Sustainable Development Report 2010 Sustainable Development Report 2010

Jason and Fiona are among seven local
dispatch operators working at the Hidden
Valley open-pit operations, often referred to
as the mine’s nerve centre.

Hidden Valley finds opportunities for Morobe locals

Fiona Asok and Jason Lengeto are both employees at the Hidden Valley gold mining project in the Morobe province of Papua New Guinea. Hidden Valley is owned and run by the Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV), in which Harmony has a 50% share. Both Fiona and Jason grew up in the local community.

Jason spent most of his late teens and early adult years working at a variety of different low-skilled jobs with mining exploration companies, which included rubbish collection and fire assaying. With only a grade 6 education, it seemed increasingly unlikely that anyone would ever give him the chance to develop any skills, or find a fulfilling career.

Fiona completed her formal education up to grade 12, but in a society with very fixed ideas of gender roles. Women have traditionally had only very limited working opportunities, and Fiona’s career prospects appeared equally uninspiring.

Little could they have foreseen the career doors that would open to them when they started working at Hidden Valley, through the training opportunities provided by MMJV.

Jason and Fiona are among seven local dispatch operators working at the Hidden Valley open-pit operations, often referred to as the mine’s nerve centre. Like the rest of their dispatch team, they have become qualified heavy equipment operators (HEOs), having completed the required training course and served time at the controls of large 785 trucks and Moxys.

But they have been given the chance to progress further. Both are now Certified Level One dispatch operators and what is more, they are both very eager to continue to higher levels.

“I never thought in my life that I'd be working as a dispatch operator or know how to handle heavy equipment like this,” Jason says. “The experience has been very challenging at times,” he admits, “but I'm really looking forward to continuing my training.”

Fiona is thrilled with her own progress and is particularly aware of how the mine has made a point of providing local women with equal employment opportunities, a move which has begun to change the local stereotypes of male and female employment roles and which she describes as a major breakthrough.

“Initially, females like me, doing what were always considered to be male jobs – operating track equipment, shovels, 785 trucks, 'dozers – were met with a lot of resistance from our male colleagues, but that has been broken down and there is more acceptance of us now.”

Taking a realistic, long-term view, Fiona and Jason agree that while the MMJV has brought about significant positive changes through the training and development of local expertise, there is still a long road ahead.

“We know it will take hard work and dedication, and that progression through the operator levels won’t happen overnight. But considering how far we have come, we know we are on the right track.”

Papua New Guineans make up more than 90% of the total permanent workforce at Hidden Valley, which has been in production for almost a year. Approximately 13% of that workforce is made up of women and like Fiona, and just under half of all of the employees come from communities surrounding the mine.