AAMEG Africa Awards 2019: Innovation in Corporate Social Development Winner – Syrah Resources
By AAMEG | 5 September 2019
THE BALAMA PROFESSIONAL TRAINING CENTRE – SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OPERATIONALISED IN NORTHERN MOZAMBIQUE
Syrah Resources Limited (ASX code: SYR) is an Australian-based industrial minerals and technology company committed to the ethical supply of premium quality natural graphite to global markets and to being a credible long-term participant in the industrial minerals sector.
This commitment is directly underpinned by the Balama Graphite Operation in Mozambique which is a high grade, long life asset and is the largest natural graphite mine globally. Operations at Balama commenced at the start of 2018 and Syrah produced over 100,000 tonnes of graphite in the first year to become the largest producer globally.
Given these long-term commitments, the Company understands the Sustainability business case that prioritises a safe, responsible and inclusive approach to commercial activities for the mutual benefit of shareholders, host governments and the communities in which we operate.
Sustainability is a broad term that may mean different things to different Companies however, at Syrah Resources, Health, Safety & Environmental Excellence and Host Community & Institutional Strengthening are the strategic pillars of the Company’s Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS). This strategy is directly supported by our enduring commitment to good governance and maintaining an engaged, diverse and inclusive workforce.
Syrah adopts a risk and opportunities based approach to the identification of key material sustainability issues across the business with all relevant information captured in the Company Risk Management Framework which is reviewed at least monthly by the Executive Team. Robust asset-level sustainability reporting has been established in line with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the Sustainable Development Goals, the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) Sustainable Development Framework and other internationally recognised standards.
This ensures Syrah Resources continues to align with leading practice and can assess and communicate progress in accordance with industry benchmarks.
Sustainability performance is reported regularly to the Board of Directors and is published on the Company website and via various social media platforms.
In 2017, Syrah Resources entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Mozambique Ministry of Labour and Mozambique National Institute of Professional Training & Labour Studies (IFPELAC) to build and operate the Balama Professional Training Centre (BPTC) with the direct primary beneficiaries being the eight (8) Host Communities of the Balama Graphite Operation.
On 1 January 2019, the Balama Professional Training Centre (BPTC) opened in conjunction with IFPELAC in the Balama District of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. The BPTC will train a minimum of one hundred (100) members of the local Host Communities across basic mechanical, electrical, work readiness and health promotion disciplines each year for the life of the mine (25+ years minimum) at which time the facility will be handed over to the competent authorities to operate, if not agreed sooner.
The strategic intent of the BPTC is to improve the employability of members of the Host Communities across all industries, not just in mining, to minimise the reliance on the Balama Graphite Operation as the sole source of employment in the District and to promote the generation of new and novel livelihoods.
Syrah Resources managed the design and construction of the BPTC completely in-house and also developed the full training curriculum across all disciplines. This curriculum was developed in accordance with Australian Standards, was endorsed by IFPELAC and subsequently made available for their training centres around Mozambique at their discretion. Syrah is currently working with IFPELAC to obtain national certification for the curriculum so that trainees receive a nationally certified / recognised qualification on graduation.
Considerable resources were invested from the outset to ensure good governance mechanisms were established at the BPTC, so it could operate sustainably for the benefit of the local Host Communities. A BPTC Management Committee was formed consisting of Company, IFPELAC and Host Community representatives to drive inclusive and ethical management practices. This Committee is underpinned by a BPTC Charter that clearly stipulates the standards and protocols by which the facility will be managed.
Stringent trainee selection criteria have been established to ensure our eight (8) Host Communities are equally represented, and to drive female participation in each training cohort. Vulnerable members of the community (e.g. elderly and people with disabilities) and resettled farmers are also directly targeted and prioritised for attendance at the BPTC. The Company reviews candidates in accordance with the selection criteria and prepares a shortlist for the BPTC Management Committee where the final selection decisions are made.
On 1 January 2019, the BPTC opened with the first thirty (30) training participants commencing their three (3) month training program. One hundred percent (100%) of trainees successfully graduated from the BPTC and were awarded graduation certificates by the Governor of Cabo Delgado at the BPTC Inauguration in May 2019. At the inauguration of the facility, the Company was acknowledged by the Governor and other key stakeholders for implementing a Local Development Program that is designed to deliver sustainable meaningful outcomes for the local Host Communities over the long term.
On 21 June 2019, senior Company representatives met with the Mozambique Minister of Labour who commended the Company for delivering on its BPTC commitments. The Minister of Labour confirmed that this development was applauded by the Council of Ministers in the recent national sitting of parliament.
Training at the BPTC remains ongoing in collaboration with the local Host Communities and key stakeholders.
