Kenjor, Grand Cape Mount County – When Anita Washington-Johnson started working as a logistics expeditor for Bea Mountain Mining Company back in 2015, she was unsure that a bright future lied ahead for her at Liberia’s first industrial gold mining company.
Washington-Johnson, 35, would take several other jobs at the company before her recent promotions Human Resources Assistant – a job she loves dearly.
“Hard work and determination is the result of this promotion and I’m glad that the company has given me the chance to work in a role that I love,” said the 2014 graduate of AME Zion University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and public administration.
“This promotion is my greatest motivation for being hard-working and discipline to whatever I have committed to doing”.
She is one of 50 Liberians recently promoted to top roles once occupied by expats at BMMC in Grand Cape Mount County. In the last two months, the company has promoted Liberian staff in various departments including processing plant, plant maintenance, community relations, human resources, and procurement departments.
‘Responsible Corporate Citizen’
Mr. Debar Allen, BMMC General Manager, says the move manifests that the company is “a responsible corporate citizen and a national development partner”.
“The Company is aware of the need to contribute towards the enhancement of the national capacity; promoting its national staff especially into roles once held by expat, makes good business sense,” said Mr. Allen, adding that there will be more promotions of Liberians in “technical areas” of the company.
‘Commitment to Duty’
Like Anita, Mr. Henry Vincent started working as a data clerk; he is now the Community Relations Superintendent– a junior managerial position. Vincent says his preferment sends a “good message” about the company and how “commitment to duty” propels one to higher heights.
“Since I came here, the senior managers have seen the level of work that I’ve put in and also the community — if you get there now – people will tell you who I am,” said Mr. Vincent, who is a native of Grand Cape Mount County.
With this new role comes a new challenge, and he is aware that balancing the respective interests of the project-affected communities and the company is a demanding task.
“Their [communities] expectation is very high especially with this position that I hold – some will want benefit and others will want livelihood opportunities but looking at my experience and expertise, I will work to see how we can push to ensure the best thing happen for our communities,” he assured.
The newly-promoted employees agree in consonance that their level of “hard work, discipline and commitment” gained the management’s confidence. Some of them said it projects a picture that Liberian staff are on the track of taking over the operations of the mines in the future.
And to help Liberians achieve this, the company is keen on providing more training opportunities for Liberians, says Mr. Allen.
“The company is engaging the national government and other related stakeholders to establish a VTC [vocational training center] near its Ndablama mine [in Grand Cape Mount County],” he said. “[This] will provide skills training for Liberians, many of whom may not be employees of the company initially.”
Trained on The Job
The company’s plan mirrors the story of Mr. J. Mervee Freeman, 54, one of many Liberian employees who have been trained on the job at BMMC and promoted as a supervisor.
Freeman, an Accountant by education and profession, sought work at the mines three years ago. But there was no vacancy in that area, so he opted for what was available: working in the production plant.
“I started working in the plant as a lay supervisor, controlling over 30 persons and then three years later they saw my ability and proficiency, and then they wrote me a later informing me that I have worked on the plant like an expert and so they will be promoting me as a shift supervisor,” he said.
“I am very glad that we have been promoted and my manager told me that in less then two years, we will have less expats and more Liberians will be here because they feel that they have impacted something into us and we are doing great.”
Freeman’s optimism is echoed by Usman Konneh, 36, who considers the company as a “complete asset” to Liberians because of its method of training and employment.
Konneh, who is a native of the community hosting the mines, has worked with the company and its predecessors since 2005. He has worked at almost every department – from construction workman to a Geological Field Technician and now promoted as Meteorological Foreman.
“I’m proud of this company because we were nowhere; we relied on illicit mining to sponsor ourselves in school but through this company, I was able to send myself to school,” explains the 2013 graduate of the BlueCrest University in Monrovia, who lauds the company for giving him on-the-job trainings.
‘Opportunities’ for Liberians
“Everything relating to mining that I have learned was taught me right here practically by BMMC and I will say we [Liberians] are new to the gold mining industry but with these trainings, we are becoming capable of working with any mining company in the world – any knowledge you acquire here, you can use it worldwide,” explains Mao Coulibaly, another Liberianpromoted as Superintendent of the Tailing Storage Facility (TSF) -– the department responsible to manage industrial waste from the mines.
“It is an opportunity for the company to say let me train you and pay you,” said Coulibaly as he recounted his experience with the company. “I see the company as an opportunity to help uplift Liberians who want to work in the mining sector”.
Hired in 2013 by a subcontracting company to manage water pump machines, and later a data clerk, Coulibaly had a keen interest in learning about the TSF while the facility was under construction. When it was completed, he was one of the local staff hired to work as a foreman.
“We wanted to learn, we were focused and continue to learn new things – we were committed to our supervisors and people who were teaching us, we were also doing our best,” he said. Now, Superintendent of the TSF, Mr. Coulibaly inspires his co-workers to “remain diligent and discipline”.
One of those motivated is Emmanuel Weedor, 36, who was recently promoted as a Foreman for the TSF.
“I believe that persistence breaks resistance that’s why my commitment on the job gave me this promotion and so what I do is to be focused and impress my employer to get more promotions,” explains Weedor.
“We now know that there are positions that are not just destined for expats – that is, if we have qualified Liberians for these positions, they will be given the chance.”
Longest Serving Engineer
Amos Kollie is one of the longest-serving mining engineers with the company. He is growing as a mining expert every day. Kolliehas worked for over five years with the company. He too was recently promoted.
Kollie, who is a 2015 graduate of the University of Liberia, was given an internship with the company back in 2013 and after completing his studies two years later he was given a full-time job.
“Whenever you come from school and start a job, everything is new – you start as a beginner,” he said. “I came with low knowledge but through my commitment and the interactions and generosity of my bosses, today, I can say I’m well-prepared and have confidence that I can work anywhere in the world.”