Simplifying relentlessly

Ngeno Mutilitha is a mine overseer at Namdeb and leads a team of 180 highly motivated and engaged men and women.

25 September 2020 | Business

Mariselle Stofberg

Namdeb has over the years been instrumental in skills development, both within the company and nationally. The contribution to national skills development is evidenced by the number of Namdeb-trained senior executives and other professionals employed in various key sectors of the Namibian economy.

Ngeno Mutilitha is passionate about making things better by simplifying relentlessly. “In my free time I enjoy a game of tennis with members of the local tennis club and avidly read books on leadership, strategy and business success and/or challenges,” says Mutilitha.

This engineer hails from Okatana in the Oshana Region but grew up at Otjiwarongo, which is where he completed high school.

Mutilitha joined Namdeb in 2013 as an engineer-in-training after graduating from the University of Pretoria with a Bachelor of Engineering degree in mining. He spent three years completing the Namdeb development programme for mining engineers, which provided him with much-needed exposure to how the different elements of the business all fit together.

“During this period, I was assigned a mentor and had access to the senior leadership team for guidance on how to navigate past various obstacles I encountered. When I was ready, the training wheels came off and I stepped into a middle management role four years ago,” he adds.

Mutilitha fulfills the role of mine overseer and leads a team of 180 highly motivated and engaged men and women. “Our objective is the extraction of diamondiferous ore from various trap sites within the bedrock foot wall on the south western coast of Namibia. This is done onshore between minus 18 and 30 metres below mean sea level, using a variety of earthmoving machines across an area of 850 000 square metres per year.”

This is ultimately a result-driven role that focuses on the application of engineering principles to the operation of a mining process in a safe, sustainable, profitable and socially acceptable way.

Global Workforce Advisory Panel

Mutilitha also serves as a member of the Global Workforce Advisory Panel to the board of Anglo-American plc. The panel was set up following changes in the UK Corporate Governance Code. The changes recommend that company boards establish a way to hear directly from employees so that the views of the workforce can be better understood and are taken into account when decisions are being made about the future of the business.

The panel consists of 12 members drawn from various countries where the group has significant presence, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Namibia, Peru, Singapore, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Mutilitha is excited about the innovative investments Namdeb has made not only in their environment, but their investments in the well-being of employees as well.

“We’ve recently invested in virtual reality technology for training employees on the identification of environmental and safety hazards. There are also ongoing trials into fatigue monitoring technology. This investment is ultimately aimed at realising a safer workplace for all employees.”

He adds that there is high morale among employees despite the difficult and uncertain period the business currently faces regarding a longer life of mine beyond 2022.

“Recently we have also seen a significant improvement in our operating practices, which is creating a better technically managed operation.”

Mutilitha is also excited about a renewed focus on core business within Namdeb which includes exploring, mining, mineral processing and recovery of diamonds in a manner that is safe, sustainable and profitable. “It is amazing to see the entire system working like clockwork.”

Power of change

“The mining industry has historically been a male dominated and physically demanding industry. Mechanisation and innovative changes in technology are removing several systemic barriers that have impeded equality of opportunity in the past.”

Mutilitha says that a significant number of mining companies are striving to create a diverse and inclusive working environment in which all employees feel valued, supported and respected. “Research has consistently shown that diverse mining companies are safer, more resilient, more productive and innovative.”

Mutilitha adds that one must acknowledge that the Covid-19 pandemic is the greatest threat to global health in a century, which has brought with it certain social and economic stresses in varying forms across our country and specifically their business.

“A significant amount of changes has been implemented in our organisation in order to prevent, respond to, and recover from the effects of the pandemic whilst protecting the lives of employees, supporting our host community and protecting the integrity of the business. These changes have impacted the manner in which each and every one of us go about our daily routine and interact socially at work and at home,” he says.

“If you have a keen interest in Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) then you should consider a career in engineering. The discipline of mining engineering is quite broad, and engineers can advance their careers in either the discovery, evaluation, planning, development, operation, closure or reclamation of mines.”

Like any career, Mutilitha says that in order to grow you need to get your hands dirty, put in the hours and continuously keep learning.

“A career in mining can be rewarding yet challenging as mining problems are characteristically ambiguous, complex and require complete buy-in across all employee levels for sustainable success.”

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