HI-TECH TRACKING PLUGS SKILLS GAPS AT KALUMBILA
KALUMBILA, ZAMBIA – Sophisticated software is helping to track core competences and help management at First Quantum Minerals’ Sentinel Mine to boost the skills of its workforce. The mine at Kalumbila in North-Western Province is using the hi-tech approach to bridge any knowledge gaps as part of its recognition that a highly skilled labour force is an important enabler to the sustainability of the Zambian mining sector. “If we want to get our employees up to standard, we need to be systematic and organised, hence the new system. Zambia benefits enormously from direct exposure to these skills,” said Brighton Mwiinga, Human Resources Manager at Kalumbila Minerals, which operates the mine.
Consistent with FQM’s local employment policy that gives preference to people from surrounding communities, over 90 percent of the firm’s 6,000 employees – are indigenous Zambians. As the mining industry continues to push the boundaries of automation, the country’s largest copper miner believes that a long-term solution is necessary to maintain the average Zambian’s relevance in the national labour pool. Mr Mwiinga said that the mining firm’s in-house Training Management System – In-Tuition – enables the company to monitor gaps in efficient execution of duties. “There are various software programmes that drive the components of the Process Plant, and these have to be custom-modified to be able to speak to each other and automatically adjust to various changes in composition. This is not just a simple mechanical process, there is a lot of computer science involved,” he explained. “When you torque a bolt on a big mill, you don’t just use a wrench until it feels tight; one needs to use special hydraulic wrenches that measure torque until it fits within the correct range, all measured by the software linked to the wrench. If you get it wrong the bolts either come loose, or they break, which can be catastrophic at such a large scale,” he explained. Mr Mwiinga further pointed out that the mills at Sentinel are some of the biggest in the world, hence it should come as no surprise that skilled labour in this field is in short supply for a country like Zambia – still in the process of discovering its industrialisation potential.
Working in partnership with renowned trade schools in North-Western and Copperbelt Provinces, the mine has incentivised the diversification of intake to not only focus on mechanical and electrical trades, but also encourage students to move into non-technical fields like administration and occupational health and safety. The company has also put in place a provision to allow outstanding students from the mine’s vocational training programmes to have easier access to tertiary level training at some of the country’s most notable colleges.