Female Minegem Operators at Freeport's Underground Mine

16 August 2018

Mining may be a male-dominated industry, but PT Freeport Indonesia is focused on changing that through initiatives to increase the number of women in its workforce.

"This is based on the idea that women have the same abilities and rights as men to have a career in the mining world,” said Deni Indra Kelana, Superintendent-Leadership and Managerial Development when presenting on this topic at the 2018 Asia Pacific Level Mining Industry Forum in Papua New Guinea in August.

Women historically have been underrepresented in the mining industry especially in the areas of production, maintenance and engineering.

PTFI is not alone in wanting to hire more women. More and more companies are trying to increase the number of female workers in non-traditional roles, but most women still work in non-technical and office-related jobs.

The company recently made strides in tackling this by employing 35 women as remote equipment operators at its underground operations.

How recruiting and hiring these women broke barriers was the subject of Kelana’s presentation at the forum.

Groundbreaking Roles

While operating remote equipment may not seem particularly trailblazing, the picture changes when you consider that Indonesian government regulations prohibit women from working in underground mines more than four hours a day – which restricts hiring as a typical shift is eight hours or more.

Thanks to cutting-edge technology, all these women now are operating loaders located in the DOZ, Deep MLZ and Grasberg Block Cave mines. But, instead of working hundreds of feet underground, they work in an office building on the surface.

The women all sit in the same room, but could be operating Caterpillar’s Minegem remote sensing equipment to muck, or remove, ore located in any of PTFI’s three underground mines.

This equipment, combined with CAT’s Minestar technology for mine operations and equipment management, makes it possible to work more safely by reducing worker exposure to hazards underground while also improving productivity and efficiency.

The Trailblazers

The first group of women were recruited from administrative jobs in the company to fill vacancies left by male operators who resigned from the company as part of a labor dispute in March of 2017. They have since proven themselves fully capable of doing the job well and in some cases, even increasing productivity.

Following the success of this initiative, PTFI is preparing to hire more women to operate Minegem. This will provide more opportunities for women in mining and acknowledges their integral role in meeting the mine’s future production challenges and needs. (Ruthanne Van Dyke & Deni Indra Kelana)

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