Anglo American Platinum project manager for Safety, Health, and Environment Jenny Kalidheen owes her successful career in mining at Anglo American to the mentorship she received after joining the company. She encourages other woman in mining to pay it forward as mentors to other young female graduates.

When Kalidheen first stepped into the diverse world of mining at Anglo American, she had no idea what to expect. One thing was for sure, it was rough, it was rugged – it was mining. Nothing could have prepared her for the realities.

Kalidheen started as a graduate geologist at Anglo American’s platinum business in Rustenburg and then moved to the position of underground miner at Tumela mine. In 2010 she worked at the Thembelani mine and was acting section manager.

Through Anglo American Platinum’s Fast-Tracking Programme and Personal Development Programme she advanced her knowledge, skills and experience and obtained her Mine Manager’s Certificate of Competency. She was then offered a role as part of Group Safety, where her primary function was to oversee safety at the four Northern underground platinum mines in line with safety strategies and priorities linked to business strategies.

After 12 years in the industry, her experience has equipped her to be the ideal candidate for her current corporate role as manager for the Safety, Health, and Environment (SHE) at Anglo American Platinum. She reports directly to the executive head of SHE and the executive head of Projects.  Her role is to provide thought leadership and add technical expertise in the areas of safety and sustainable development within the platinum project pipeline. She currently also leads other strategic company-wide projects, adding value to the wider business and to the communities in which Anglo American Platinum operates.

Kalidheen maintains that one should know what they are getting themselves into before deciding to pursue a career, especially in mining. “Having an engineering degree doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have to crawl around and get dirty. Quite the contrary, we all had to work our way up the ranks,” says Kalidheen.

The Fast-Tracking and Personal Development Programme of Anglo American’s Platinum business allowed Kalidheen access to mentors in the business. “The mentorship aspect of the programme I was on played a significant role in my development and I believe in the premise of paying it forward. I now mentor, numerous women across the industry, and am an active contributor to Women in Mining South Africa (WIMSA).”

For all those women, and men, looking to build their careers in mining, Kalidheen recommends that they find a way to visit a mine and see for themselves what it’s all about. “There are plenty of organisations such as universities, colleges and mining institutions such as the Chamber of Mines and WIMSA that can help them with access to a mine for a site visit.”

For every woman Kalidheen mentors, she encourages them to mentor two others to pay it forward – building a network of solidarity.

“Through mentorship I believe that all women in mining can help build a better future for their successors as they band together to transform the industry from the inside out, making it more accessible and inviting to people of all genders and backgrounds.”

Kalidheen has some firm advice and tips for her mentees based on the many discussions she has had with her mentors and successful women in a range of industries combined with general workplace resilience philosophies. This includes:

  • understand your own values, your strength and your weaknesses;
  • be clear about your goals;
  • adjust your thinking style;
  • take care of yourself physically;
  • be prepared to work hard, be willing to ‘put yourself out there’ for new challenges;
  • keep your sense of humour;
  • know the industry and join industry groups for networking and to promote yourself.

“Essentially, working and thriving in mining is about being yourself – a really super, in-control version of yourself,” Kalidheen says.

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