Mining contractor Murray & Roberts (M&R) Cementation says it is making steady progress towards its goal of having a workforce that reflects the demographics of South Africa.
“Transformation in the world of underground mining is not easy to achieve. We are getting closer and closer to our targets,” says M&R Cementation human resources director Tumi Smith, who is driving the company’s transformation initiatives.
“We now have historically disadvantaged South Africans (HDSAs) well represented throughout the company, with around 70 occupying top management, senior management and middle management positions,” she points out.
At senior management level, the company has HDSAs in a variety of positions – for example, working as project services executive, project executive, contracts engineer and engineering manager – while at middle management level, it has HDSAs filling many demanding roles, such as transport manager, senior site engineer, mine overseer, cost engineer and chief safety officer: projects.
“At senior management level, for example, we are currently aiming for 36% HDSA representation, but are currently standing at 24%. Similarly, we want 48% of our professional people to be HDSAs, but have only attained 39%.
“Further, at skills and technical level, we are at around 63% compared to the 68% we are aiming for. However, the progress is there and these figures are immeasurably better than they were just several years ago,” she notes.
Further, the goal at top management, or board, level is for 50% HDSA representation and this was achieved by the end of M&R Cementation’s 2021 financial year.
“We continuously review our targets for the appointment of HDSAs to management positions. As we close in on targets, we increase them. We want to avoid complacency and aim to be continuously challenged. The company’s goals are quite ambitious and not all targets have yet been met,” she adds.
The main impediment to transformation is the lack of skills at certain levels, particularly the more senior categories.
“We can only appoint someone to a position if they’re capable of doing the job. Mining contracting is an industry where competence must come before all else, given the demanding nature of the work,” says Smith.
M&R Cementation is resolving this shortage of skills by identifying talented individuals within its workforce and then mentoring them. Frequently, senior managers who are about to retire and have a lifetime of experience behind them will take on this mentoring role.
Meanwhile, M&R Cementation is also working to increase the proportion of women in its workforce, Smith notes.
“We are currently aiming for 25% of our top managers, 15% of our senior managers, 24% of our professionally qualified people and 26% of our skilled technical and academically qualified workers to be female.
“We have made good progress at top management level, where we’ve achieved a figure of 20%, but, at the other levels, we still have some work to do, particularly when it comes to senior management where females currently fill only 3.45% of positions.”
Additionally, the company sometimes gets close to a target only to fall back.
“Part of the reason for this is skills transfer as part of the Section 197 process. For example, a Section 197 on our Kalagadi manganese mine contract in December 2021 resulted in us losing quite a few HDSA employees, some of whom were females, to our client,” she explains.
“Our total workforce fluctuates constantly and currently stands at 2 697, with women accounting for 14% of this total,” she adds.
A significant advantage for M&R Cementation in terms of transformation, particularly at the more junior levels, is the Murray & Roberts Training Academy (MRTA), at Bentley Park, near Carletonville.
“The MRTA, which works closely with the Mining Qualifications Authority, is invaluable to M&R Cementation, especially when it comes to meeting localisation commitments on contracts, where people from local communities are given preference in workforce recruitment and require fast and effective training,” Smith says.
The academy is well equipped and features sophisticated machine simulators, as well as mock-up facilities such as a bord-and-pillar layout on surface which realistically emulates underground conditions. While basic mining skills are the focus, training in health and safety in the mining environment is also available.
M&R Cementation has spent about R59-million on training in the company’s current financial year, with R57-million of this going towards the training of HDSA candidates, she notes.
“The MRTA enables us to not only train our own people but we also train for our clients, our subcontractors and others, thereby contributing to the creation of a skills pools which serves the entire mining sector.
“Our biggest priority is to provide the skills to transform our own company but we are more than happy to contribute to the transformation goals of the wider mining industry,” Smith says.
Edited by: Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online
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