Message Jeu 25 Sep 2014 14:45

Maamba Trains New Breed of Engineers

Maamba Trains New Breed of Engineers
By Stephen Kapambwe

ON September 20, 2014, eighteen young graduate engineers left Zambia for India to attend training in power plant operation and maintenance.

Sixteen more trainees are expected to leave on a similar programme next month, and by end of the year, an additional 36 would be put on the same programme to bring the total number to 70.

Once trained, the young engineers will be in charge of running the first coal fired power plant in the country which is earmarked to add 300 Mega Watts of energy to the national power grid and further reduce Zambia's power deficit.

This programme is being implemented by Maamba Collieries which seeks to create employment for young Zambian engineers and make it possible for them have the qualifications and skills required in undertaking jobs that are ordinarily reserved for expatriates.

Of the 34, 18 were dispatched on September 20. The rest are scheduled to travel to India on November 1, 2014 upon the return of the initial group that is expected to be out of the country for 40 days.

The second group would return to Zambia on December 12.

Mr Lavu told My Yaluma that, "The engineers are being trained in testing and commissioning of coal fired power plants - and also operation and maintenance activities.

"The company (Maamba Collieries) made a decision to train local engineers in order to fit in the Government vision of promoting local employment as opposed to encouraging expatriate staff to run the economy," he said.

He said Maamba Collieries management and its board of directors decided that the 70 engineers which the company wants to train in total, should be trained in construction and maintenance so that they remain in charge of the affairs of the power plant when it is fully operational.

Seventy per cent of work on the 300 Mega Watt plant has been completed. The plant is scheduled to be commissioned in mid-2015.

"As a responsible company, we have decided to do the right thing and use local personnel to manage the plant," Mr Lavu said.

Following partial privatisation in 2010, Maamba Collieries has been run by Nava Bharat of Singapore which secured a 65 per cent stake in the mine after it emerged as a successful bidder.

Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines Investment Holdings (ZCCM-IH) has 35 per cent shareholding.

In its efforts to successfully revive coal mining activities, a state of the art coal handling and processing plant was installed and commissioned in 2012, making it possible for Maamba's Mining Division to carry out its operations of supplying coal to industries within and outside the country.

While the Mining Division has been successfully undertaking its activities, the company's Power Division has been building Zambia's first coal fired plant which is expected to absorb the trainee engineers.

"We are aware that the Zambian Government has placed job creation for the youth as priority number one and as a company, we believe it is our role to help the youth to acquire the necessary qualifications and skills to fit into the Government vision," Mr Lavu said.

The company believes that the world has become very competitive and as such, good academic qualifications and acquisition of rare skills should be a necessary acquisition for every youth.

The mining firm has since challenged young men and young women especially to fully explore the opportunities in engineering which have been created by the construction of the coal power plant by applying to fill positions being created.

Mr Yaluma praised the investors operating Maamba Collieries for opting to train local human resources to manage their investments.

"Ordinarily we would have seen a big number of applications of engineers from India seeking to come to Zambia to manage this power plant.

"I am happy to note that Nava Bharat has been able to demonstrate a genuine commitment to the needs of the Government and the Zambian people by insisting on having local personnel run the technical affairs of the power plant," Mr Yaluma said.

He told the engineers to seriously commit themselves to successfully undertaking their training because they would be pioneers in operating the first coal fired electricity plant which, once commissioned in 2015, would play a vital role in help the country to address additional power demands arising from news investments coming into the country.

He said the engineers should pursue their studies with pride, knowing that they would become the first local experts to commission and manage a coal fired electricity plant.

He said the training gesture by Nava Bharat would make a difference in the Government's desire to create jobs for local people.

So far Maamna Collieries has employed more than 1500 local people in running its power plant and mining related activities.

He called on other mining companies that have faced criticism for neglecting communities where their mining operations are located to emulate Maamba Collieries which has invested US$1,300,000 in its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

He said some mining companies were being criticised due to their failure to provide social amenities to communities around areas of their mining activities from which they made millions of dollars.

He urged such companies to invest in their host communities for them to generate goodwill from the local people as well as from the Government.

He said such companies should emulate Maamba Collieries which has established medical camps, built bridges, rehabilitated sewer ponds, worked on water reticulation, invested in education and contributed towards the hosting of cultural events all for the benefit of the local people.

"I am advised that since the company started operations under the new management in 2010, MCL (Maamba Collieries Limited) has spent over US$1,300,000 on various corporate social responsibility activities despite the company not making any profits and investing huge amounts into the thermal power plant," he said.

Mr Yaluma appealed to Zesco and other local companies that require experts in engineering to consider training local people instead of hiring experts who are bound to leave once projects they are hired for expire.

He further appealed to young people in the country to always apply themselves in various fields of education rather than relax once they finished their tertiary training.

"They say that if you want to hide anything from a Zambian, just put it in a book because Zambians do not read. Our young people should change this perception and keep on going to school because there is no end to education.

It needs not be over emphasised that in the year of celebrating its Golden jubilee of Independence, Zambia has achieved a number of things. Among these would be the training of the 70 local young engineers who are set to pioneer the commissioning and management of the first coal fired power plant.

They will go down in history just like the 100-or-so degree holders that Zambia had at Independence in 1964.
Ce que l'on conçoit bien, s'énonce clairement, Et les mots pour le dire arrivent aisément. BOILEAU