Meet Mpumi Zikalala, the CEO of South Africa’s biggest iron ore producer, Kumba Iron Ore

Abu Mubarik August 02, 2023
Mpumi Zikalala. Photo credit: De Beers Group

The mining industry is largely male-dominated with few women at the top. The situation is even dire in Africa, where women barely get the opportunity to head mining institutions. In many mining companies in Africa, women largely play roles like the head of the culinary department, head of accountants, and other low-ranking departments.

A few women are however breaking the glass ceiling in the mining industry as CEOs and even owners. One such woman is South Africa’s Mpumi Zikalala.

She is the CEO of South Africa’s biggest iron ore producer, Kumba Iron Ore. The company owns and operates the Sishen and Kolomela mines in the Northern Cape, including port operation at Saldanha Bay, according to Mining Review.

Prior to her appointment, Zikalala was the managing director of De Beers Managed Operations. Her current position makes her one of the few women to hold senior-level management positions in the mining and commodities industry. 

A graduate of the University of Witwatersrand with a degree in Chemical Engineering and a graduate of the London Business School Emerging Leaders Programme, Zikalala joined De Beers in 2001 as a process engineer at the Cullinan diamond mine.

In 2007, she became the first female General Manager (GM) within the De Beers Group, and in 2010 was appointed GM of the Group’s Voorspoed mine in the Free State. She went on to become the senior vice-president of De Beers Sightholder Sales South Africa, which sells all De Beers Group production in South Africa. 

What is more, in 2017, she became the deputy CEO of De Beers Consolidated Mines prior to becoming the first head of De Beers Managed Operations in 2019. Her reign saw one of the biggest investments made by the De Beers — the Venetia Underground Project (VUP) which amounted to $2 billion.

Aside from her role as CEO, Zikalala also serves as a Trustee of the University of Johannesburg Trust. She also serves on the Private Sector Forum of the South African National AIDS Council as chairperson.

In 2021 when she was made CEO of Kumba, she said in a statement that her focus will be to build on Kumba’s strong safety and operational performance track record while strengthening strategic partnerships and unlocking further value from the business. 

Recently, Zikala became the first CEO of a mining company to meet with traditional leaders in Kuruman, a small town in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. She pledged R1 million ($54,000) for various projects which will have an impact in the area.  

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: August 2, 2023


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