With the help from Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), the South African Women in Mining Association (SAWIMA) was established in 1999 to support women entrepreneurs in the mining industry. It was later launched in December of the same year by the then Minister of Minerals and Energy, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Scope of SAWIMA has been broaden to assist companies owned and/or managed by women to obtain mineral rights, to empower women with skills in order to manage their mining companies better and to promote women empowerment in the mining sector.
To advance the course of women in mining, SAWIMA lobbies the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and other government bodies on issues pertaining to development of women in mining, collaborates with MQA in the provision of appropriate training programmes for women in mining and work in partnership with organisations such as Technology for Women in Business (TWIB) and other continental bodies to help women in general.
The course of SAWIMA is closely linked to the provisions of the 2004 South African mining charter which requires mining companies, among other things, to ensure “higher levels of inclusiveness and participation of women” in the mining sector. Furthermore the charter set a baseline target of 10% participation of women in mining by 2009.
Historically mining has been dominated by men, both locally and globally. This can partially be attributed to dangerous conditions associated with mining, harsh and strenuous activities associated with winning of minerals and possibly our patriarchal tendencies.
To ensure proper representation of women across South Africa, SAWIMA has established branches in all nine provinces. Activities of the association are coordinated by board members under the leadership of Alice Phatudi, the current chairperson of SAWIMA. Board members are the chairpersons of provincial branches, representatives of DME and individuals from corporate.
The head office of the association is in Gauteng Province.
In 2003 SAWIMA registered South African Women in Mining Investment Holdings Pty Ltd (SAWIMIH), an investment arm of the association. SAWIMIH is a broad based economic vehicle and is largely owned by SAWIMA members. It is envisaged that through SAWIMIH, members of SAWIMA will be able to participate and benefit from economic growth in the mining sector by taking ownership or equity in companies within the sector.
Majority of SAWIMIH management are women and its board consists of successful women in their own respect. Among the board members is Dr. Nellie Mutemeri, a geologist by background with experience stretching beyond the borders of African continent. Dr. Mutemeri heads the investment committee of SAWIMIH. Outside SAWIMIH she was the Manager of Small Scale Mining at Mintek.
To correct historical past is not an easy feat as attested by the current Minister of Minerals and Energy, Buyelwa Sonjica. In October 2007 during the 4th Annual General Meeting of SAWIMA, the Minister said, "the empowerment of women in the industry is a bit slower than I expected, but what is important is that women are finally involved in the industry and benefiting from procurement." This statement was made roughly two years before the end of 10% baseline participation of women in mining as stipulated by the mining charter.
One of the identifiable impediments against significant participation of women in mining is access to funds for pre-feasibility studies. This type of funds is regarded as a high risk investment by financiers. To overcome this obstacle the DME has established a fund to assist women with pre-feasibility studies. However the fund at this stage depends on the generosity of third parties.