Implats strategises in challenging times
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER of Impala Platinum David Brown, speaking at GIBS, says the mining company with five mining operations located on two prime platinum deposits, the Bushveld complex in South Africa and the Great Dyke in Zimbabwe, is operating in a much tougher environment than it was in the past.
However, the company’s vision is still to be the “best platinum producing company that produces the highest shareholder returns compared to our peers” and it is implementing numerous strategies to deliver this vision.
In the area of safety, Implats is involving its management to change the safety culture in the organisation to a broader approach that encompasses safety in all aspects of its employees’ lives.
The company is particularly addressing road safety and alcohol abuse by enforcing five “platinum rules” of road behaviour and by randomly testing at least 10% of its workforce for alcohol abuse daily, so people are not a danger to themselves and their colleagues.
Interestingly it monitors people’s road behaviour as they travel to the workplace and not once they arrive, as the company is trying to get people to behave differently even before they get to work.
In order to prevent the repetition of safety incidents, the company has increased the frequency and intensity of its behaviouralbased training.
Brown said that although there are technical solutions available to make the working environment safer, “technical solutions are not the be all and end all, the most important thing is managing the risk behaviour of all employees”.
On the health front, Implats is seeing higher absenteeism from its employees as the HIV/Aids pandemic, which affects a large number of mine workers, is maturing. Brown said that infection rates have not come down as hoped and, therefore, the company will continue to run its prevention programmes.
He added that Implats’ treatment of tuberculosis has been very successful, but the company expected to see the incidence of the illness rise as the HIV/Aids virus continues to mature.
In terms of the company’s impact on the environment, Implats has, amongst other things, launched a major drive to reduce its freshwater consumption and to increase its use of recycled water, since the scarcity of water will become more of a pressing issue in future.
Another challenge facing the industry is the acute skills shortage. This gap in the market has led Implats to enhance both the work environment and living conditions of its employees through a number of initiatives. It also focuses on offering employees advancement opportunities in the company and recognising good quality performers. Pursuing growth Implats’ strategy in the area of growth is to firstly pursue growth through exploration. The company plans to reach the production of over 2 million ounces of platinum by the middle of the decade and key to this is the expansion of its Zimbabwean resource base.
Brown commented that exploration for platinum group metals (PGMs) was “a bit like looking for a black cat in the dark” as the company has spent considerable time and resources to look for PGMs around the world but has not found any.
“ Therefore the resources that we do have are very valuable,” he said.
Organic growth is the second path the company will take to pursue its growth objective. Furthermore, mergers and acquisitions do add value to a company, but there are not many propositions available.
Brown added the company also plans to become a significant player in the recycling market in the future.
“ There are great drives in the European Union to increase recycling material and this is something that we do need to stay relevant with.”