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Pioneering local expertise: PRISMA and Barrick redefine training in African mining

Jacques Farmer

Jacques Farmer

3rd October 2023

     

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This article has been supplied by the author and has not been written or solicited by Creamer Media. It may be available only for a limited time on this website.

By Jacques Farmer, Managing Director at PRISMA

Introduction: Collaborating for growth 

Barrick Gold, the second largest gold producer in Tanzania, is dedicated to fostering local mining sector growth through its sites at North Mara and Bulyanhulu. These mines are esteemed by the government and communities for their responsible business practices and for contributing significantly to Tanzania's socio-economic development. Since acquiring the mines in 2019, Barrick has injected over $2.1 billion into the Tanzanian economy.

PRISMA Training Solutions holds a prominent position as a leading professional training provider in Africa, specialising in the mining sector with full Mining Qualification Authority (MQA) accreditation. With a successful history of training over 40,000 learners in mining, team, and supervisor development, PRISMA is accredited for qualifications, skills programmes, and over 400 Unit Standards by the MQA. Their collaboration with Barrick Gold is focused on delivering tailored and sustainable education and training solutions in Tanzania, driven by Jacques Farmer, Managing Director at PRISMA. The partnership aims to enhance productivity, efficiency, and safety at both mining sites while prioritising human capital development and elevating the capabilities of local suppliers to provide top-notch training and safety interventions across Africa.

Project phases: Destination - quality training and self-sufficiency

Set to run over three phases, with at least a three to five-year view, the project began with a gap analysis encompassing technical training, compliance, safety measures, surface training, career development, and training planning, carried out in two distinct phases. In the initial phase, the focus was on evaluating mine technical training, including competencies related to safety, compliance, technical skills, and career advancement for miners. The subsequent phase involved assessing surface training, soft skills, mineral processing, and plant operation training. 

From this, a formal analysis report was generated with recommendations for the effective implementation of necessary training services at the mines. These actions encompass resource allocation, trainer placement, curriculum design, learning material enhancement, and potential incorporation of software and technology such as simulation training, Virtual Reality (VR), and e-learning. 

Conducted late in 2022, this analysis also addressed community upliftment and skills transfer at both mining sites. In January 2023, PRISMA began deploying trainers to develop learning materials and evaluate the competencies of both permanent and contracted employees on-site. They also established concrete career path frameworks to rectify existing frustrations surrounding the lack of growth opportunities in the mining environment. 

“This effort aligns with our resource management and human capital development strategies. We are moving forward toward the ultimate goal of transferring skills and competencies to the organisation’s internal training department. This will establish their efficiencies and effectiveness to eliminate the need to rely on external training providers from other African countries,” notes Farmer.  

Now deep in the third phase, PRISMA has begun implementing the recommendations made in the first two phases that will set the wheels in motion for self-sufficiency. 

Impact: Driving diversity, inclusion and localisation of skills

Barrick's localisation policy emphasizes a workforce predominantly composed of Tanzanians, with 96% of employees being locals and the rest hailing from nearby communities. To align with this policy, PRISMA proposed conducting induction and initial training in Kiswahili, the local language. This pioneering move enhances safety training accessibility and effectiveness. Furthermore, PRISMA's involvement in establishing clear career paths for mine workers contributes to local skills advancement.

Notably, the Women in Mining initiative champions diversity and inclusivity, with substantial impact. This initiative commenced by training 20 women from local communities to operate underground dump trucks over approximately six months. Their training encompassed a comprehensive understanding of the mining environment and culture, preparing them for potential mining careers.

The women trained under this initiative are well-positioned for employment in Tanzania's booming mining sector. The demand for mining skills has surged due to increased exploration activities, and the success of this initiative underscores the rapid expansion of women's representation in mining. “While the Bulyanhulu operation currently has 6% female representation, the North Mara site has achieved significant progress with an 11% representation. This upward trajectory indicates positive advancement. Applying effective strategies from Bulyanhulu to North Mara exemplifies our commitment to further enhancing women's inclusion and participation in the mining industry,” explains Farmer.

Methods: Fostering effective learning through innovative technology

PRISMA promotes the use of cutting-edge technology in teaching methods, striving to create more realistic, efficient, and safer learning experiences. For example, at sites like Bulyanhulu and North Mara, PRISMA utilises both underground and open-air mock mine environments, allowing trainees to simulate real working conditions safely, and bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. By interacting with lifelike simulations, miners can refine their skills, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities. This approach accelerates the learning process and boosts confidence. 

The organisation’s e-learning platform is being updated, and this is being incorporated into training practices along with a psychometric assessment tool to assess learners' capabilities in different underground mining scenarios. PRISMA anticipates that e-learning, simulation, and hands-on mock mining experiences will be preferred moving forward, so these will be effectively integrated into the mine’s training methods. Taking a future-first approach to skills development and training is important as it contributes to a workforce that's better equipped to handle real-world challenges efficiently and safely, ultimately driving increased productivity and maintaining a secure work environment. 

Testimonials and Feedback: An organisational mindset of continuous improvement

In the mining industry, an essential aspect is the constant pursuit of better processes and safer methodologies, often through benchmarking and adopting best practice strategies. This involves seeking safer, more efficient, and more productive ways of operation. 

“Looking at Barrick's journey from last year to now, there's been a transformative shift. We've introduced a human capital development career path for miners and completed the implementation of a total quality management system. Moving forward, whether it's a PRISMA or Barrick trainer, they will be equipped with the process to train, assess, manage grievances, handle discipline, conduct moderation, perform audits, and manage training matrices and needs analyses for the upcoming year,” Farmer notes.

Currently, there are discussions among various departments to determine their specific training needs through budget creation and resource allocation to ensure that the training department adequately provides the required services. Previously, training was done on a reactive basis. Now, the organisation is moving toward proactive training that outlines the number of training interventions required for the year, associated costs, and necessary resources. In this way, it is possible to provide regular updates to operations regarding progress, keeping everyone informed as to what is needed to meet the agreed budget and training output goals. This systematic approach not only ensures compliance but also enhances efficiency and safety within the operation, gaining approval from key stakeholders such as the ops manager, mining engineer, and management.

Conclusion: Establishing African excellence in training for the mining industry

In essence, PRISMA's mission is to shape a human capital strategy tailored to the needs of mining operations across Africa. With a strong foundation in career path development and talent pool management in South Africa, PRISMA aims to bring this expertise to the market, creating frameworks that effectively nurture and guide personnel and foster growth opportunities. The collaboration between PRISMA and Barrick signifies a groundbreaking venture, setting new benchmarks for the African mining landscape and exemplifying the continent's capacity to offer exceptional training solutions. “This partnership serves as a testament to the profound impact of localised skills development within the African mining sector. It underscores the pioneering role of African suppliers, showcasing their ability to deliver world-class training interventions right on the continent. This alliance stands as a transformative model, charting a path towards enhanced productivity, safety, and industry excellence for years to come,” Farmer concludes.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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