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AFIMAC will be sharing their expertise in the field of mining labour disputes in Africa, Latin America and North America at the Mining Security & Crisis Management Forum at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town on November 12th-13th. Today, we bring you an interview with Art Garffer, Director of Operations, AFIMAC, Latin America. Happy reading:


Vigilance: With the Marikana Commission of inquiry soon coming to an end, what crisis management lessons do you think mining companies in South Africa will take away from this tragedy?

Art Garffer: Having lived in South Africa at the time, and working with a global mining company, I was in a position to witness the dynamics of the Marikana Mine event. What commenced as an un-authorized labour dispute, quickly evolved into a whirlpool of competing interests which produced clear adverse actions not only for Lonmin, but at a strategic global level for South Africa. Some clear crisis management lessons that come to mind, and which relate to this specific event is to maintain the pulse of the employees; ensure community relations are tangible and flowing; segregate messages and intents; develop and revise crisis mitigation plans quarterly (to do it during an event such as Marikana is too late) and maintain close working ties with local authority elements at both the lowest and authoritative levels. Finally, rehearse these plans through table-top exercises and TEWE’s (Tactical Exercise Without Employees), while synchronizing efforts with local police forces.

Vigilance: What are the key measures you can put in place to ensure business continuity during an unplanned mine strike?

Art Garffer: Some of the key measures we have recommended to be employed are to maintain the line of business (ranging from tactical to strategic), develop a PACE plan (Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency) for road networks and over-land movement; and implement feint public relations/communication campaigns. In addition, one must seek the means to co-opt local communities and key leaders into understanding the negative effects of such a “wildcat strike” on the local, regional, and national interest. Finally, one must isolate the actors and non-actors during this event to ensure external interests do not elevate themselves to the stature of importance, which can influence the negotiations.

Vigilance: How and why does workplace violence develop during labour unrest?

Art Garffer: Labour unrest brings out deep emotional resentment in management, unions, and those in-between. Each will back themselves into their corner and rally around their particular cause. As tensions escalate, commencing with benign acts and progressing to institutional partisan and centric verbiage, it will eventually culminate into violence if key leaders on all sides do not control their message and followers. In addition, we have noticed throughout Africa, Latin America and North America, surreptitious employment of agitators and external actors who take advantage of the press outlets covering a particular event, and join the fray on their own terms. Mitigating workplace violence, not only during, but also after the fact, is critical and warrants specialized and trained personnel to ensure a proper program is implemented.

At the Mining Security & Crisis Management Forum, AFIMAC will be speaking specifically about the effects of globalisation and interoperability on security in the mining industry. Protecting employees and the business in the event of an attack, crisis management and challenges that security experts are facing will be discussed during a panel discussion with AFIMAC and their security peers.