SOLWEZI, ZAMBIA – Anthony Mukutuma was recently appointed General Manager at First Quantum Mineral’s Kansanshi mine in Solwezi, North-Western Province.
He grew up in the mining town of Kabwe in Central Zambia. His upbringing developed his interest and passion for mining at an early age.
As a child, Mr Mukutuma was fascinated by the mining process: how miners got the ore out of the ground and turned it into something valuable. Years later, his fascination with the industry turned into a career.
“I liked the physical side of mining; underground mining to a child sounds like an adventure. I also loved the science, and the business aspect of it all,” recalls Mukutuma.
“Even as a 10-year-old child, it was clear that mining as a business was the anchor of Kabwe’s economy and I was keen to be part of such an important industry. In today’s language, I would say I saw getting into mining as my way of becoming an ‘influencer’!”
Initially, Mr Mukutuma’s intention was to be a mining engineer. However, he later went into chemical engineering after realising it offered a broader perspective of mining.
“I felt the chemical engineer had to decide what to do with the mined material to bring out its value. I found the notion of finding ways to ‘create value’ using science intriguing, and I knew, almost immediately, that it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Mr Mukutuma graduated from the University of Birmingham having obtained a degree in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Minerals Engineering in 1995. He also holds an MBA in accounting and finance from the University of Liverpool.
Soon after getting his first degree in 1995, he worked as a metallurgist in mineral processing at the Konkola Division of the then Zambia Consolidated Copper Mine (ZCCM). But his career took off when he moved to hydrometallurgy – a field in extraction metallurgy that uses aqueous chemistry (chemical solutions) to remove metal from the ore.
“I fell in love with it immediately,” reminisced Mr Mukutuma.
It was through his role in hydrometallurgy that he joined the First Quantum Minerals (FQM) family in 2002 – where he worked at the firm’s Bwana Mkubwa Mine processing plant in Ndola.
Thanks to his dedication, Mr Mukutuma quickly rose through the ranks, moving from Senior Metallurgist to Plant Manager, and finally to Technical Manager.
A journey of learning and personal growth
Mr Mukutuma describes his time with FQM as a journey of constant learning and personal growth.
“Each year has been a new experience of learning new things and facing new challenges. It has also been about giving back by taking time to mentor, coach, and help young professionals and operatives to grow and develop their careers,”
His time with FQM has presented him with an opportunity to travel to different parts of the world, including Mauritania and Finland where he served as General Manager on the Guelb Moghrein project and Plant Manager at the start of the Kevitsa Mine project respectively, and most recently to Australia as General Manager of FQM’s Raventhorpe Nickel Operation.
“The upside of travel is that by working in different locations, I have, in my own small way, been able to contribute to spreading the word about the importance of working within the underlying culture and influencing from that base.”
“This has shaped my career in that I am comfortable in whatever location or setting I find myself working. I always focus on people and their culture and build from there. The downside is that as soon as one is starting to really embed oneself in a particular culture and getting a good handle of how things are done in that jurisdiction, it is time to move again.”
His travels have also shaped his leadership and management style.
“I have always strived to focus on people and the team; to understand others first and then seek to be understood. Every location will have an underlying culture. One must understand and respect that culture, and work within that culture to drive change, drive productivity and run the business for results. One cannot run a business the Zambian way in Australia and vice versa; or manage people the Finnish way in Mauritania. It doesn’t work!” stressed Mukutuma.
On FQM’s investment in people, Mr Mukutuma says this is what he is most proud of.
“The company’s growth in terms of metal output as well as the global spread of operations over the years has been phenomenal. However, if that was all it was about, the achievement would be hollow.”
“But to see people grow in their careers and children attending schools built out of the mine’s visionary leadership in my view is what contributing to the economy of Zambia in real terms looks like.”
On returning to Zambia in 2020, Mr Mukutuma took on the coveted role of General Manager at the flagship Kansanshi Mine, one of FQML’s biggest operations globally. However, his time in his new position has been overshadowed by the global pandemic and the ripples it has wrought on communities and businesses the world over.
“I have spent the last six months setting up the team with a focus on two key salient points: TEAM and RESULTS. Getting everyone to understand that their contribution to the business is important – however trivial it may look in their own eyes – and that the team that labours together, in tandem, wins together.”
One of the major challenges the mining company faces today is declining ore grades. FQM expected this and has completed a full plan on how to expand the operations at Kansanshi to maintain current production levels and profitability. The expansion will require additional mobile equipment and workshops on the mining side and a large processing plant to double the current processing plant throughput.
“We are confident the expansion as designed will work and produce the intended outcomes. The investment required for this expansion is significant and would require changes to the fiscal regime in Zambia – doing away with the non-deductibility of mineral royalties for example – and providing assurance of a stable and competitive fiscal policy going forward,” he said.
Kansanshi Mining Plc management has engaged the relevant government authorities and hopes a resolution is imminent so the mine can proceed with plans to extend the life of mine of Kansanshi by over 20-years, as well as increase annual production – allowing Zambia to share in the greater revenues this would generate.”
This will not only create more employment opportunities for Zambians but will also help the mine contribute to the national treasury through taxes and mineral royalties for another 20-plus years.
For Mr Mukutuma, his new role at Kansanshi is another assignment and another challenge. Like all the other projects he has worked on, he plans to take the operation to the next level.
For Kansanshi, this means getting through the transitional years of transformation from a high-grade to a low-grade mining operation. Operating a low-grade mine is not new for FQM, having designed, constructed, commissioned and now successfully operating Sentinel Mine in Zambia and Cobre Panama in Panama. Kansanshi was, however, originally set up as a high-grade/low throughput operation. As such, in the future, Kansanshi will require, not only an investment in large equipment and facilities, but, to go with that, a change in operating strategy, and for most employees, a change of mind-set.
Mr Mukutuma cannot wait to see the next phase of Kansanshi Mine and is excited about the future of Zambia’s mining industry.