The BPTC is driving positive social change in northern Mozambique via the delivery of practical training that is anticipated to directly contribute to the development of livelihoods that are complimentary to, yet separate from, the Balama Graphite Operation. Basic mechanical, electrical and work readiness skills have practical application in day-to-day community life and better prepare trainees for gaining employment, and self-employment, across industry sectors.
The BPTC health promotion curriculum has been designed to address the significant health risks in the District, as identified by the independent Socio-Economic Health Surveys the Company has commissioned and through our direct experience operating in northern Mozambique and engaging extensively with key stakeholders since 2015.
Similarly, health training positions trainees more favourably to meet the personal hygiene requirements common in most work environments and to better educate and safeguard their family members in relation to the infectious diseases prevalent in the area (e.g. Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, Cholera, Malaria). The positive social impact attributed to trainees passing-on their new knowledge to the extended family unit cannot be understated.
Syrah Resources has adopted a sustainable approach to the delivery of the BPTC by partnering with IFPELAC via a Memorandum of Understanding. This partnership, founded on mutual benefit, will help strengthen IFPELAC’s capacity to deliver improved professional training outcomes across Mozambique via direct exposure to the Company’s robust management / governance practices and the provision of a quality training curriculum that can be used at other IFPELAC training facilities. This Company developed curriculum will contribute to the establishment of a national training curriculum.
IFPELAC trainers work alongside Syrah Resources training professionals where they are exposed to improved technology, training delivery methods and standards. Together, Syrah Resources and IFPELAC are providing training and development opportunities to the local Host Communities where, previously, these opportunities did not exist and formal education ceases for most of the local population at a year seven (7) equivalent level.
Acceptance to attend training at the BPTC does not guarantee the trainee will ultimately gain employment at the Balama Graphite Operation however, the Company has recently adjusted its Local Employment Strategy so that trainees who have graduated from the BPTC form the labour pool from which Syrah Resources acquires all its local labour, both on a permanent and contract basis. Under the Local Employment Strategy, employees from the local Host Communities now represent 55% of the Balama Graphite Operation’s direct workforce.
The Company is proactively engaging with key stakeholders and other learning institutes to maximise the employment and training opportunities for trainees once they graduate from the BPTC. In time, the Company will establish apprenticeship and other learning / formal training pathways for trainees in conjunction with other industry participants.
Syrah Resources has demonstrated a genuine credible commitment to sustainable development in northern Mozambique by building and operating the BPTC in the Company’s first year of commercial production. Entering into an MoU with the Ministry of Labour and IFPELAC, and delivering on these commitments, has enabled the Company to establish transparent credible relationships with the Mozambique government founded on mutual benefit and trust.
Collaboration and Engagement
Syrah Resources could have independently constructed and operated the BPTC however, this would have represented a significant lost opportunity for the Company to align with, and be proponents of, the national training agenda. Establishing a formal relationship with the Mozambique Ministry of Labour and IFPELAC, demonstrates that the Company understands its obligation, operating in a host country, to be an accountable and engaged corporate citizen who aligns with the needs of government to contribute to improved socio-economic outcomes for the communities in which we operate.
The Company has established a robust Stakeholder Engagement Plan with all activities reported monthly to the Executive Committee. IFPELAC were included in all stages of the decision-making process relative to the design, construction, operation and curriculum development of the BPTC. For example, IFPELAC requested that the design of the BPTC was to align with the government standard indicative in other training facilities around Mozambique. The Company agreed to this request and worked collaboratively with IFPELAC to ensure a fit-forpurpose final design was agreed, relative to the local population, local geography and Company budget constraints. The BPTC Management Committee met monthly for over twelve (12) months to guide the development process and ensure all legal / regulatory requirements were being satisfied.
Host Community leaders were kept informed and given input into the BPTC via the Local Development Committee (LDC), established by the Company. The LDC consists of Company, Host Community, District and Provincial government representatives and is the primary governance mechanism that oversees and approves all local development programs, and their associated fund allocations, delivered by Syrah Resources. The LDC meet quarterly and had direct input into the design of the BPTC trainee selection criteria to ensure Host Communities were equally represented in each training cohort. The BPTC is a key strategic local development program endorsed by the LDC.
Quarterly progress presentations were delivered to Provincial and Central IFPELAC representatives at all stages of project implementation to ensure they remained informed and could provide updates directly to the Minister of Labour, who has followed all developments very closely.
A final example of the Company’s genuine commitment to collaborate with the Government of Mozambique for sustainable development is the fact that, despite the BPTC being a one hundred percent (100%) Company funded / constructed facility, it is registered as an IFPELAC training centre and their representatives sit alongside Company personnel to manage operational activities.
At the inauguration in May 2019, the BPTC was celebrated as a major achievement and milestone for IFPELAC and Government acknowledged the Company’s role in strengthening their capacity to deliver improved training outcomes in the Balama District.
