Central Asia Metals mulls renewables opportunities, releases inaugural sustainability report

22nd April 2020

By: Simone Liedtke

Creamer Media Social Media Editor & Senior Writer


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London-listed Central Asia Metals (CAML), which produces base metals essential for modern living, has commissioned independent consultants to conduct feasibility studies on the potential of building a renewable energy plant at its Kounrad operation, in Kazakhstan.

The studies will consider the feasibility of using renewable energy, likely solar, to assist in meeting the operation’s electricity consumption, which increased by 7% in the 2019 financial year to 61 618 MWh.

While this was broadly in line with increases in production from the Western Dumps, the company on April 22 said fuel use decreased as a result of significantly higher levels of earthmoving in previous years to prepare the Western Dumps for leaching.

About $40 000 has been allocated to the feasibility studies.

Further, CAML also released its first sustainability report, based on its performance in 2019, on April 22.

CAML is a diversified miner with two low-cost operations producing three base metals – Kounrad, an in-situ dump leach and solvent extraction electrowinning operation in Kazakhstan; and Sasa, an underground zinc, lead and silver mine in North Macedonia.

Intended to be a yearly publication, the sustainability report is the company’s first standalone report and discusses the company’s approach to maintaining safe operations, maximising the value it creates for stakeholders and the company’s efforts to minimise negative environmental or societal impacts.

In a statement in the report, CAML chairperson Nick Clarke says the report “will provide stakeholders with a greater understanding” of CAML’s impacts, efforts and achievements.

The report covers the Sasa mine and Kounrad operation, and, where relevant, the London head office.

Data in the report looks to the 2019 financial year, ended December 31, and focuses on key focus areas namely delivering value through stewardship; maintaining health and safety; focusing on CAML’s people; caring for the environment and unlocking value for communities.

In an embargoed Zoom briefing on April 21, CEO Nigel Robinson told journalists that the company had clear policies in place to facilitate transparency and responsibility to underpin its commitment and governance.

Some of these policies include, but are not limited to, an anti-bribery policy, a whistle-blowing policy, trade sanctions policy, code of conduct, sustainability and a human rights policy.

While the policies cover employees, consultants, agents, suppliers and representatives, Robinson indicated that CAML is aware that “currently there is a limited contractual enforcement in place”. He has highlighted this as a priority area for improvement in 2020 for the company.

Training is also provided on all company policies through teleconferences, regular updates, as well as in-country presentations for management teams, and implemented downstream to all employees.

In terms of maintaining health and safety, CAML identified effective ownership of safety from department heads, as well as establishing effective lines of communication to the workforce, and building and maintaining the level of safety awareness throughout the workforce as some of its main safety issues.

Front-of-mind risk identification and mitigation processes, contractor management, change management in the introduction of new technologies to reduce risk exposure in the workplace and retrofitting existing equipment to ensure compliance with industry best practice are included as challenges for CAML, and will be addressed during the 2020 financial year.

Turning towards safety risk management in practice, the report stated that a five-step field-level risk assessment is used by the workforce to assess the risks in their workplace prior to starting work.

As hazards are identified and documented by the workers, they are either addressed directly if possible, or placed into a register and prioritised for elimination.

CAML also implemented safety training, with all employees and contractors required to adhere to all company health and safety rules and standards, and to report any safety issues immediately to their line manager or safety representative.

Safety training is undertaken both internally by the safety teams and, where appropriate, externally by health and safety specialists.

Overall, CAML’s Sasa mine saw 3 277 training course attendees across 60 sessions. This compares to 5 288 training course attendees across 26 sessions at Kounrad.

Until now, no fatalities have ever occurred at Kounrad, and there have been no fatalities at Sasa under CAML’s ownership. However, in 2019, there were two total recordable injuries at Sasa and none at Kounrad.

This compares to 2018, when a total of eight CAML lost-time injuries were recorded, six of which occurred at Sasa.

CAML attributed this reduction in injuries in 2019 to the increased focus on safety in the workplace for both employees and contractors at Sasa.

Additionally, the company noted in its report that key contributing factors in the reduction of injuries are believed to have been the hiring of a group safety manager in 2018, who is based on site at Sasa but carries out periodic visits to Kounrad, as well as the implementation of several new safety measures.

