Hilda Sebetha challenges perceptions about working in the mining industry

Published: 05/11/2014
The mining sector is full of inspirational women and Hilda is no exception
Hilda’s profile was found on the website This Is Gold,  an initiative begun by South African gold producers to provide insight into the gold industry, its processes and its contribution.

To see the whole page dedicated to Women in Mining on their website go to

“Hilda Sebetha is a shiftboss at Harmony Gold’s Doornkop mine, having been appointed to this position in February 2014. While the title harks back to days of old, the role of a shiftboss in an underground gold mine is a critical one that requires mining skills, safety knowledge and commitment, and the ability to manage and motivate people. In fact, it is the many hundreds of shiftbosses who play a crucial interface between workers and managers.

Hilda’s journey to reach this point in her career has not been easy. Born in Leboakgomo, Limpopo, Hilda found herself in a desperate situation in after her husband passed away and she had to provide for her two small children alone. Without any tertiary education, or even a matric certificate, finding consistent employment which enabled her to provide for her family was difficult and she worked at various jobs including as a security guard and as a clerk at the University of Sekgosese.

In 2003, she decide to start afresh and began working as a temporary general miner for Harmony Gold’s Doornkop mine, just south west of Johannesburg. “When I started working for the mine, things were difficult because I always thought that the mining industry was a man’s world. But, because I had a poor background and really needed this job, I told myself that I could do this,” explains Hilda.

Six months into the job she completed a training course at one of Harmony Gold’s operations which provided her with general mining skills. This was followed by a two-month mono-rope winch course, which equipped Hilda with the knowledge and skills to work as a mono-rope winch operator at Doornkop mine. In 2005 she obtained her Blasting Certificate after undergoing training for over a year and became the first female miner to work in the ledging area at Doornkop mine’s 192 level. In 2008, she was appointed fulltime as miner and five years later, in February 2014, she was promoted to Shiftboss at the Doornkop mine.

What Hilda likes most about her job is engaging with people from different cultures every day, talking about safety and discussing ways to comply with mine safety standards to help her colleagues keep safe. Hilda says, “The mining industry is a hard-hitting one. But, as a woman, if you are willing to work hard, and overcome any perceived challenges, you can succeed. As a supervisor, I make sure that I lead by example, respect other people’s culture and treat everyone equally. We need to understand that mining can be a challenging environment for women to work in, but with the right training and skills development, and support from your employers, it can be rewarding too.” “