Some saw his appointment as regressive – taking back the achievements of the hitherto ambitious localisation drive. Fast forward to 2014, Adrian Gale now leaves a much adorned man whose initial critics could be excused for asking that he served another term. PHILLIMON MMESO reports.
Debswana Mining Company has announced that Orapa, Letlhakane, Damtshaa Mines (OLDM) General Manager, Dr. Adrian Gale, will be leaving the company at the end of the year.
Dr. Gale - a British citizen - was appointed OLDM GM in 2010, taking over from Sebetela Sebetela. His appointment didn’t go down well with some Debswana employees especially Mine Workers Union who felt that government was regressing on the issue of localisation.
Unfazed by the resistance from some sections of the employees, Dr. Gale - with BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and a PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Kings College in London – went out to win the hearts of many Debswana employees at the OLDM who now hail him as one of the most successful GM they have ever had.
He happily fields questions from The Patriot of Sunday as he prepares to leave Boteti area and head back to United Kingdom (UK) to be with his family.
What were some of the concerns you found at OLDM?
There was low morale, poor safety, little management and lack of investment. There were also long standing unresolved issues.
During your tenure as General Manager for OLDM, which moment would you say was the turning point in ensuring effective business performance?
First bringing stability and an operational philosophy, robust, responsive and resilient, then, recognising and respecting the union, and then conceiving a vision to make Orapa a great place to live and work in.
What was the idea behind the ‘Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow’ vision and do you think it is moving in the right direction and what are some of its achievements?
This is a huge subject. It started with wanting to make Orapa a great place to live and work in, with the best schools, best medical facilities and sports and coaching. To make it zero harm and zero crime, a quiet place to walk and play with children, and have radio for the community and a cinema for all to enjoy. These are all happening; all the schools are in the Top 10 nationally, having produced the best student last three successive years, and being named the cleanest small town in Botswana. For the last two years, our hospital was accredited with Council for Health Service Accreditation of Southern Africa (COHSASA), (The only internationally accredited quality improvement and accreditation body for healthcare facilities based in Africa), making it one of the finest in Southern Africa. We have Nijel Amos, former student and Gorata Gabankitse, current student, plus soccer team, Orapa United, in the premier league.
Tomorrow is about positioning Orapa as the hub for the development of Boteti, compared to Maun, the tourist capital for the Okavango; Orapa becomes the tourist capital for the Makgadikgadi. We celebrate the first great diamond mine in Botswana through a museum to capture this critical period in the history of the nation, an unparalleled sanctuary for endangered species and a business park to support the mines and bring opportunity and employment to the district. All of these objectives are moving forward and should be template to others.
Did you encounter any resistance when you proposed the opening of Orapa Mine, especially the white area to the public from other stakeholders e.g. Debswana board of directors?
No objections were received internally but on the broader scale due to fears about the relaxing of the security and what this might bring about.
In the past there has been a rocky relationship between OLDM management and Mine Workers union leadership over conditions of work, what is the situation now as you prepare to exit the OLDM leadership position and do you think you have done enough to build a good relationship with BMWU?
This has changed dramatically; there is now mutual respect and a very constructive relationship at both Orapa Negotiation and Consultative Council (ONCC) and joint Negotiation and Consultative Council (JNCC) levels. On two successive years wage deals have been successfully negotiated, which is a first within Botswana.
Debswana wanted to introduce Scannex machines at OLDM, what is the progress so far?
Both Debswana and BMWU are aligned on improving security and eliminating any theft. The only point of departure is how; it can only be via extremely unpleasant and intrusive cavity searches or via well proven and respectful technology, scannex. The final EIA document is with the appropriate authorities for their considerations.
What are your regrets as General Manager of OLDM?
I have no regrets. I wanted to bring fairness, respect and integrity, improve safety, reinvest in equipment and facilities and develop relationships with all stakeholders. I also wanted to exceed budget commitments, improve the town and create a vision for the complete harmony between the mine, the community and the environment and extend the life of the resource through optimal mining. To bring wealth and opportunity to the communities around us, create a sanctuary for endangered species and leave an impeccable legacy for the children of the nation.
What are your greatest achievements?
I think we have largely succeeded through fantastic improvements in safety, significantly improved performance and huge achievements in revenue for the benefit of all stakeholders. We have also made great strides forward in ‘Orapa today, Boteti tomorrow’ vision, created an amazing sanctuary for all endangered species. As OLDM leadership we have managed to bring back pride into employees and all partners, made friends at all levels and left an impeccable legacy and vision for my team to follow through to conclusion.
Where are you heading to after OLDM?
Going home to London, UK, to be with my children and three beautiful grandchildren. I will be a phone call away if needed.
Who is Dr. Adrian Gale?
He is a well-built Briton who holds a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry and a PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Kings College in London.
According to Debswana website, Dr. Gale started his mining career at Zambian Consolidated Copper Mines, and then moved back to the UK and into the information technology business in various roles of Operations Director, Group Operations Director and Managing Director.
He returned to mining and metallurgy working as General Manager in Uganda’s KCCL and Australia (Western Metals) and as Director at INCO UK Refineries. Dr Gale also held the position of Deputy Managing Director in-charge of project construction, completion and commissioning of the $4billion Goro Nickel Facility in New Caledonia, in the South Pacific.