Women in Mining – Daphne van der Westhuizen says it all began with a hiking trip.
What first got you interested in geology?
I became interested in geology after a hiking trip to Clarens, one of my favourite places in South Africa, with a big group of people. One of the men in the group was a geologist and he just spoke about the difference in landscapes and rock formations as if he were telling an interesting story. Growing up, every holiday my family went on was an outdoors adventure holiday. We either went camping, hiking, scuba diving or on 4×4 trips. I am thus naturally drawn to nature and the outdoors and realised that I wanted to follow a career that would allow me to be in or close to nature, which geology has allowed. While I was studying, I was often questioned about why I wanted to become a geologist, work in the field or in a mine. The reason: I want to have a different view every day.
What was your first job at De Beers?
I started with De Beers in 2012, within Group Exploration Laboratory Services, where I was the Laboratory Supervisor in the Sample Treatment and Recovery department. I was very fortunate to work with a diverse group of people treating samples from across the company.
Tell us about your current position and what it involves day to day?
In 2014, I became an Exploration Field Geologist within South Africa Exploration. This involves applying for prospecting rights within South Africa and doing the groundwork – that is, geophysical surveys, drilling and sampling on the granted prospecting areas. I am part of a team of about 20 people team who are working hard at making the diamond dream an everlasting reality. De Beers has given me the opportunity to grow and develop in the different positions I have held. I am able to push myself to grow further with the help and guidance of the colleagues I work with.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I make an effort to provide encouragement and will always try to bring positive energy to a team that I am working with. I believe you should always treat people the way you would like to be treated.
What job would you like to be doing in 10 years’ time?
In 10 years (maybe even sooner), I would like to be managing a multidisciplinary team on early or advanced stage exploration projects across southern Africa.
What qualifications do you hold?
MSc in geology from the University of Johannesburg. I am also a member of the Geological Society of South Africa.
What advice do you have for women wanting to enter the mining industry?
A career in mining is exciting and allows so many different opportunities. Don’t let anything stand in your way. With the right attitude and a geological hammer, all things are possible – dream big and dare to fail.