Meet Morupule’s safety-conscious Superman
For the last 12 years and counting, keeping the workers of Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) safe has been the responsibility of Gontsemang Ntshiamisang.
It is a role he has performed with relish and incredible success.
In this interview, the Safety Health Environment (SHE) Manager, reflects on his time at the mine and how it has become one of the safest in the country.
What does your role as Safety Health Environment (SHE) Manager involve?
To provide guidance and assurance regarding the Safety, Health & Environment program at Morupule Coal Mine in accordance with set governance protocols, standards and legislation.
Most importantly, I am responsible for the development and management of sustainability polices for the business; ensuring safe operational management, risk management and compliance to legal systems are in place and functioning.
You have been with MCM for 12 years now, what are your reflections on that time?
The pinnacles include coming when the business was aspiring to be certified with international standards for environmental management and occupational health and safety and contributing to the realisation of this intent.
Morupule Coal Mine is currently a leader in the mining industry, boasting ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management standard and the ISO 45001:2018 standards.
These are not only marketing assurance standards but highlight a degree of compliance towards the safety of the workforce in a mine, which is fiery.
To this effect, the mine also meets environmental standards without compromise.
Take us through you journey before joining MCM?
I learnt my trade in the mining industry.
I have SHE experience that started at Botash, later joined Debswana, moved to the nickel industry and later went back to Debswana by joining Morupule Coal Mine, when it was still a Debswana owned entity.
You will realise that all these organisations subscribe to high levels of SHE Compliance.
During my journey, I moved from learner official through the ranks, to middle management and to Executive leadership.
Quite the journey, so what do you regard as the highlight?
Morupule is the pride of my career.
I came and contributed to the company’s dream for certification with International Standards Organisation.
We achieved this. Morupule Coal Mine became the first Botswana organisation to be certified ISO 45001, making it an industry leader and benchmark platform.
In addition, the mine boasts a reputable safety record of working for more than 20 years without a fatal accident.
In 2014, MCM scooped the Botswana Chamber of Mines lowest Injury Frequency Rate of 0.08, a record many Mining businesses can only dream of attaining.
What would you say has been the lowest point?
The lowest point was in 2019 when the Mine recorded one significant audit finding which upheld the standards for certificates (ISO 14001 & ISO 45001), for 90 days when we had to come up with corrective action.
This occurred during a re-certification audit.
We worked tirelessly to correct the item before the stipulated 90 days, leading to the release of our cherished new certificates.
This was a low highlight of how things can go wrong.
I understand you are responsible for the Game Park project, kindly elaborate on the initiative’s objective.
The Game Park was established in 2004, with the solo aim of showing how mining could co-exist with biodiversity.
It was recently expanded to 3, 500 hectares from a previous 1, 500 hectares.
The Game Park continues to undergo significant development in line with the planned opening to the public scheduled for Q4 of 2022.
Plans are therefore at an advanced stage for infrastructure development in the form of picnic areas, toilet facilities, walking trails and procurement of an electric park vehicle to enhance the park’s leisure and recreational appeal.
The mine conducted an aerial animal census in 2021, which highlighted that the animal population was close to exceeding the carrying capacity of the game park.
As part of managing the numbers, 104 animal species are to be donated to government through the Masimo Wildlife Restocking Initiative.
The translocation of the animals is scheduled to commence during this winter period.
To improve the park’s biodiversity, the mine will also introduce a snake park and bring in three giraffes before it is officially opened to the public.
The park will also provide an opportunity for schools in the local community to use it for educational purposes and for Botswana at large to utilize it as a tourist destination.
There is also room for vegetation studies and animal genetic studies by research institutions.
Currently the park hosts a unique eagle-breading site along the Morupule River. There is so much to be unveiled!
What would you say are the most pressing safety issues you face in mining?
In life, we have all heard the words, ‘Leave your comfort zone, never your safety zone’.
The risks in a mining environment are such that there is no room for comfort, and we never get used to risk.
Things can be good now but go bad in the next hour.
This means no level of relaxation can be attained by yesterday’s record.
Each day requires us to reinforce standards, learn from other’s wrongs, and our own mistakes.
In a nutshell, in safety we never arrive.
It is one of those major journeys of unending excellence.
We work to improve every day.
What does this ‘work’ involve?
We have interactive audits, inspections and safety improvement initiatives with employees on a regular basis to help maintain focus and vigilance.
This verification of the safety focus program is done through observation of good safety practices.
Supervisors and managers complete the observations daily and document them.
They engage in conversation about safety and ensure each employee has the skills, knowledge and training to perform his or her job safely.
On a personal note, what keeps you busy away from work?
I have a family that requires my attention.
I also have a small business.
I am a book author (producer and publisher).
I have written three Christian books and four road safety books for school children.
I am also a Pastor and founding President of a Pentecostal Ministry, called House of Glory Ministries based in Francistown.