Meet Ms. Keitumetse Atang Tshoganetso, a Mines Geologist working at First Quantum Mineral Co., Zambia. She has studied and worked in Botswana as an Exploration and Engineering Geologist, before venturing into Mine Geology.
Q: Tell me what your job entails as a mines geologist.
A: A Mine Geologist is the heart of the mining operation. I am responsible for guiding and delineating ore for the mining team as well as ensuring that the highest quality ore is delivered to the plant for processing. I am also responsible for grade control, stockpile management and ore inventory management. Finally, as part of ore quality control, I also perform grade control modelling.
Q: So most of your time is spent in the mines?
A: Yes. A mine geologist spends most of their time at the mine.
Q: Take me through your journey till now. Did you always want to be a geologist?
A: From early on, I knew that I would be a scientist. I had always wanted to understand the dynamics of the earth and its resources, wondering about the occurrence of certain phenomena such as floods. I also wondered about certain dynamics of the planet such as continental movements, plate tectonics, volcanoes. I was, however, not aware of geology or whether I wanted to be a Geologist. In fact, my mind had settled to pursue science at the university, specifically chemistry. I was still not at ease, though. I think I knew that this was not entirely what I wanted. During my first year, I interacted with a geology student who helped me realize my deep interest in earth dynamics. It would answer the questions I had like “Why is there no Drakensberg mountains in Botswana?” This is how I changed courses to my current passion, geology. I graduated with a BSc. Geology and Environmental sciences degree from the University of Botswana in 2008.
A: During vacation, I did industrial attachments at Lion Ore BCL mine. I was able to interact with geologists in the field and enhance my practical experience. This was voluntary to try and enhance my knowledge. It was not a requirement of the course.
Q: What excites you most about your job and what is the largest challenge you have faced so far?
A: The job is very dynamic and there are new challenges every day. Supplying ore to the plants means one needs a deep understanding of the deposit. I am constantly studying to understand the mineralogy and composition of the deposits. The largest challenge is the constant need to prove oneself as a woman working in a male-dominated field. Some men have the notion that women in the mines are incompetent or incapable of handling their assignments. I have learnt to handle this by proving why things should be done a certain way. This, then, causes them to change their opinion and even praise my work. Because of this attitude, I am always on my toes, paying attention to every detail and always read and study hard.
Q: I can imagine! I applaud you for making a name for the geologists who will come after you! I was speaking to a female geology student recently and she said she doesn’t know any female geologists because they are few in Botswana. Was this also your experience?
A: I was the only female geology student of my year at a time. This has translated to the field. There are very few lady geologists. It is only nowadays that we hear of geology classes that have about 5 female students. I still remember one of my male classmates asking me where I hoped to work when I graduated because no one would employ me as a lady geologist!
Q: How have you handled such comments?
A: I deal with such comments everyday. It is the zeal, the drive, taking one day at a time and knowing nothing is impossible for me, that really drives me. I have learnt to believe in myself. My first job after varsity was as an Exploration and Engineering Geologist at Analytika Holdings. This is where I toughened up. Each Geologist was given their own project. The major portion of the project was field work which is basically manual work, at times walking 10km or more, for example, if the job involved exploration and in soil sampling. We also had to liaise with clients at the site and then produce the geological report of the work done. This trained me to read and study more because these were big projects which couldn’t afford any mistakes. That is where I really learned to be assertive, firm and never be comfortable in my career. At the time, it was sort of painful since I was fresh from university but I later realised that it was a shadow of great things to come.
Q: I love the personal confidence and it is, indeed, necessary in your environment. Have you had role models or mentors that you look up to or people who have encouraged you along the way?
A: Definitely. I have had mentors. Unfortunately, there are not many female ones up there. Since my industrial training at BCL mine in 2006, Mr. Harold Vanzyl has been mentoring me remotely. He has played a huge role in my being in my current position, helping me to grow in my Geology career.
Q: It is good to hear that some men have encouraged you along the way. Are you also mentoring anyone as you grow?
A: Yes. Some men are very supportive. Mr. Vanzyl has been very encouraging. I am currently mentoring a Zambian graduate, very young but also very eager to learn. I foresee her reaching great heights and moving out of her comfort zone to work outside Zambia. As I believe, I always encourage her saying “The best Geologist is the one who has seen and touched many rocks, so there is no boundary for us. We start within Africa and move everywhere in Africa, then abroad.”
Q: How long have you been working in Zambia?
A: 2 years 3 months
Q: What is your dream for the future? Do you plan to go back to Botswana or are you looking outward?
A: I would like to acquire diverse knowledge of working outside Botswana as a geologist and the exposure that comes with it. I hope one day to go back to Botswana and contribute to the development of the country through my acquired knowledge. I would also like to have mentored a few people especially ladies along the way. I also aspire to further my education by acquiring Masters and Ph.D in Sciences.
Q: Any hobbies?
A: I like exercising specifically weight lifting, and reading educational materials
Q: What advice would you give to young ladies about finding their passion, whether it is science or otherwise?
A: I would say “It is never easy. It takes courage, strength and believing in yourself. Do not go with many, follow your heart. When that dream comes through, take one day at a time. Give yourself time to learn. There are no shortcuts. Above all, keep your eyes on the prize you will succeed.”
Keitumetse Atang Tshoganetso studied Bachelor of Science (Geology and Environmental Science) at the University of Botswana and was awarded the degree in 2008. During her studies at the university, she performed industrial attachment with Lion Ore BCL Mine (underground Nickel Mine), Botswana, in preparation for her Geology career. Her first job was at Analytika Holdings (PTY) Ltd., Botswana, working as an Exploration and Engineering Geologist until May 2010, Keitumetse, then, joined the world mining at Messina Copper T/A African Copper Mine; open pit mining, where she acquired vast knowledge of base metal mining in her Mine Geologist role. In February 2014, she left Botswana to join First Quantum Minerals Ltd. as a Mine Geologist in NW province, Zambia. Keitumetse has attended courses to strengthen her career such as: Geotechnical Soil Profiling and Core logging Course, Grade Control, Dilution Management and Reconciliation as well as supervisory training courses.
Keitumetse is a proud single mother of an 8-year-old son. She spends most of her off time with her son and finds pleasure in cross fitness exercises for fitness and reading educational material.