She was recently awarded the Government Certificate of Competence (GCC) in Mechanical Engineering from South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources for her work at Venetia, the country’s largest diamond mine.
It’s a momentous achievement and one that secures her place in the history books as the first Historically Disadvantaged South African (HDSA) woman within DBCM to acquire her GCC via the De Beers Graduate Training Programme.
But Deni has always been determined to set an example – especially for her siblings and extended family.
“I come from a village where people don’t experience opportunities. So using my own life as an example is far more powerful than telling people what is possible.”
A passion for mining
Deni grew up in the village of Mmotong, just west of Polokwane, in the Limpopo province, South Africa.
Her first encounter with the mining industry was organised by a partnership between De Beers and Careerwise, a Johannesburg-based organisation that specialises in the management of bursary and scholarship programmes.
The partnership arranged industry exposure for students at her school, which included site visits.
“I found my first visit to an operation extremely exciting. The huge scale of everything around me was beyond what I had imagined and I felt absolutely energised by the environment.”
And that’s when her passion for mining took hold.
Deni became enamoured with the idea of becoming an engineer and was later accepted as a De Beers bursar, studying Mechanical Engineering. The De Beers and Careerwise partnership bursary funded her expenses including board and lodging, books and medical cover.
Climbing the career ladder
Deni is still captivated with the mining industry’s dynamic environment. She appreciates its diversity both in terms of people and skills, encompassing everything from exploration and geology to finance and community relations.
“The sheer scope of what we do in mining is part of what makes it such an appealing career. You have the fast paced, high pressure reality on the ground and then the beauty and mystique of our product, the diamond – this is an intoxicating combination.”
After receiving her GCC, Deni was appointed as Acting Load and Haul Engineer where she managed the safe operation, maintenance and repair of Venetia Mine’s earth moving machinery. Furthermore she managed and provided technical support to various maintenance and repair contractors including Barloworld and JCB.
Deni has completed her placement as Acting Load and Haul Engineer and is now Section Engineer for Ore Processing.
Being a female engineer in a male-dominated industry can be difficult and Deni has come to expect a level of surprise when people learn about the nature of her job. Engineers at Venetia Mine have been predominantly male, and so Deni doesn’t blame people for having certain expectations.
Fortunately, throughout Deni’s time as a graduate and later as an Engineer in Training (EIT), she was surrounded by inspiring and motivating mentors who shaped the person she is today.
One of these was DBCM Technical Lead for Engineering, Steve Blake, who has nothing but praise for Deni.
“The GCC is not an easy qualification to obtain. We are very proud of Deni’s achievement and we see a great future for her.”
When asked about challenges she has encountered in her career, Deni is adamant that most were self-imposed and psychological.
“I don’t want to think of myself as a black female engineer in mining. I am just me. I refuse to accept that who I am may be an obstacle to achieving my dreams. Start within and let your actions reflect your own way of thinking. People will change with you. I have experienced this first hand. You are changing perceptions purely by being a female engineer and doing what you do.
“You are the change.”
Deni currently works as Section Engineer – Ore Processing for De Beers Consolidated Mines and is based in South Africa.