Focusing on its people, the CAML workforce comprises 1 230 people. At Sasa, 698 people were employed at the mine by the end of 2019, of which 90% are from the local municipality of Makedonska Kamenica, which is a town of about 5 000 residents.

Of the Sasa direct employees, 213 are on temporary contracts, which is largely a legacy approach from prior to CAML’s ownership of the operation and is being reviewed, Robinson noted.

Robinson said many of these temporary employees would be given permanent contracts once their probationary periods are completed in order to ensure talent retention in a region with limited skilled labour.

Meanwhile, Kounrad has 323 employees and 86 contractors. The operation is close to Kounrad village, with around 1 500 residents, and is located about 15 km from the town of Balkhash, with a population of about 70 000 people.

Robinson commented and enthused that both operations, as well as CAML’s London-based head office, “display low staff turnover rates”, which the company believes demonstrates “a high level of employee satisfaction”.

CAML also continues its work to bring gender diversity to its teams, specifically in the senior levels of the business.

As such, the company appointed Dr Gillian Davidson as an independent nonexecutive director in 2019, meaning that the company’s board is now 11% female.

In CAML’s London head office, 33% of its team is female, holding key roles such as group financial controller, director of corporate relations and legal counsel.

About 8% of 2019 Sasa employees are female, and Sasa currently employs 33 people with reduced working ability, compared with 19% of Kounrad’s workforce being female and 13 employees with disabilities at Kounrad.

Overall, 12% of CAML employees are female, which Robinson highlighted as an area on which the company could improve going forward.

In caring for the environment, central to CAML’s environmental work is the monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation of environmental aspects – such as water, air quality, soils, biodiversity, hazardous materials handling, waste generation and recycling, greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions and energy efficiency.

Internal audits for environmental performance are undertaken frequently and documenting systems have been implemented at CAML’s operations.

Additionally, comprehensive environmental management systems (EMS) have been developed for both operations, with ISO14001 standards adhered to at Sasa, as confirmed by a 2019 audit.

Adequate emergency response plans were also put in place for environmental situations at both operations, and although the main aspects of environmental control are fundamentally the same at both operations, CAML’s report indicated that the environmental risks and areas of focus at Sasa and Kounrad are very much site specific.

Kounrad’s GHG emissions have increased by 27% since 2017, owing to an increase in coal use and power use.

Considering that coal use is a direct function of weather, with coal being burned for heating solutions, power use at Kounrad increased by 35% since 2017, owing in large part to the mineral composition of the Western Dumps, which require more power to process.

Additionally, energy efficiency audits were undertaken at both operations during the year. In 2019, CAML introduced a waste recycling programme at Sasa which has been “extremely successful”.

Lastly, in unlocking value for its communities, CAML aims to integrate with and provide real benefits to local communities and host countries through the provision of employment, the payment of taxes and supporting social and economic development in the surrounding areas, both through social investment and local procurement.

To this effect, the report notes that Sasa has been recognised for its social contributions in 2019, when the operation won the ‘Best from the East’ award, which is given to the company that has been determined to have the best social practice in the eastern region of North Macedonia.

Sasa was also recently given the 'Community Support Platform' award by the Ministry for Economy for its well conducted corporate social responsibility programme in 2019.

During 2019, some social projects undertaken by Sasa included the installation of heating system for local health centre; the purchase and installation of street workout gym facilities; the sponsorship of a wide range of children’s sporting groups; donations to people in need and more.

In Kazakhstan, two awards were given in 2019 for the contribution of the Kounrad Foundation towards improving society in Balkhash and Kounrad village. The awards were in recognition of the Foundation's specific focus on the more vulnerable members of the community.

During 2019, some social projects undertaken by Kounrad included the building purchase and refurbishment for the Kind Heart Centre for disabled children in Balkhash, and construction of a garden and play area.

Additionally, CAML provided support for the local ‘Crisis Centre’, which provides refuge for women and children in need of a temporary home.

CAML also undertook the repair of a social meeting room for the Kazakh Society of the Blind, bought furniture for meetings and held events for people with visual impairments, among other projects.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online


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