Thelma Nyabanga: Leading the Way as Acting Metallurgical Engineer at Eureka

Thelma Nyabanga

Thelma Nyabanga is a 26-year-old ambitious young woman who graduated from the University of Zimbabwe with her Bachelor in Metallurgical Engineering in 2020 She completed her Masters in Mineral Processing and extractive Metallurgy in 2023. She joined Eureka Mine in 2021 as a graduate learner, was promoted to process metallurgist end of 2023 and she is now acting Metallurgical Engineer.

Despite her demanding career, Thelma is also a dedicated wife and proud mother of two.

Mining Zimbabwe had a one-on-one with Nyabanga and here is our interaction.

In your current role as Acting Metallurgical Engineer, you mention supervising and monitoring various plant operations. Can you share a specific instance where your skills in process optimization and problem-solving significantly improved plant efficiency at Eureka Gold Mine?

Well, I worked on a project where I developed a model for tracking our major consumables, which came as a major cost-saving initiative as we now get to control consumptions before they go out of hand, monitor daily and weekly consumptions against the budgeted targets, and apply corrective measures where necessary.

As a Process Metallurgist, you were involved in developing and maintaining quality assurance systems. How did you contribute to ensuring quality standards in mineral processing and any continuous improvement initiatives you implemented?

As part of process optimization, every day I conducted a thorough analysis of the processing operations, identifying areas of improvement, identifying bottlenecks, and proposing optimizations to enhance overall efficiency and product quality. I initiated continuous monitoring systems and utilized data analytics to identify trends, anomalies, and optimization opportunities in real time, which allows for timely intervention to address issues.

In your role, you monitored and adjusted the production process using statistical process control. Could you elaborate on how statistical analysis of processing parameters and metallurgical testing results has helped in achieving set targets at Eureka?

By analyzing historical data on processing parameters such as grind, and reagents dosage, among others, we can establish control limits and early detection of deviations from set targets. This allows for prompt corrective action, therefore minimizing the impact on product quality and process efficiency.

In your previous roles, you mentioned overseeing plant operations using advanced control systems like SCADA. Can you share how these systems enhanced operational control and contributed to achieving the target results?

SCADA plays a crucial role in overseeing plant operations in mineral processing through real-time monitoring, centralized control, historical data analysis, alarm management, to name a few. And by leveraging these capabilities, set targets are achieved more reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively, ultimately driving overall plant performance and profitability.

With a Master’s degree in Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy, how has your academic background influenced your approach to solving real-world challenges at the large-scale mineral processing plant?

It has helped a lot as I now have a deep understanding of the fundamental principles that drive our processes which allows me to analyze complex problems from first principles. Through coursework and research projects, I honed advanced analytical skills that enable me to systematically analyze data, identify patterns, and draw meaningful conclusions. Generally, I gained expertise in process optimization techniques like experimental design and statistical analysis.

As a leader, you have men working under you. As a 26-year-old woman, do you face any challenges or resistance working with men who at times will be ages closer to your parents?

Part of my management training was to learn interpersonal skills and communication proficiency and these skills have worked well in my favor. Most of the team are men and we have developed a good working relationship and we have mutual respect. The trick is to communicate effectively what you expect from them beforehand and clearly set targets all the while assuring them that we are a team.

With strong analytical skills, how do you use data analysis to drive decision-making in metallurgical processes?

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Timothy Chizuzu

It’s a requirement for the job of a metallurgist to have an inquisitive mind to question why is there and what could be done to better it. By systematically analyzing data, I get to identify opportunities for optimization and implement changes. Data analysis forms the basis of continuous improvement initiatives.

Guruve is deep in the rural areas, and as a young woman from Harare, how has moving to such a remote area affected you?

I have adjusted positively to the place and its peacefulness. My husband has been very supportive from the get-go and has also adjusted quite positively to the move. I have no regrets so far.

Thoko is inspired to be like you. What’s your advice for her to excel like you?

Go for it, don’t doubt yourself, and anything is possible if you put your head to it what’s needed is the drive, focus, and determination.

Besides Mining business, what’s Thelma into?

I’m a family person. When I’m not at work, I focus on my kids to cover up for the lost time.

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