When people think of a career in mining, they often imagine a miner working underground digging up minerals, but when you meet Misozi Mwanza – who is a mining engineer and works as a Mineral Economics Officer at the Ministry of Mines and Minerals Development (also known as MMMD) – you see another side of the industry. The Mineral Production Monitoring Support Project, a European Union funded project hosted by the MMMD, caught up with Misozi to learn more about what her work involves.
On an average day in the office, Misozi will be poring over production reports submitted by various companies and updating the Ministry’s mineral production database.
“I also make statistical comparisons between what is actually produced by the mines versus what was projected in their programmes of future operations, and I prepare and issue export/import as well as mineral trading permits as per client’s requests,” she explains.
When she goes out into the field, she carries out routine inspections of mining operations.
“I also offer technical advice to mines, verify production figures that have been submitted and ensure [that mines] comply with the mining laws.”
Misozi says issuing permits in the past was difficult as everything had to be done manually and there was a lot of paperwork involved, but the Mineral Production Monitoring Support Project has supported the introduction of an entirely digital system of issuing permits, making her job much easier.
“Before the digital system, copies of permits would be kept in physical files and folders and with the industry growing as much as it has, we had a lot of files, and more still coming! With the introduction of the digital system, record-keeping is definitely easier as everything is backed up on the computer and on a server. Even when auditors come with queries, one can simply log on to the computer and search for the information needed, instead of having to go through mountains of files to retrieve one permit or document.”
She adds that once the whole system, including historical data, is fully digital, issuing permits will be even easier.
“The benefit to the client is that once we are fully digitised, they will simply apply online for their permits and have their samples tested at the regional bureaus. This will save them the money and time that they would have spent to come to our offices [here in Lusaka].”
The issue of permitting in the mining sector is one that every country grapples with and Misozi says its importance shouldn’t be underestimated.
“Mineral permitting is one of the ways in which government keeps close track of what is happening in the mining industry so it is important and necessary. It enables us [the Ministry] to know what is being produced, what is being traded both locally and internationally, and how much revenue the industry is generating for the country. Without mineral permitting, people would be trading illegally and smuggling minerals and as a country, we would lose a lot of revenue.”
Misozi says she enjoys being a mining engineer because of the interactions with stakeholders in the mining industry on a daily basis.
“This interaction helps me understand the internal and external influences on the mining industry, the various challenges being faced by both the large scale and small scale mines and subsequently exploring the possible solutions to these challenges. This means my mind is constantly stimulated and I am rarely bored.”
She also enjoys mining trips, local and abroad. “[These trips] enhance my knowledge and appreciation of the Industry, while making me recognise that a lot still needs to be done to ensure our mining industry works efficiently for mutual benefit of both Zambians and our investors.”
Misozi graduated from the Copperbelt University in 2011 as the first female mining engineer the university produced. She says being a mining engineer involves being able to ensure the safe and efficient development of mines (both underground and surface) and other surface operations such as quarries.
“The mining engineer has to ensure that these developments are done in an environmentally agreeable way, and should also be able to tell if a mining project is viable.”
She says a career in mining is not for lazy people as it requires commitment, sacrifice and hard work.
“Mining engineering as a career is intensely satisfying and stimulating; you will never be bored. If you are a problem solver and an adventurer, this is the career for you. It is especially hard if you are a woman because for you to be recognised, you have to work twice as hard as your male counterparts,” she says.