BRIGITTE KONJORE MAKES HER MARK

By By Patrick Mankhanamba
November 2011
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Traditionally, mining in Africa has been labelled a labour-intensive, male dominated industry. But, tables are beginning to turn as determined African women start pursuing serious careers in today’s mining and minerals sector, not only as employees but also as entrepreneurs.

In developed countries, there are already some networks of women that work to promote the employment, retention and professional development of women in the mining and minerals sector, while in Africa, these networks are rarely seen... and if any, they never make headlines. This probably explains why many women to date, have not yet been introduced to the mining industry as an alternative career choice.

While in the past some commentators never collaborated on the rise of women involvement in the mining and minerals sector in Africa, lately, the majority now agree that the winds of change are definitely blowing.

In Namibia today, a country that is endowed with rich mineral resources and committed to promoting the mining industry, there are a lot of prime locations for mining investments. Evident cases of women participation in addressing both the under-representation of women in the sector and the skill shortage expected in the next decade, have neither been seen nor heard.

However, in a turn of events and by circumstance, a Namibian woman, Brigitte Konjore, is set to make history by becoming the first woman in Gobabis to venture into the male-dominated mining sector.

After discovering granite accidentally while attending the official opening of a clinic in Gobabis, Konjore plans to start a mining business are currently at an advanced stage. Hopefully, her entry will stirrup similar trends among female students and young professionals to facilitate career decisions.

Indigenous Stones and Minerals is the name under which the granite quarry mining business will operate. However, Konjore’s decision coincides with today’s increased demand for infrastructure development in Namibia in the civil construction and industrial construction where granite has gained widespread use as a construction and ornamental stone.

Konjore has confirmed claims of ownership to the granite marbles at Otjimanagombe along the prominent north-easterly trending of Pan-African Damara Belt in the Omaheke region.

However, since any commercially viable granite stones require larger deposits of metamorphic rocks, Konjore says the relatively compacted marble material secured by her company outcrops a radius of about 750m by 100m in the Otjimanagombe vicinity.

Describing further the excess and texture of available marble in the area, she adds that according to the earlier field investigation done in the Otjimanagombe area, most marbles are massive in texture and have minimal weathering effects.

“Several different types of marbles were observed ranging in colours and textures. The marbles outcrop extends for a reasonable 750m in the investigated area. Therefore, the area has a reasonable marble potential for further extensive exploration,” she says.

Nonetheless, Konjore is quick to note that in order to calculate the thickness of the marble in the subsurface and to verify the extent of the weathering, certain subsurface evaluation methods which include diamond drilling and relevant geophysical techniques are required.

In another developments, after the local communities were told about the possible changes and impact that is likely to come with the establishment of this new mining company in their area, it appears as though expectations are currently high in Omaheke region following the realisation that this new mining company does not only hold a promise for job creation but also that it will unite the various stakeholder groups in the civil society to fight the persistent social economic problems affecting the people.

“I want to establish other projects and bring a difference in the development of Omaheke region by growing the local economy to bring the respective village where the mine is operating to a proclamation, meaning, to be set a prominent town in future,” she assures.

Commenting on what’s remaining to get started, Konjore expresses concern over the likely high costs involved in capital investment at both the start up stage as well as in recurrent budgets at the growth stage, which she says are extremely expensive and require huge amounts of resources.

“Our immediate focus is to secure funding and to get the business venture launched. This will be the only business in Omaheke region and the only marble stone mine. The stones are some of the most unique minerals that are found in Namibia in the mining industry,” she explains.

Commenting further on the support she has recently received from some foreign investors that have pledged to finance both the establishment and operational stages of her company, Konjore says she has received confirmation from some Italian manufacturers who would like to buy the granite stones from her company. Meanwhile, efforts to visit the site by the potential business partners are being derailed by delays in visa processes at the Ministry of Home Affairs. There is also a team from a South African mining company in the country that is negotiating for a partnership deal.

About her future plans, Konjore indicates that her establishment will extend by opening other warehouses where the quarried stones will be stored and later sold to companies in Namibia as well as abroad.

Konjore also aspires to eventually open branches in different towns particularly those surrounding the Omaheke region as well as in other towns across the country as her way of making a positive contribution to national development through job creation, which remains a serious concern for both the Government and the leadership of this country. PF