Back to Insights

Pioneering virtual reality for safer operations in Zambia

Author: Glencore | Date: 04/02/2019

Safety is a core value at Glencore, and always will be our top priority. A safe workplace is vital to ensure we protect our employees from harm, but also ensures a more productive and efficient working environment. Our comprehensive SafeWork framework is designed to manage, mitigate and eliminate major safety risks that present themselves throughout the day. Mining is a hazardous industry, requiring organisational and individual expertise to ensure the safety of those involved.

Here we focus on how we’re using virtual reality technology at our Mopani Central Training Centre in Zambia, and the stories of those involved on the ground.

Patricia's story

We believe mines are safest when humans and machines complement each other’s work. Harnessing technology plays a vital role in how we approach safety across all our assets, and our work in Zambia is a good example. Technology – like the state-of-the-art virtual reality (VR) blast wall pioneered at our Mopani training centre with Pretoria-based provider sts3D – allows Glencore employees to build invaluable experience much quicker than was previously possible. It also makes the learning process itself safer, with trainees able to practice and learn above ground, away from the noise and distraction of the mine site, and without needing to handle explosives unnecessarily during the training sessions. We’ve also cut the time it takes to practice preparing a wall for blasting through this use of technology, meaning our trainees learn faster, and ultimately work in a safer environment.

We share a duty with our employees to make sure everyone goes home safely at the end of each day. The vast majority of our miners are locals, many born and raised near our operations. Working safely and securely is therefore a priority both at the operations themselves and in the surrounding communities. Patricia Chipasula, a Senior Assistant Mining Engineer born and raised in Kitwe, Zambia, grew up hearing stories of mining life underground from her father. In turn, this inspired her to follow a career in mining, and her family is at the core of her efforts to learn her trade and work safely. 

When an accident happens, it’s almost like your heart stops. When people leave their homes, their family expect them to come back.

Patricia Chipasula, Senior Assistant Mining Engineer, Mopani

Our employees also look out for each other when it comes to mine-site safety. Patricia and her colleagues, mentors, and teammates are a fundamental part of the Glencore approach to safety. The “Doing It Right” initiative we launched at Mopani in 2016 is a key part of this safety culture; the initiative aims to define expectations and empower supervisors to put the group-wide SafeWork principles in place. By working together and learning from each other we can insure these principles are ingrained at every level of the business, from Boardroom to the rock face.  

Virtual reality at Mopani, Zambia

Our commitment to safety isn’t just for today. Our Mopani Central Training Centre currently houses over 230 live-in students, as well as teaching a further 300 students on short courses. Our vision at Mopani is to train thousands of young men and women to become the next generation of miners. By instilling safety as a fundamental part of their education in mining, we aim to improve industry standards, making the mining that’s fundamental to our modern lives safer for future generations.

Without safety there can be no health, and without health there can be no happiness

Mike Milupi, Manager, Training and Development, Mopani, Zambia