From tragedy to being centre of innovation
A new, younger generation of skills brought about change
Fresh to Lonmin just ahead of the Marikana tragedy that shook relations between employees and management, Lucky Mnisi was perhaps better placed than most in his position as mine manager at Rowland to adapt to those changes.
Grappling at a personal level with the transition from Anglo American Platinum’s Rustenburg mines, he found the need to adapt and accommodate fundamental changes in labour relations easier than managers who had been with the company for years and expected “things to return to normal,” the vice president of mining at Rowland and 4B Shafts says.
Rowland was an operation at the centre of the events leading to August 2012, and dealing with labour afterwards was a challenge, but one that took careful, considered management to ease the working relationship and include those who fell outside the now dominant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
The changing face of management at operational level and the arrival of new CEO Ben Magara in July 2013 helped defuse and smooth those relationships.
“There’s a new, younger generation of skills and they have more drive to orientate on softer skills,” says Mnisi. “No-one underground remembers good mine managers because of their operational expertise but rather, because of their care and human touch. That’s what makes a good manager.”
The discussions with Amcu were tough, but starting with the unarguable issues of safety and how to improve these, the relationship of trust and progress developed slowly on each side.
One of the ways he addressed productivity was to remove extraneous worries of his crews, leaving them nothing to fret about at work except chasing production and associated bonuses.
Looking ahead to the time when Sibanye-stillwater takes over the whole of Lonmin, Mnisi points to the outstanding operational performance the mines are now delivering as the company puts many troubled years behind it.
“The trick in this merger is not to lose this team that Lonmin has. We’ve worked hard to get here and it’s paying off. Sibanye will need to ensure we harness it and make it even better,” he says.
A mine overseer recently wanted to know from Mnisi why Rowland had to go deeper instead of mining laterally into the neighbouring resources of K3 and K4. This indicated a growing relationship of trust where innovation is encouraged. It’s the easy way to make Rowland tick over while the company tries to find the money it needs for the MK2 project.
“MK2 is five years late because of capital deferments, but it forced us to think what else we could do. We either die a slow death or find solutions for ourselves,” he says.
Lucky Mnisi: Trust among teams encourage innovative ideas