GROUND-BREAKING achievements are what gold mines are all about, but the Hidden Valley gold mine at Bulolo in Morobe province has really broken some new ground in offering women their place in a man’s world.
The biggest pieces of mining equipment at PNG’s newest major mine, including huge trucks, loaders and drills, are now being operated by women, almost all of them recruited from village communities located near the mine.
Initial cultural resistance was overcome with a community acceptance that female operators can work productively, safely and profitably alongside their male counterparts.
All of the women first received extensive training in the operation of the large vehicles, including sessions in an equipment simulator, where operators learn to “drive” their equipment through a computer-generated display, with hands and feet on the controls of a full-sized truck dashboard and steering wheel.
“Soon after we commenced hiring male operators, we took the decision to recruit female operators as well,” said Hidden Valley’s human resources chief, Michael Lankester.
“This decision took some serious consideration as the hiring of women to do what is traditionally considered “a man’s job” conflicted with some local landowner beliefs, and some met with some initial resistance from the ommunity,” he said.
“But overtime all stakeholders provided support for the initiative and as such, we commenced hiring female trainees on the basis that they received written consent from the male members of their immediate community.
“It has proven to be a great success, and we now have 35 female mining equipment operators working their shifts in the mine, and earning good money, as well as one female drill trainee and eight female processing plant trainee operators.”
The Hidden Valley female workforce now totals 96, or about 16 % of the total recruitment, a significant upgrade to the status of women in the area, and an opening to a new world of opportunity for young women in the community surrounding the project.