GROWING up on a farm in Karibib, Sheron Kaviua (SK) was fascinated with gemstones in the area to an extent that she vowed to pursue studies in mineral resources to establish how her community could benefit from the precious stones.
Today, she is the country’s only female Mineral Resource Manager at Rosh Pinah Zinc Mine, with over 12 years’ experience in the mining industry. She is a specialist in mineral resource estimation, exploration, and grade control. She has carried out greenfield exploration on several projects in Namibia, and Angola. Sheron worked as a mine geologist at several operations in Namibia including Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine, and Skorpion Zinc Mine.
She also serves as a technical member of the executive committee of the Women in Mining Namibia (WiMAN) association that aims to attract more females to the mining sector, and assist them to reach their potential.
The mother of three holds a BSc in Geology and Environmental Biology from the University of Namibia, BSc Honors degree in Geology from Rhodes University, a Graduate Diploma in Engineering with Distinction from the University of Witwatersrand, and completed her MSc in Engineering at the same university.
In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MN) this week, Sheron spoke about the country’s mineral resources and when not busy with rocks, she enjoys spending quality time with her family.
MN: Who is Sheron Kaviua?
SK: Sheron Kaviua is the first female Mineral Resource Manager in Namibia, currently working for Rosh Pinah Zinc Mine, with 13 years’ experience in the mining industry. She is the competent person for resource compilation at the mine. Her core values are hard work and dedication, persistence, transparency, commitment, and discipline. Sheron is a proud mother to three energetic children, Taylor, Shannaze, and Jamilah.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing?
SK: I was born in Gobabis and raised by my late grandparents at Okoukambe village in the Aminius district. I was my grandmother’s favorite child and I used to promise her that when I grow up, I would buy her all the luxurious things. My grandparents were Roman Catholic and I attended the St. Konrad Primary school in Stampriet. The strong discipline, hard work, and independence were characters engraved deep in our hearts by the school’s system. The hunger to succeed was driven by the promises I made to my grandmother and the desire to be self-sufficient. My grandparents did, however, not live long enough to reap the fruits they sow.
MN: What triggered your interest in mining, especially in mineral resources?
SK: My love for traveling and outdoor activities triggered my interest in the mining sector. When I was choosing major subjects during my undergraduate study, I chose the ones with the most field trips (environmental biology and geology). My parents had a farm in the Karibib district with gemstones and I wanted to know more about rocks so that I can help them benefit from the mineral resources.
I chose to specialize in the geostatistical estimation of mineral resources because of my curiosity of wanting to understand the spatial distribution of the elements and how drill hole information relate to each other in space. Most importantly, I wanted to know how big the mineral resource is and what the quality of the mineral resource is.
MN: What does your job entail as a Mineral Resource manager?
SK: I am responsible for managing the mineral resources, conversions from conceptual resources to measured. I am overseeing the geology, exploration and survey sections. I am responsible for the mineral resource budget, cost management, mineral resource project management, ensuring a steady feed grade to the plant and to nature a high-performance culture at the Mineral Resource Department.
My typical day starts at 06h45 with an early caucus at the Mineral Resource Department, followed by an interdepartmental meeting at 08h00, this is followed by an underground visit to the stopes and drill rigs until lunch time, twice or three times a week. If I am not underground, I do office administration and technical (resource estimation) work at the office.
MN: In your view, does the country have enough mineral resources to depend on the mining sector as an economic pillar?
SK: Yes, Namibia has enough mineral resources to depend on the mining sector. Namibia’s mineral resources include diamonds, copper, lead, zinc, gold, and uranium. The country has three mobile belts (when continental plate crumples and is pushed upwards to form one or more mountain ranges), the Gariep, Kunene and Damara belts. In my view, these belts are underexplored, and they have the potential to host world class deposits like the Katanga copper belt in Zambia, the Greenstone belt in Zimbabwe and the Congo belt. Alluvial and placer deposits that host uranium and diamonds are well explored and are the backbone of the mineral sector. The eastern half of Namibia is covered by post-Karroo sediments of the Kalahari Group that may contain coal seams. Example, Aranos, Waterberg and Ovambo basins have known coal seams but they are underexplored. The syn –to – post-tectonic Damara intrusive rocks have the potential to host rare earth elements, a good example is the Desert Lion Energy Company which commenced processing of lithium stockpiled material in December 2017 from their operation which is located 30km southeast of Karibib. Additionally, given that mining accounts for 11.5% of GDP, but provides more than 50 percent of foreign exchange earnings and according to the National Planning Commission (NPC) forecast, the mining sector’s contribution to GDP is targeted to reach 15.2
percent in 2022. I will with certainty say that the country has enough mineral resources to depend on the mining sector as an economic pillar.
MN: Many have criticized Namibia’s ownership of mines. What is your view in this regard considering government’s small percentage in some of the biggest mines, especially in uranium?
SK: In my view, Namibia is progressing well in terms of ownership of mines. We are guided by the Mining Charter, although it is not compulsory for mining companies to comply with the requirements of the Mining Charter. In terms of ownership, the charter requires five percent ownership by Historically Disadvantage Namibians (HDN), an additional two points for every 11.25 percent above the five percent. I presented at the first Annual Leadership Development Conference for Women in Mining which was held in April 2017, where I looked at using the Mining Charter as a tool to progress women in mining. In 2015, out of 14 mining companies, only four did not comply with the Mining Charter.
My finding was that, although more than 60 percent of mining companies have achieved the minimum requirement of 5 percent HDN, men are benefiting more than women. Other legislation that is currently under review is The New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) that calls for 25 percent ownership by Historically Disadvantage Namibians. Looking at the neighboring countries, South Africa (Mining Charter) requires 30 percent Black Person shareholding which is further subdivided into eight percent employee scheme, eight percent community just and 14 percent BEE entrepreneurs. Zimbabwe and Angola require 50 percent local ownership. Based on the policies on ownership requirement in the mineral sector of neighboring countries, one would tend to state that the NEEEF is not far-fetched. However, considering, our small population, the current economic status of the country, the fact that mining requires high capital and it is a high-risk operation, the policies and regulations should attract more international investors. In my view, a good start for Namibia would be to make the Mining Charter compulsory to all mining companies and mineral rights holders.
In terms of government ownership in the mineral sector, I agree with the industry leaders in the legal fraternity that government cannot be the regulator of the mineral resources and be a shareholder at the same time. It is however important for the government to have a significant stake in mineral resources so that income generated can remain in the country but then an independent regulatory body should be formed to regulate the mineral sector.
MN: What advice do you have for little girls on taking up studies and careers in your area of specialization?
SK: For the little girls, attend career fairs and request your schools to take you for a mine visit so that you get the exposure at an early age and develop the passion for the mining sector. With dedication, discipline, hard work and commitment you can only succeed. You will enjoy the gumboots and safety boots from Monday to Friday, but on weekends you can rock your heels and Brazilian extensions.
MN: What has been your experience working in a male-dominated sector?
SK: My journey in the mining sector has been fun and I was granted enough opportunities to progress as a woman. I grabbed all the opportunities and never looked back, the rewards are pleasing. The mining sector is not as scary as it sounds, I enjoy and embrace the challenges faced because the challenges nurture me into a strong, effective specialist in my area of study and manager.
MN: Just what do you do for a little fun?
SK: I love traveling, listening to music, camping and spending quality time with my family. I don’t miss church on Sundays
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