The Mining Sector is booming in Zambia because of several government and private sector infrastructure developments. How do you think the sector is developing?
Zambia is known worldwide as a major producer of copper and cobalt, thanks to among other things, the privatisation of the industry, which brought a significant amount of investment to the Mining Sector in the country, something that will probably keep growing in the years to come.
Since the very first stages of copper mining in the area known as the Copperbelt, the mining province of Zambia in the early 1930s, the whole industry became the driving economic and social player for the country. Of course, a lot of things have changed since then and many other resources have been discovered, something that talks about the possibilities and the opportunities that this country still has to offer mostly in the fields of exploration and mining.
The production of different and additional minerals or metals will take place for sure, thereby assuring the continuity of the mining industry in Zambia.
The story behind Mopani Copper Mines Plc started in 2000 and today, while the company is celebrating its 15th anniversary, it is also one of the main players in the industry. What do you think has been the key for this success ?
The mine itself started its operations in the year 1932, so the story behind us is much longer. However, in 2000, Mopani Copper Mines Plc acquired Mufulira and Nkana mines from ZCCM. Currently, we have copper reserves estimated at 151.9 million tons, grading 1.89% copper and resources of 335 million tons, grading 2.05% copper.
At the advent of privatisation of the sector, the Zambian Government retained a stake in the mining industry through ZCCM Investments Holdings Plc (ZCCM-IH) which is an investments holdings company, quoted on the Lusaka, London, and Euronext stock exchanges, and has the majority of its investments held in the copper mining sector of Zambia.
During that period, Mopani focused efforts on a number of oxide copper projects at several of its properties, including an in-situ leaching project at Mufulira and leaching at Nkana, and we have also increased production at the underground mining operations in Kitwe and Mufulira.
Today, we can proudly say that the Mopani Copper Mine has generated over US$850 million in tax payments to the Zambian government since privatisation in 2000 through royalties, import/customs duties and income taxes; so our story is not only a success because of the growth of the company but also because of our pride of contributing to the development of the country both in terms of revenue and employement.
Among the different projects of Mopani Copper Mines Plc, there are some focuses on the development of the country and also its employees. Which is the most important current social project?
We are very proud of the Mopani Central Training Centre, set up by Mopani Copper Mines at a cost of US$15million and opened to train artisans in various engineering and mining skills. The engineering skills offered at the Centre include rigging, fitting and machining, instrumentation, auto electrical, plating and welding as well as training heavy mining equipment diesel mechanics.
From the mining side, Mopani will complete the Mining training school at the end of 2015, which will be running side-by-side with the engineering school at the MCTC. The available mining courses will include Basic Operator and Normal Construction, Blasting Certificate, Technical Services, Health and Safety as well as Rescue Training.
The Training Centre has now over 200 engineering students that we are fully-sponsoring for the 2014-2016 intake, way ahead of our initial projection of meeting such a target in the planned months. To be precise, we have a total of 234 students at MCTC, whom we are sponsoring by providing them with accommodation, learning materials, free meals and a monthly upkeep allowance. This training programme, coupled with the full sponsorship being awarded to students, is expected to greatly help in resolving the current critical shortage of technical skills across Zambia’s mining industry and eventually lead to a reduction in the reliance on out-of-country skills.
Through this Training Centre, we are providing opportunities for grade 12 school leavers between the ages of 18 and 23, who obtained full School Certificates with credit or better in Mathematics, Science and English. The eligible students have to undergo a vigorous selection process based on merit.
Apart from the training offering as described above, Mopani also provides the students with recreation facilities and above all, a guaranteed job on successful completion of the training programme.
Our Training School is fully accredited with the government’s Technical, Education, Vocation and Entreprenuership Training Authority (TEVETA) and we are happy its establishment comes at a time when Mopani is making huge investments into prolonging the lifespan of our mines by a further 25 years from the current depletion dates of between 2015 and 2017.
We are investing heavily into extending the lifespan of our mines as demonstrated by the US$323 million that we pumped into the sinking, equipping and horizontal development of the Synclinorium Shaft. We are also currently sinking two more deep shafts in both Mufulira and Kitwe at a cost of approximately US$565 million. So the Training Centre is crucial to our long-term vision.
Following with the previuos question, one of the most important facts for the company, included within its core values, is the safety of its employees. How relevant is this aspect in the operations of Mopani Copper Mines Plc? Could you explain your concept of ‘SAFEMINING’?
The health and safety of our employees and contractors is indeed a core value at Mopani. Since inception in 2000, we have implemented a number of safety initiatives that have contributed to the reduction in lost Time Injury Frequency Rate from 9.3 in 2000 to 0.97 in June 2015. But much still needs to be done because we still continue to record some fatalities and Lost Time injuries. Our target is to record Zero Fatalities and a 0.5 lost Time Injury Frequency Rate.
This enormous effort is being done through the introduction of SAFEWORK. SAFEWORK focuses on identification and control of Fatal Hazards and developing a strong safety culture among employees. The SAFEWORK program is leveraging off best practices in the mining industry. The SAFEWORK initiative is underpinned by sincere belief that Mopani can, and will, eliminate fatalities from all its operations.
At Mopani, we are rolling out SAFEWORK under the banner of SAFEMINING. SAFEMINING came about because we realised that a large proportion of our fatalities and lost time injuries occurred due to the size, depth and age of our mining operations. This is not to say that this programme does not cover all aspects of our operations, from the Corporate Office (Central Offices), to the processing plants and even the schools and hospitals which we operate. We have to focus on eliminating all incidents in all areas of our business with all 20,100 employees and contractors who enter our gates daily. This can be done, must be done, and will be done through implementation of this conscious and purposefully-developed safety strategy.
Without exception and any excuse, fatalities are avoidable and we ask all Mopani employees and contractors to support this programme and work towards achieving our goal of zero fatalities across our business. This can be achieved through constant vigilance, active and strong Visible Felt Leadership and Communication awareness.
At the same time, we are improving all our safety systems and emergency preparedness to ensure they are responsive to our current situation.
We, therefore, urge all our employees to embrace safety as their number one priority. They have a responsibility to look after themselves and their workmates and to come to work and go back to thier families safely every single day. We can only do this if we adopt the fatal hazard protocols and apply the appropriate lifesaving behaviours all the time.
Talking a bit more about Corporate Social Responsability, one important aspect of Mopani’s existence is the company’s role in the lives of the people in surrounding communities. We have made tremendous achievements in uplifting the living standards of the people through our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
Since 2000, the Company has invested over US$200 million in various community projects with the aim of improving the living standards of the people. This investment has greatly helped the towns of Kitwe and Mufulira in such areas as infrastructure development, water and sanitation, education, health, sports, and entrepreneurship development, among others.
We believe that a company must have a clear set of goals, but it is only the vision of its leaders which can make it reach those objectives. In this context, where do you see Mopani Copper Mines Plc within the next 5 years?
Thanks to the hard work of our people, the continuous investment and the current capital expansion projects, Mopani’s future seems clear and full of hope. We are the largest employer outside government and one of the largest mining corporations operating in Zambia. Our aim is to be a world class copper producer, to achieve unit costs for copper in the second lowest quartile on the international cost of production curve and to deliver superior value to our shareholders, our people and our country. We have a series of strategic objectives, long term and short term initiates that over the next five years shall get us closer to our goal.