Mining boss: ‘One person doesn’t have all the answers’

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Answers usually do not lie with one person. They lie with different people. As a university student, I used to work in the mines during the vacations, and then when I finished, I joined as a metallurgical engineer.

When I started what got me excited was the fact that engineering was tough and engineering solved problems, etc. When we went through the global economic crisis at the end of 2008. Diamond prices literally tanked.

We couldn’t even afford the salaries we were paying people. Up until then, I always still believed the best answers had to come from me. But when we were sitting around the table,having to come up with solutions that were going to sustain our business beyond the general economic crisis, I was general manager.

I, all of a sudden, saw the various members of my team and others in the organisation coming up with different answers. And I then got that light bulb moment, that went, you know what? The answers, they don’t sit with a single person. The answers sit with the 14,000 men and women that work for our business.

And if you can inspire those people to actually give their best, then you will find your answers. That is why for me, I’ll go back to it. People are the business.

Mpumi Zikalala is the CEO of Kumba Iron Ore – One of the biggest iron companies in South Africa. Kumba is part of the mining giant, Anglo American. Mpuni started with the group as a mining training and has risen through the ranks.

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