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Bruce Chibenda: from farmer’s son to FQM training manager

He is the first-ever Zambian to take up the position of Training and Development Manager at any of First Quantum Minerals’ subsidiaries.

Growing up as a young boy in the then mining town of Kabwe in the 1980s, Bruce Chibenda had no idea that he would one day hold a key position in one of the world’s biggest mining companies.

Now 42-years-old, Mr Chibenda is the first-ever Zambian to take up the position of Training and Development Manager at First Quantum Minerals’ multimillion-dollar Sentinel Mine in the Kalumbila District of North-Western Province.

The mine, operated by Kalumbila Minerals Limited, owns some of the biggest state-of-the-art machinery in the world, and it is Mr Chibenda’s job to ensure that the people operating and maintaining the equipment are trained to do so safely, efficiently and effectively.

Chibenda went to Kasanda Malombe Primary School in Kabwe, Central Province, before going to Chililabombwe Secondary School on the Copperbelt.

Despite coming from a family of farmers, Bruce found himself drawn to a career in mining, which was the backbone of the economy of his hometown, and on completing secondary education he went to the Northern Technical College (NORTEC) where he obtained his first advanced technician certificate in heavy equipment repair. He advanced in electrical and electronic engineering under the UK Institute and in electronic operating systems (ECOS) in America, where he was awarded the 2015 Top Performer award among the international students under EPIC Manitowoc America.

After a stint at Crane Africa Services, a subsidiary of Crane UK, he moved to Zambezi Portland Cement in Ndola as Service Engineer and then worked as a consultant and contractor for FQM.

In 2012 he was given an opportunity to join FQM as a maintenance trainer and also helped to manage the heavy lifting section for the Sentinel Project, then later worked as a Training Coordinator and Operator Supervisor, before being promoted to Superintendent Mining Operations, and then to his current position as Manager for Training and Development at Kalumbila Minerals Limited.

A beneficiary of FQM’s CEO Training Programme, Mr Chibenda said the training he received played a key role in helping to understand the role that knowledge and the ability to apply the skills acquired plays in the overall productivity and sustainability of the company.

“The CEO Training Programme was challenging and exciting; very difficult to start. However, I was encouraged by my managers to be part of that programme. I learnt a lot of things, and the training programme opened my eyes, and I understood how to optimise production, maintenance and human resources to produce and remain competitive as a mine,” he said.

He explained that skills training plays an important role in operating the mine and at all points of production, adding that without training, it is impossible to have copper delivered to the crushers and the mills and that people must know how to operate equipment for them to deliver that ore safely and productively.

“For example, you need to train a driller on how to drill a proper hole to push in your explosives; you need to have an excavator operator properly trained to make sure that they load that ore or waste into a dump truck; an operator needs to be trained to drive that dump truck and deliver it to where it is required,” he said.

Mr Chibenda explained that to get the maximum production needed, the company must have properly trained people, who understand how to optimise the operation of equipment.

“Operating equipment is one thing, and optimising the operation of that equipment is another thing. So, to get the best out of your equipment, you need to optimise; you need to make sure you operate it safely and properly; and also the maintenance needs to ensure the equipment is reliable and available” he said

His department’s role is also to ensure operators and maintainers adhere to all equipment maintenance and operations standards required by government, including regulatory bodies such as the Mines Safety Department, and to make sure the mine produces the way it is supposed to.

Mr Chibenda said good work ethics play a critical role for operators to work in a safe and secure environment, which helps them do their work more effectively.

“I am currently focussing on bringing my work ethic to this new post through good attitude and attention to detail, which I believe is the most important thing in achieving what you want to do. If you have a good attitude, coupled with competence and performance, then you will be able to excel in everything. And that is one of the beliefs that I have as an individual,” he said.

“What drives me is to see what I have started coming to fruition; my plans coming into place the way I feel they should be; seeing the local operators we have trained become world-class operators, and also seeing operators from local communities who have never seen this state-of-the-art machinery we have on the mine, operate it with so much precision that they are ranked number one in the world in terms of operating a rope shovel,” he said.

“It takes a long time for people to appreciate the training that we do. But the moment they appreciate, it is a completely different ballgame. They become the best among the people operating and maintaining the equipment.”

Now married and a father of three, with one more on the way, Mr Chibenda said family means everything to him.

“In my free time I spend a lot of time with my family, but if I am not with them, I would be at the farm because I do a bit of farming, seeing that I come from a farming background,” he said.

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