requires someone with a strong character who can easily adapt to change. Once you become accustomed to the environment, the technical, educational, and financial benefits far outweigh the challenges you may face. Working in a male-dominated environment is possible.

Finally, could you elaborate on your interests in technical research and project management, and how these additional skills complement your role as a geotechnical officer?

The mining industry is becoming increasingly automated and digitized, and my research interests will help to improve processes within my department. As a Geotechnical Officer, it is my responsibility to ensure consistency in implementing business improvement initiatives and supervising major rock engineering projects. Staying up-to-date with the latest technological advancements and best practices is crucial for enhancing safety performance within the company. The basic principles of project management, which include planning, organizing, leading, and controlling, have assisted in the successful completion of major projects.

Besides the mining business, what are you into?

My extracurricular activities are focused on the educational front. Being a Chairlady at a primary school has helped me gain insight into the needs of children and their upbringing. My dream is to be able to assist on the educational front, especially towards the less privileged children in various societies. I wish to share my expertise and help the underprivileged reach their full potential.

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