“Omne trium perfectum”, the trio of latin words that translates to “good things come in threes", aptly describes award winning lawyer Hermien Uys’s recent achievements.
On 1 August Uys reached a 20-year career milestone in the mines and minerals industry, on 1 September she won the coveted title of General Counsel of the Year at the African Legal Awards, and a week later she and her colleagues secured a victory for Vedanta Resources when the Zambian government announced the return of Konkola Copper Mine plc to Vedanta, following a protracted legal battle.
The seasoned GC said she was fortunate to work alongside talented and inspirational people over the years at iconic companies such as De Beers, Rio Tinto and now Vedanta, where she is an executive director and exco member.
“The project that I have immersed myself in over the past four-and-a-half years in Zambia has been challenging, but also very rewarding now that the Vedanta Group and the Government of Zambia have jointly announced a way forward for Vedanta to return to managing Konkola Copper Mines plc. It is very satisfying for me personally that I have stuck it out and persevered until this point in the project’s history,” she said
Her journey has been inspired by people wanting to make a change in the mining communities where they operate and learning from them.
“I’m trying to follow that example. My five-year goal is to lead and mentor other women and men and hopefully support and inspire a community of colleagues to have a rewarding career in an industry that is going to play a leading role in the green transition.”
Uys, who has immense experience in the sector, says while it has gradually become more receptive to women working in that space, more can be done.
What is needed, she says, is a big hairy audacious goal (“BHAG”), with particular focus on parity in recruiting outcomes, and creating consistent, reliable and fair income opportunities for women in mining.
“The industry needs to show women they are serious about including them. There is room for improving access for women to professional growth opportunities, decent housing and childcare,” she said, calling for more women to be recruited into C-suite positions.
Uys says the industry also needs to tend to stakeholder trust and transparency challenges.
Her solution to achieving this is through meaningful consultation that starts early on and is carried out on an ongoing basis throughout a project’s lifecycle. “It is undertaken in an atmosphere free of intimidation or coercion, is tailored to the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, and enables the incorporation of all relevant views of stakeholders into the decision-making process.”
She said transparency can be achieved by stopping and preventing corruption and enabling the public to hold governments and companies accountable.
Uys, who is listed in The Legal’s 500 GC Powerlist, balances her work life by engaging in community work. She was recently appointed as a Non-Executive Director on the Board of Stellumthombo NPC, a not for profit company aimed at alleviating poverty and economic injustice through a variety of community-based support programs.
To join Africa Legal's mailing list please click here