The BPTC provides practical hands-on training opportunities to the Company’s Host Communities commensurate with the average level of education reported in recent socio-economic health studies commissioned by the Company.
The BPTC curriculum has been designed to address the demand for skilled labour in the District and to drive education and awareness on the high incidence community health risks. Skill development / acquisition across these areas will directly benefit the socio-economic health outcomes of the Host Communities by improving trainee employment opportunities across industry sectors and to drive health and hygiene practices that mitigate disease contraction / transmission.
A Sewing Association has now been established at the BPTC, consisting mainly of women and vulnerable members of the Community. The Company has equipped the Association with all necessary equipment and facilities to operate safely. At present the Association are making the sample bags for the Mine Geology Department which the Company is purchasing. The modest revenue generated is helping the Association to operate sustainably and independently procure further fabric and material. The Company is currently exploring opportunities for the Sewing Association to make long sleeve shirts and pants as part of the malaria prevention dress code at the Company’s accommodation camp. This will drive further revenue / livelihood generation.
All BPTC trainees are provided with full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which they keep at the end of their training to ensure they remain work ready. Trainees also receive two meals per day supplied by the Company’s catering contractor, Sodexo, for the full duration of their training which is contributing to strong attendance rates and improved health outcomes of participants.
As outlined, the BPTC is directly strengthening both local and government (IFPELAC) capacity to deliver meaningful sustainable outcomes in the Company’s Host Communities, and while Syrah Resources does not guarantee post training employment, graduated trainees form the labour pool for all future entry-level and semi-skilled employment at the Balama Graphite Operation.
The success and effectiveness of the BPTC is measured in several ways, as outlined below:
- The Company has committed to training a minimum of one hundred (100) trainees per annum and we have structured our intake so that one hundred and twenty (120) trainees complete training each year, thus exceeding this commitment;
- Trainee attendance is measured closely and the percentage (%) of those successfully completing each training cohort is monitored / reported with current training completion at one hundred percent (100%);
- The BPTC training curriculum will be reviewed at least annually and will be expanded, over time, commensurate with the prioritised needs of the local Host Community;
- Trainees, on graduation, are asked to complete a feedback questionnaire outlining their learning experience and where improvement opportunities exist. This information is captured, discussed at the BPTC Management Committee meetings and used for continual improvement purposes; and
- The BPTC will be externally audited each year by the Authority of National Professional Education (ANEP) to ensure the facility, the management of the facility and the training curriculum aligns with Mozambican education standards.
Considering the Balama Graphite Operation is a long-life world class asset in its first year of commercial production, the Company has time to work in partnership with IFPELAC to agree on the timing and terms by which the BPTC will be handed over to the full control of the Government. While this is the intent, it is currently not a priority as the Company believes local community and institutional strengthening efforts will continue for at least the next five (5) years. Also, Syrah Resources is cognisant of the costs associated with the annual operation of the BPTC relative to the limited resources of IFPELAC, especially in consideration of the government funds allocated for the direct benefit of the Balama District. To be clear, Syrah is responsible for all salary, accommodation and travel costs of the IFPELAC trainers at the BPTC in addition to all other operating costs.
It is fair to argue that, under Syrah Resources’ Sustainable Development Strategy, the Company has established strong sustainability credentials well advanced of the age and stage of the Company, especially given the Balama Graphite Operation is in its first year of commercial production. This is evident not only through the delivery of the BPTC but by the establishment of strong asset level governance structures that drive social inclusion, institutional strengthening and the transparent and auditable delivery of local development programs aligned to the needs of the local Host Communities. Such structures include but are not limited to the Local Development Committee, the BPTC Management Committee, the Sustainability Steering Committee, the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) Governance Committee and the Resettlement Committee. Through these mechanisms Syrah Resources has been able to successfully establish itself as a credible mining industry participant in Mozambique, one that understands its role and is committed to driving sustainable development outcomes for the local Host Communities, government and other stakeholders.
Furthermore, in the last four years Syrah Resources has mobilised and trained a workforce of close to one thousand (1,000) employees in Mozambique, of which fifty five percent (55%) reside in the local Host Communities, ninety six percent (96%) are Mozambican nationals and over twenty percent (20%) are female. Our current employee-initiated turnover rates are below three percent (3%) of total workforce numbers and we have commenced a Graduate Development Program in partnership with the Mozambique Polytechnic Institute to employ graduates across mechanical, electrical and process engineering disciplines. To date, the Company has paid more than forty-two million (USD42m) in salaries in Mozambique in addition to its local development investments.
Finally, in pursuit of Health, Safety & Environmental excellence, the Balama Graphite Operation has obtained ISO:45001 and ISO:14001 certification in recognition that systems and management practices are aligned to global best practice. Again, a significant achievement for a start-up company in its first year of commercial production and a clear indicator of the depth of our commitment to sustainability.