Diversifying to become World Class
A year on, we speak with John Samaras of Foveros Mining about the government’s continual drive to enhance local skill levels and aid economic expansion
Writer Emily Jarvis
Project Manager Arron Rampling
Foveros Mining earth moving and plant hire was established in April 2006 to cater for the growing demand for earth moving equipment in Zambia. From modest beginnings in the agriculture sector the company now owns a fleet of assorted excavators, articulated dump trucks, graders, bull dozers and support equipment. Foveros Mining forms part of the Olympic Milling Group of companies located in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia Central Africa. The group is involved in a diverse mix of industry including, maize/wheat milling, arable farming, livestock farming, stock feed manufacturing, energy and power generation, infrastructure development and waste management. Not only are they diversifying in terms of industry offering, but they are also diversifying in the face of economic growth.
Since we last spoke with Mr Samaras in Issue 10 of our magazine, Foveros Mining have focussed their energies on expanding their fleet and scaling up their operations. “In terms of our capacity, we have successfully increased our workload by almost 50 percent,” Samaras adds. Moreover, the current economic stability in Zambia’s mining sector has been a huge contributor to this growth, providing the firm with a favourable market in which to diversify their offerings. “Our local expansion into Zambia and the neighbouring countries such as the DRC has also been a contributor to our prosperity and diversification as we have expanded our service offering into drilling, blasting, loading and hauling. By offering all these services, we have vertically integrated all the mining needs of the customer, so that they do not have to go elsewhere for any part of this offering,” explains Samaras.
Securing the Right People for the Job
Previously, Samaras had spoken in depth on how Foveros employ the best locals in the business. A year on, he says that having mining-minded people makes it easier to provide skills development and training for staff: “Zambia’s history is one of mining. And in order to be in this sector you must always remember this fact. Employing local staff is key to making sure you have the right people for the job, whilst also giving back to the local economy.” Recently in Zambia, there has been a government drive to create local employment and skills, and Samaras feels that Foveros have shown their compliance and ability to assist with this: “We can facilitate government training requests and there is a long term plan in place to allow us to continue this. We can see the fruits of the decisions the government has made in trying to enhance local skill levels.”
As a result of this keenness to employ local staff, the Zambian government have begun to clamp down on work permits, which is part of a drive to get away from importing expat skills from abroad. “This is a deterrent away from borrowing international skill, the government seems to be towing the line in terms of local skill, which brings its own challenges but will also benefit the longevity of mining in Zambia,” Samaras cites. A mining business will always have its challenges in relation to operational costs, delivery of services, optimum levels of operation and so on. As Zambia’s mining industry is currently accelerating at a fast pace, Samaras says that local suppliers have “upped their game” in terms of their offerings and size. For example, Caterpillar has invested US$14 million in a new facility in Kitwe which officially opened in August this year. “From downtime to lead time, the economic climate is improving all the time. The delivery of services has improved tremendously and consequently, other suppliers are taking heed and following suit. We are able to move forward.” Multinational giant Atlas Copco has also increased presence in Zambia and has plans to improve their ability to hold more stock locally. “These international vendors are seeing Africa as a huge area for growth and subsequently are willing to put in the investment required. I think the long term outlook in Zambia for the mining industry is an excellent one, with guaranteed natural growth,” Samaras highlights.
Changing Perspectives in Zambia
As we strive to be mindful of the environment through business in modern times, issues surrounding environmental wellbeing are increasingly a talking point in terms of the mining sector as Samaras affirms: “As discussed last time we spoke, people’s perspectives are changing and in Zambia we are working to do better. The impact on the environment has always been a priority but there is always room for improvement. At Foveros Mining, we are educating our staff on the processes involved in our operations, which is great for everyone involved to form a better understanding of greener practices.” In terms of health and safety in the workplace, Samaras says that although they have not received international accreditations yet, the company are already working at this level: “I feel I can talk for all mining companies in Zambia when I say that the standards have improved across the board. Foveros Mining strives to be compliant to an international standard, and we are confident that we will reach this goal very soon.” Furthermore, the company has brought in a team of people from South Africa in order to enhance safety practices and train their staff.
Foveros Mining has seen organic growth throughout changing market conditions, which Samaras explains is one of the company’s greatest strengths: “Our ability to adapt to the economic environment makes us a flexible partner. As a medium-type operator, we are geared to handle construction jobs, road and infrastructure developments if these opportunities come our way. With a multipurpose fleet we can be flexible and diversify in the face of expansion, whereas most other mining houses cannot offer these further services.” Moreover, the overall positive outlook in Central Africa means that the long term prospects for the region are very good. Accompanying this was Zambia’s choice to convert back to the dollar, which the government stepped in to address early on in 2014. Previously, having dual currencies in-country had caused a few difficulties.
At the heart of Foveros Mining’s success is their ability to diversify and work towards the company goal of providing a world class service. By choosing to maintain a local workforce, Samaras is confident that with time, they will achieve even greater things: “We are in the mining business for the long haul. Besides this, we are here to improve the lives of local people.”
For further information, please visit Foveros Mining’s brand new website: www.foverosmining.com