Mwaba Coster, General Manager of Hearmes Mining and Trading

MACIG Connect Series

Hearmes is involved in supporting the early stages of mines in Zambia and endeavors to foster local talent.

How has Hearmes Mining and Trading managed to weather the various commodity cycles, and what is your outlook for the future as the copper price begins to show signs of sustained recovery?

Our company has been in operation for over 19 years, working with companies from the beginning of their operations through to production to provide services ranging from engineering consultancy to suppliers of labor and equipment. During that time, we have used the periods of high investment in Zambia to grow our business and position ourselves to serve international and local businesses by essentially mechanizing the mines. When we were hit by the Global Financial Crisis and the mines had to scale back, contractors such as ourselves were also impacted. However, the mines are beginning to show signs of stability again and we are therefore also beginning to benefit from the opportunities that growth affords. 

How has Hearmes seen the changing attitudes towards safety management impact its service offerings?

Our core business arises during the development and production phases of a mine. When a company is drilling and blasting, the foundation rock becomes weaker and more exposed. The roof needs to be supported so that it does not collapse, which in turn allows the production to continue so that the copper can be extracted.  You cannot mine without the critical primary and secondary support that we provide, and mining houses are increasingly focused on regulation and trying to minimize accidents. Another area of risk that we have identified is that platforms can be weak and someone could easily fall. We emphasize the use of mechanized equipment such as boomers and rigs instead of platforms to alleviate this potential hazard.

Looking at global commodity trends, what opportunities in other resources do you see becoming increasingly relevant in the Zambian mining sector?

Despite fluctuations in price, copper is here to stay. If you look at the global market, the appetite for copper is beginning to increase, particularly in Chinese markets. There is also an increasing emphasis on exposing the potential of the other minerals found in Zambia. We have been mining cobalt as a byproduct for a long time, but it was not previously talked about. However, now cobalt is beginning to attract more attention. There is also an emphasis on obtaining the technology to extract uranium.

What would you say is the most critical development in the Zambia mining sector that needs to take place for all of these positive trends in the global market to take effect?

One of the key elements that we must focus on is the development of our local workforce. Currently, we are still depending too heavily on expat labor to perform many key processes. If we can develop the capacity of our human resources, we will not be so dependent on international investment. Currently, if there is something better in Mozambique, investor interest will go there. Local Zambians will need to begin to play a very critical role in some of these investments. Encouraging the capacity of our local businesses is in the interest of international investors as well, because it is promotes long-term sustainability and our ability to weather the storms of different commodity cycles.

How can Zambia better balance the interests of international investors with its needs as a developing nation?

We as Zambians need to position ourselves to begin to benefit from our resources. International investors interested in operating in our country should work with the local population to develop our labor supply. Foreign companies should not solely rely on corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives as a means of giving back to the host country because these projects are not as sustainable. Often companies come in and build something that does not add true value to the community if it is not accompanied with training and support.

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