In June 2019, diversified mining services company Perenti announced that its subsidiary, leading hard-rock underground miner Barminco, had been awarded a five year underground mining services contract at the Zone 5 Mine in Botswana from Khoemacau Copper Mining (Pty) Ltd worth approximately A$800 million.
A big part of success in a major contract at a greenfield mine in a country like Botswana is getting the training element right. At the time, Barminco Chief Executive Officer Paul Muller said: “In addition to excellent safety, quality and productivity outcomes at Zone 5, success will also be measured by the creation of a highly skilled local workforce through effective training, skills transfer and leading technology programs.”
And Barminco seems to have delivered on its promises. At the recent Africa Down Under conference on November 4 in Perth, Perenti Managing Director and CEO Mark Norwell gave some insights into progress so far: “We have already built a state-of-the-art training centre to support underground and open cut businesses in Botswana. This is a long term commitment to developing local people. The training centre is twice the size of the training centre we have in Perth and it incorporates the latest technology and techniques that we use for training in Australia. We have already trained 200 local people to be part of the operations and the difference we have made is beyond just skills transfer…when we train and develop people in Africa we do so not just to enable mining to take place but more importantly to create value for the people and the community in which we operate and we are a part of.”
Norwell added that the centre, which opened in September 2020, has been developed in a collaborative approach with the client and that beyond the already trained 200 local employees the initial full target is 500, while international employees also undergo cultural awareness training.
Barminco told IM that the 3,400 m2 training centre in Maun, Botswana is a key part of its training strategy. “The facility replicates what it is like to work underground, using technology to offer customised virtual reality scenarios for underground activities. It means new employees go to site with a much better understanding of the mining environment so they are safer and can operate more efficiently. The centre is used to train employees, in a safe environment, in all the core competencies required through the mining induction process to ensure they are ready for site. The training includes practical working at heights, refuge chamber use, pre-start, LV operations, LOTO/isolation, firefighting and first aid training.”
The training centre also includes state of the art simulators including two IM360-B Immersive Technologies models, which are used to train employees on the specialist mining equipment being used on site. This includes 60 t class underground mining trucks including the Sandvik TH663, plus Sandvik LH621 LHDs as well as underground drills including the DD421 and DD422 development jumbos and DL421 longhole drill. A trades workshop is located at the centre where local tradespeople are trained across a variety of courses to improve their knowledge and practical skills. These courses include pneumatics, hydraulics, electrics, fuel systems, hand tools, power tools and general engineering amongst others.
Finally, the fact it has been built to support both underground and open cut mining shows it is very much at the heart of Perenti’s growth strategy and long term commitment to Botswana as it can support any future pipeline of projects located in the Kalahari Copper Belt.