Overcoming the pandemic through people

As the world struggles to gain control of COVID-19, it is becoming clear that the impact of the pandemic will be far-reaching. Fortunately for B2Gold Namibia, the effects of the pandemic have not been that severe. Thanks to pro-active management, B2Gold has been able to ensure continued production at full operational levels, whilst still complying with all preventative measures to protect its staff and their families. 

During Stage One Lockdown, B2Gold temporarily reduced their staff complement by scaling down waste stripping operations in the mining department at the Otjikoto Mine.  This was done in order to ensure that the Company complied with the Covid-19 protocols as well as the directives of the Ministry of Mines and Energy. However, the Company encountered some challenges in obtaining specialized skills from other countries as a result of the border closures. There were also several delays in the delivery of essential stock such as equipment and spares to site.  Notwithstanding these challenges, production was not affected as the team had ensured that critical spares, reagents and equipment were in stock prior to lockdown.  As a consequence, Otjikoto Mine is expected to meet or exceed its targeted production levels and profits.

One of the positive aspects of COVID-19 has been the degree to which Namibians are able to carry out highly skilled operations. Under normal circumstances, the mine had outsourced highly specialized tasks to contractors from outside country. As an example, in the past, specialized electrical contractors from South Africa had been employed to rebuild and completely rewire the mine’s drill-rigs when they required overhauling.  “Due to lockdown and restrictions imposed on travel, we were not able to obtain assistance from external experts and the work had to be done in-house. We were pleasantly surprised to see that our own staff in the Heavy Mining Equipment department were able to carry out all of the work themselves. This saved us a fortune in terms of labour, traveling and accommodation costs and has taught us a valuable lesson: that we do not always require foreign specialists to carry out highly sophisticated and technical work”, said Wynand van Wyk,– Engineering Manager at B2Gold Namibia.

Martin Abiatar was the man who led the team to do this specialised work on the drill rigs. Martin joined B2Gold as an auto electrician trade graduate in 2016 on a two-year fixed-term contract. Thanks to his competency and outstanding work ethic he was hired on a permanent basis in 2018. Martin’s duties include the overhaul of electrical components on the earthmoving equipment, ordering of parts, as well as daily checks and inspection of equipment. Martin said that his experience while working on the rebuild of the BD08 drill rig had helped him to discover additional skills and it has boosted his self-confidence. Desmond Ochurub, Drill Foreman at B2Gold, said that the challenges of lockdown has brought about positive changes in his department. “Covid-19 has brought fear and anxiety to our society and has shaken our social fabric. However, it has also brought a sense of resilience. The ability to work under pressure and to discover that our own internal skill sets were sufficient to carry out previously outsourced and highly technical tasks has given the team a new sense of confidence and camaraderie.”

Contributed by B2Gold Namibia