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How we ensure the highest yield for Greenland
Chronicle in the Greenlandic newspaper Sermitsiaq entitled "Calling for cooperation". Published October 7, 2011.
By Ole Ramlau-Hansen, Managing director, Greenland Minerals and Energy
The conference "Joining Forces" underlined that oil and mineral industries becomes the future wagon for business development and the national economy. The hope is also that robust oil discovery and successful mining operations will create many new jobs and thus contribute to a necessary employment development, which pushes the unemployment rate down.
Also I nourish hopes that the oil and rational mining will boost the economy of Greenland. Even though oil wells have so far been dry, and although mining is still at a low level, then oil and mining companies’ commitment and investors' risk appetite is a good sign. The international investment in exploration and production facilities shows that the potential for developing a mining industry in Greenland is large.
Also the official Greenland wants to make the mineral sector to become one of the pillars of the supporting industries. Growth in oil and mining industry has led to new training opportunities, so that oil and mining companies will have access to qualified and motivated labour from Greenland and competitive Greenlandic suppliers of goods and services.
It is far-sighted policy. By a continued positive development in the mining industry, that I myself is engaged in, needs an according to Greenlandic conditions a large and stable well-trained workforce in the coming years. As a kind of bonus for every job in the mining industry at least one job in the side kick industries is created dependent on the mining industry - ILO, the International Labour Organization headquarters in Geneva, have calculated that.
In Greenland Minerals and Energy A/S, we are part of this development. We are building a modern Greenlandic company with an administration that can manage all financial aspects and investment - and eventually drive a large mine, which measure up to the biggest in the international industry: Kvanefjeld.
But we do not just explore; we are also busy setting up and organizing the company at all levels and based on Greenlandic manpower, wherever possible. When we do it this way, we expect a painless transition from Exploration Company to a functioning Greenlandic mining company. After 35 years in Greenland, it is my experience that a company runs into problems if it fails to prepare for these things in good time.
When we - hopefully in a couple of years - are permitted to operate commercial mining it is expected that the company is established as a well-organized and operational Greenlandic company that can work with all sides of the economic and financial conditions and all mining activities with a highly qualified staff in close contact with other industries.
As the reader will recognize Naalakkersuisut maintains 0-tolerance on radioactive ore in the underground. This means that we cannot be sure to get permission to exploit the assets on Kvanefjeld, because the permit is dependent on a political decision. The terms are in principle like that to all mining companies seeking exploitation license - BMP requirements must be fulfilled to the letter. Since uranium is an inevitable by-product of the rare-earth metals in our license area Kvanefjeld, it means that we must meet the most stringent requirements for safety, environment and health. If we cannot do that, the authorities will not approve our project, basta! It is a challenge we have long accepted, and we recognize that with our project a new set of standards for mining will present.
Right now, independent consultancies are in the process of comprehensive analysis of social and environmental impacts of our project. We expect that the so-called feasibility study, which this job will culminate in will be ready in 2012, and that we can send a proper exploitation application for BMP around the turn and certainly no later than spring of 2013.
By that time we have an established partnership with a number of Greenlandic enterprises. We have sought cooperation from day one and regards cooperation with local businesses and local people as a crucial element in our company. I am quite convinced that the scepticism we met in the beginning, has turned to mostly positivity, because we put so much emphasis on information and dialogue with the population and because we work with local businesses in South Greenland.
Cooperation with local businesses and local workforce is our goal, but in all the years I have worked in Greenland, many business leaders from Denmark and abroad (including me) had this noble goal, but the bitter truth is that they very often have broken their neck. It is much harder to achieve that goal than freshly baked Danes and foreigners imagine. Inexperience and lack of deep knowledge of our society and culture is very difficult barriers to come through.
Which is why, Greenland Minerals and Energy A/S have developed a new strategy that takes the realities of Greenland into account. The strategy indicates how we will work with the wider business community how we will implement training and education of Greenlandic leaders and junior leaders and how we will contribute to even small businesses have new opportunities to train apprentices.
Already last year we took the step into this brave new world and employed young trainees from the stricken unemployment area in South Greenland. By January we will have 12 trainees, who train themselves to become Foremen and other leading positions in the coming mine. Our trainees are working full time, year round, under a special salaried contract, we have developed. Training/education lasts three years and shall focus on drilling in the mountains; now we have put together the first purely Greenland drill team ever - that performs just as well as the foreign drilling people, we have used for several years, and with significantly lower costs.
Outside the drilling season, some of our trainees shall acquire new knowledge on the Mining School in Sisimiut, which is integrated with the Building and Construction School. Other trainees are sent on placements in foreign mines to absorb experience and knowledge of different drill types and workflows in a mine. All trainees undergo training in management, language courses, safety and environmental courses, courses in business administration as well as courses in regulation and understanding in companies and courses, where the theme is the interpretation of the BMP rules and orders.
All this costs money, of course. A lot of money. But in the end we expect to have a well-trained local staff, which are capable to take leadership and responsibility to local employees who will work with them.
"Why are you working so hard to establish positive relationships with other Greenlandic business enterprises? And why recruit and train the by now the mentioned trainees, when it is not yet determined whether there must be established commercial mining on Kvanefjeld," some will ask. The answer is that we do these things to get ahead of development. It is simply due diligence.
We have recognized that we must invest in education now and in such a good time that we have assurance of premium-qualified local labour force from the first day of commercial mining. We will undoubtedly also have to import experts from abroad, but we will hire as many Greenlanders as possible and this goal can only be achieved if we invest now in training and development. For the record, it should be mentioned that it off-course is a big challenge for a company of our type, that foreign workers be integrated into the company and the local community.
Next year we will contact the University of Greenland to investigate whether we can begin to cooperate in special training for relevant groups of students. So far we have 3-6 Greenlandic students in special jobs each summer, and our experiences are very positive.
We will also make use of the good cooperation we already have with the South Greenlandic business and contact companies individually to discuss our future needs and how each company can serve us. Based on these discussions, we will initiate a more formalized cooperation with the companies we think can help us in the future - currently we have established the type of collaboration with a handful of companies. We believe it is important to future business relationships rest on clear mutual knowledge and understanding between the cooperating companies. For us as a mining company, it is important that the requirements of our partners are clear.
Greenland Minerals and Energy A/S is not just interested in education and cooperation with local, South Greenlandic businesses. We have also a considerable interest in these companies have trained staff who can undertake to solve the entire range of the many special tasks, a mining company may need.
Due to the seemingly chronic economic crisis in South Greenland, many firms are missing well-educated and motivated employees who can make that effort we may need within a few years. But the companies must face reality and make sure the right employees, even though it may be necessary for them to import the right manpower.
A material cooperation between the companies and us can be a step that at the same time alleviates a serious youth problem. We propose an apprenticeship model, which we will shortly present to the South Greenlandic business and we are already in dialogue with Greenland Employers Association and SIK about it. The idea is that we will support small South Greenlandic companies financially, allowing them to recruit and train apprentices.
The mining project in Narsaq is colossal. Just the construction work will last two to three years and regularly employ up to a few thousand employees in various lots. These contracts will be sent out to public tender, and we will wherever possible use Greenlandic contractors and suppliers, although of course we must always take economy into account. Foreign companies must seek cooperation with local businesses and wherever possible use Greenlandic labour, and they must hire and train apprentices. If they do not meet these requirements, they will not receive orders from Greenland Minerals and Energy A/S.