Panorama Security explains the risks particular to mines in Zambia.
Panorama Security has been in existence for 19 years and currently employs in excess of 3,000 people. Can you highlight the company’s role and key services in the Zambian mining sector?
About half our business sits in the extractives sector. Our service lines include static and mobile guarding solutions, canine solutions, and armed security solutions, although this service is only supplied in very specific applications. We supply electronic security solutions that include CCTV, access control perimeter management systems and we supply Alarm Systems for various applications. Panorama supplies secure escort services predominantly providing secure logistics for the extractives sector when moving their product across Zambia and the region. Panorama believes that security is driven by threat and risk and therefore provides customer access to threat and risk audit services and target hardening evaluations as routine.
What are the most significant security risks facing the Zambian mining sector today?
At the most basic level, there is an economic challenge that generates risk. The trickle-down effect of the increase in copper prices has not reached the populous and this is further exacerbated by the volatility in the metals pricing globally, and thus the employment levels in the country are low and income per capita levels are not sustainable. Towns that are historically dependent on the extractives industry are seeing a significant decline in employment levels thereby, increasing the threat of crime. This crime is less structured and more opportunistic in nature.
This translates into roadside hijackings, blue collar fraud and more structured theft by volume approach with mine based intrusions becoming the norm. These individuals or groups supply product to informal processing structures thereby supporting the informal production market.
Organized crime with even more sophisticated engagement techniques allows some groups to take significant amounts of copper through less ethical techniques and redirect the product outside the tax framework.
The socio-economic environment in the Copperbelt and North Western Provinces generates significantly higher levels of risk which in turn creates opportunity. When a new mine comes online, people tend to flock to the site looking for employment with very low chances of success. This creates a massive security risk for the mine, and we have to find ways to engage with the community to find a platform through which they can benefit from the client’s presence. Otherwise, you alienate these people and create an ‘us versus them’ structure that exposes the client to further risk.
How does Panorama recruit its security personnel?
We have entry level vetting procedures in which we personally conduct various background checks through the individual’s social circles, including churches, bars, entertainment venues and residential checks. We have also started recruiting from outside the main economic centers as, the people in these economic centers tend to be somewhat less ethical. We thus opted to recruit from the rural areas. We then deploy groups of 50 recruits into a bunked environment for a month-long training with parallel background vetting. This procedure has enabled us to improve staff retention levels significantly and attract the correct caliber of staff from the get go.
What expertise can you offer that differentiates you from international competitors?
A key distinguishing feature is Panorama’s management presence and our ability to engage, address and fix problems. Larger corporates are less in touch with specific client issues resultant from their hierarchical structures, and subsequently only significant problems or complaints will receive executive attention. Conversely, Panorama has a horizontal reporting structure, making us more accessible to the client whilst ensuring executive focus in each instance. A risk mitigation based approach to security will provide for reduced exposure; Panorama’s approach to security is threat and risk driven and client bottom line security remains our key concern. We believe that these key factors remain our principle differentiators in the industry.
How have innovations in technology improved the efficiency of your services?
Technology has provided for enhanced levels of control around what is predominantly viewed as the weakest security link, man management or the ‘’human factor’’. Panorama has in place systems that allow us to evaluate officer attendance, patrol frequency and supervisory visit frequency in real time; information can be relayed through various applications providing management with insight into client service levels very early in the lifecycle of the service. GSM based alarm-monitoring solutions and response or intervention solutions allow Panorama to provide services to previously uncovered areas and population groups in Zambia. Most importantly technology has enabled Panorama to rationalize the cost of service making our products and services significantly more affordable to our clients.
From a security perspective, what would you recommend to investors interested in initiating a mining operation in Zambia?
Security must be your first priority. Engage a qualified and knowledgeable contractor and do your threat and risk review well in advance of any capital or equipment hitting the ground. Understanding the socio-economic environment in which you invest is critical if you are to effectively mitigate your exposure to criminal risk. Perhaps most importantly, there must be a strong system to manage your value chain. The systemization of the business must be correct from day one. If you start with weak systems around procurement, investment, and asset management, there is significant and heightened potential for loss exposure early in the investment lifecycle.