Yes Captain! Interview Fazilla Mukazi – Shift boss, (PROTO) brigade’s person

Fazilla Mukazi

Meet Fazilla Kudzai Mukazi, a passionate and dedicated Mining Engineer currently serving as a Shift Boss at Bulawayo Mining Company (BMC)‘s How Mine, a gold producer located in Bulawayo.

With extensive experience in shaft sinking, rock mass support system design, and Mine Rescue, Fazilla has proven herself as an invaluable asset in the Zimbabwe industry. Despite facing challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, Mukazi has thrived leading several departments such as Mine Rescue (PROTO) serving as the brigade’s person where she is the only woman. According to “Captain” Mukazi her goal is to stay updated on technological advancements in mining and contribute to the growth of the Zimbabwean mining industry.

We interviewed Engineer Mukazi who recently went viral on Facebook for the “Yes Captain” video at the Mine Rescue Competitions of 2023. Here is the interaction below:-

Can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

I am Fazilla Kudzai Mukazi, aged 28. Currently employed at Bulawayo Mining Company as Mining Shiftboss. I am a Mining Engineer by profession (UZ) currently serving as a Mine Rescue (PROTO) brigade’s person.

What drove you to consider Mining as a career?

Insightful Career guidance sessions at High school. Professional individuals from various fields and experience conducted the sessions which really had an impact on our career choices. Despite facing discouragement, I persevered and pursued a career as a Mining Engineer. This decision turned out to be a good choice for me. Much gratitude is expressed towards my parents for unwaveringly supporting my chosen career path.

You are currently plying your trade as Shift Boss at BMC. What are your responsibilities and achievements in this role?

I was recently appointed this year as shift boss. I am responsible for Mine re-entries soon after Primary Blasting, manning production in all sections, enforcing safety regulations and optimum utilization of machinery and labour.

How do you ensure the enforcement of safety regulations in all sections as a Shift Boss?

Mining used to be regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs until safety regulations were formed for sustainable mining. Zimbabwean Mining is governed by statutory instruments such as SI 109 OF 1990, SI 72 of 1989 etc and the Mine tailor-made standard operating procedures. As a shift boss, the aim is to ensure all workmen are conversant with these regulations and working standards through refresher training and safety talks before the start of shifts.

What were your responsibilities as an Overseer Miner at Bulawayo Mining Company?

My responsibilities were Enforcing safety regulations in the Main development section. Section planning leading and monitoring ensuring the optimum utilization of machinery and labor. Enforcing adherence to Mining standards and achievement of the benchmarked efficiencies targets. I gained vast experience from the Shaft sinking Project, availing a new Mining block to all the Sublevel Open Stoping production areas. As the Main Development Section miner, I was in charge of 60 people. I had to ensure the safety of workmen and optimize labour and machinery utilization as I was working on availing one of the main production areas which is one of my achievements at BMC.

Can you tell us about your experience in shaft sinking and shaft equipping at BMC?

Shaft sinking is a critical stage in underground mining operations as it is a complex and challenging task. I would say it is one of the most intriguing experiences that every miner dreams of having. I have had the opportunity to be part of the entire mining cycle in both shaft sinking and shaft equipping. Depending on the technologies adopted, planning, precise execution and adherence to strict safety protocols are critical. I can confidently state that I have gained significant experience through my involvement in the ongoing shaft-sinking process at BMC.

Can you elaborate on your role as a qualified brigade person for the BMC Mine Rescue Response Team (PROTO)?

BMC Mine Rescue Response Team (PROTO) is a specialized team that remains on standby to respond promptly to any potential disasters or emergencies within the west zone. As one of the captains, my role involves planning activities, leading the team, maintaining their welfare and ensuring their readiness. This includes maintaining their physical fitness through regular training and exercises. By conducting drills and simulations, we aim to enhance our skills and readiness to respond effectively in real-life scenarios and promote safety awareness throughout the mine.

Mining Zimbabwe shot a video (which has had over 22 000 views on Facebook and 36000 impressions on LinkedIn) where you were giving instructions to your rescue team which comprised 100% men. It has earned you the reputation of being an “Iron Woman”. As a woman do you face any challenges working with and leading men?

My experience in the mining industry has been primarily focused on two mines: Mimosa Mines and Bulawayo Mining Company. These organizations have placed a strong emphasis on women’s empowerment, creating an environment that is conducive to my growth as a Mining Engineer. I have been fortunate to receive equal opportunities and support from my male counterparts, ranging from management to subordinates, hence no hectic challenges faced.

Describe the project you undertook at Mimosa Mine, designing a new rock mass support system. What were the objectives and outcomes of the project?

Mimosa Mines had initiated undertaking a mining project in a highly fractured area. The main objective was to design and implement a robust rock mass support system to ensure the safe mining of the orebody. To achieve this, advanced mining software such as PHASE 2 and Rocklab were utilized to simulate the stresses on various excavation designs. This allowed for the development of an optimum design that would not only make the mining of the ores profitable but also ensure the safety of both workers and machinery involved in the mining process.

Some people are of the opinion that Mining is for men, your comments on that?

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So far, I have managed and I know a number of females who are doing extremely well, some are my role models. I can confidently say that I am living proof that mining is a field open to anyone willing to put in the effort. Contrary to popular belief, mining is not selective based on gender orientation. Like any other field, it requires a certain level of commitment and dedication. With hard work, compliance, and genuine interest, anyone can succeed in this industry.

What are your future career development goals within the mining industry? How do you plan to contribute positively to the growth of the Zim industry?

To remain acquainted with the latest technological advancements in mining as the industry is in transition to the fourth industrial revolution. It is essential to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in mineral exploration, extraction, and processing technologies. As minerals are a non-renewable resource, some mineral deposits will soon require advanced technology to extract and process, and I can be a valuable asset in the continuous growth of our mining industry.

If there are things you would change in the Zimbabwe Mining industry what will those be?

From a brigade person perspective, it is evident that there is a pressing need for increased community engagement in order to raise awareness about mining safety. The mining industry is currently facing numerous challenges, particularly with regard to artisanal mining disasters. As a mining engineer, I strongly believe that it is crucial for professionals in the field to be well-versed in advanced technologies and to implement them in their respective work areas. This not only leads to potential profit gains and world prestige but also ensures the safety of workers, especially considering the fact that many mineral deposits are now located at deeper underground levels.

Tarisai wishes to be like you. What is your advice to her to reach where you are?

Dear Tarisai I have been fortunate enough to enter the industry through hard work, starting from my education and working towards securing a position within the field. Over time, the industry has embraced the agenda of women’s empowerment, dispelling the myth of it being a “men-only” zone. Today, there are limitless opportunities available within the industry, and one can dream as big as they desire. However, it is crucial to have proper career guidance from experienced individuals who have already made their mark in the industry.

Besides the Mining business, what is Fazi into?

I really try hard on the work-life balance. I recently joined a golf club, which I find quite interesting. In my spare time, I enjoy culinary and hair plaiting, which are hobbies that bring me joy and relaxation.

This article first appeared in issue 70 of the Mining Zimbabwe Magazine first distributed at the Association of Mine Managers of Zimbabwe (AMMZ) AGM and Conference 2023

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