Meet Panashe Muguza a 26 year old inspirational Mine Planning Engineer
“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.”
By Keith Sungiso
The latter distinctly describes a twenty-six-year-old junior Mine planner based at Union Jack Mine in Makonde, Zimbabwe. Unlike most of his age the young man hosted us from arrival to departure fully engrossed without any disruptive technology disturbances explaining in detail how the mine operated and they have boosted production. Here is how our interview went.
KS May you introduce yourself and your educational background?
PM My name is Panashe Muguza, a Mine Planning Engineer/Mine Planner and a lover of earth science and technology. I was educated at Lomagundi College and moved on to complete two Degrees in Mining Engineering at the University of Johannesburg.
KS Why did you choose mining as a career?
I would admit that mining was an industry I had no idea I would end up in while growing up. I always thought I wanted to be a physiotherapist until I went for a mine visit and was exposed to a whole new world. As a science nerd and curious young mind, I had a deep interest in Geography, Physics and Biology. However, when I went to see what happens on a mine during my post-high school gap year, I had no doubt that mining was what I wanted to study. I got a job as a sales rep which didn’t last long and then sold some vegetables from a truck until I applied for admission to UJ for a bachelor’s in Mining Engineering. I had no doubts about my choice and have never regretted it ever since.
KS What is the importance of a mine planner?
PM Mine Planners are a key part of the life cycle of all mining projects. The key performance areas considered are Mine Scheduling, Mine Economics and Evaluation, Feasibility studies, production planning, risk analysis and a whole host of other aspects. Calculating the life of mine (LOM), pay pack periods and key performance indicators are all part of the many responsibilities of the mine planner. It is a very broad-based practice which requires a strategic approach and tact. To navigate the volatile commodity markets and unsteady economic environment, every mine requires a mine planner because failing to plan is planning to fail. The mine planner fuels up the car but the miner drives us to the promised land.
KS Please describe your current role at Union Jack Mine.
PM At Union Jack Mine I work as the Jnr Mine Planning Engineer and Operations Manager. I prepare financial forecasts, production plans, geological surveys, geotechnical risk analysis and engineering management. I report directly to the board of directors/mine owners.
KS How many people are employed at union Jack?
PM Union Jack Mine employs 29 people. 19 Contract workers and 10 permanent employees.
KS You are using heap leaching as your extraction method. May you explain in detail how it works?
PM Heap leaching involves the use of water, chemical agents, gravitational flow and irrigation techniques to leach gold from the ore into solution.
KS What advantages does leaching have over other methods and why did you choose it?
PM Leaching is a very safe, environmentally friendly and cost-cutting extraction method. Compared to other methods, heap leaching is the safest metallurgical solution because it does not involve any large moving parts and electrical apparatus. It also has no significant noise pollution and dust generation. The water reticulation system ensures that no water is let out into the open environment which could contaminate groundwater resources.
KS Is the leaching method feasible for ASMiners?
PM Heap leaching is definitely a method that Artisanal miners can use to extract gold. It is not as viable as other precious or base metals.
KS Tell us about the gold collection methods you are currently using?
PM We are currently using an elution plant to win the gold. It is a process called electrowinning where the carbon chips from the carbon in solution tanks (CIS) are loaded into a column which feeds a boiler and then eventually directs the contents to an electrolysis cell where the gold is collected and then taken to an acid wash and smelt.
KS How much gold are you producing monthly?
PM We are producing between a range of 10 to 18kg every month.
KS We have seen impressive crushing machinery here at the mine! Tell us what happens here?
PM The crushing plant downsizes the mineral ores to increase the surface area of the rock. It uses high voltage motors to power a jaw crusher and a cone crusher after screening takes place.
KS You are currently using the terrace mining method tell us more about this method?
PM Terrace mining is a multi-benched sideways moving method, the entire mine moves over the ore reserve from one end to the other, but not necessarily in a single bench. The number of benches used is a function of the excavation depth and type of machinery used. Typically you have benches of 8 – 15m in height and 1-32 benches in the terrace.
KS Are there any plans to sink shafts and mine underground?
PM Yes. The plan is to sink a vertical shaft on the reef to achieve a pay as you go development.
KS Are you planning on using more contractors in future?
PM We do plan on working with more contractors however we aim to develop in house skills and become a large scale producer.
KS What are your plans for the growth and development of the mine in terms of production?
PM The plan is to ramp up production by mining less waste and constructing a milling plant. We will train and hire more miners who will lead more mining crews once we go underground.
KS What legislative reform would you recommend for the growth of Junior miners to large scale mining in Zimbabwe?
PM Our legislative framework can start by addressing the issue of mine accidents and falls of ground. Many lives are lost every week because there are no competent persons who can assess the state of underground/surface workings and compile a risk assessment. It must be legislated that every ASM and Junior mining firm must have a consulting rock/geotechnical engineer who can design and approve mine support systems. The law must also pave the way for a mining charter which can be updated twice every decade by the chamber of mines, a council representing mining houses/companies and members of parliament. The Mines and Minerals act must be updated to facilitate the protection of mining communities, national heritage sites, wildlife and other natural resources.
KS What’s your advice on those who are studying mine planning and what would you say will be the biggest challenge they should expect?
PM Those studying Mining Engineering must look forward to long hours of problem-solving, feasibility studies and risk analysis. They must be ready to take on new challenges and adopt modern technologies and ways of problem-solving.
KS How has been the safety record at the Mine?
PM The safety record has been superb. We have had no mine accidents or fatalities since we started.
KS In what ways do you keep pollution to a minimum?
PM To avoid pollution we use a closed-loop for water circulation/ reticulation. We have daily emission and discharge inspections to check if there are any spillages/leakages.
KS Tell me about a successful solution you proposed and implemented.
PM I proposed the use of fewer but longer drill rods and a mobile heavy-duty air compressor for our rock drills. This has increased our output per blast.
KS Many young people like yourself have challenges with moving into mining areas mainly because there are located in deep rural areas away from the usual lifestyle of fast foods, and stable internet amongst others. How do you cope with living and working in this remote area?
PM I understand why the youth would prefer life in the cities/towns however history teaches us that cities were once barren wastelands or dense forests that just needed an upgrade. So I simply work hard to bring the comforts I enjoy to the rural areas. As for fast food I was never a fan and am pretty sure that such a lifestyle and diet will diminish one’s health and cognitive abilities.
KS With jobs being difficult to come by in the Mining Industry. What’s your advice to Chipo a graduate mine planner who has been seeking employment for years with no luck?
PM To Chipo I would say “Smooth seas don’t make skilful sailors”. She must take her time to build her personal brand, network and keep on learning. It is always darkest before dawn but the sun will always rise.
KS Besides Mining what else is Panashe into?
PM I’m into travelling, fishing, boxing, tennis and art.