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Interview with ISSA Mining’s new Vice Presidents

At ISSA Mining’s General Assembly on 11th September 2017 in Bangkok/Thailand, the delegates unanimously voted for Vic Pakalnis and Leigh McMaster as new Vice Presidents for the regions North America and Africa. Peter Schrandt, German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Raw Materials and Chemical industry (BG RCI), Langenhagen/Germany, talked to the new board members about their background and views.

Author: Peter Schrandt, Berufsgenossenschaft Rohstoffe und chemische Industrie (BG RCI), Langenhagen

Vic Pakalnis is the new ISSA Mining VP for North America. Photo: BG RCI

Leigh McMaster was voted ISSA Mining Vice President for Africa. Photo: BG RCI

Congratulations on your new role as an ISSA Mining Vice President! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Vic Pakalnis: I was born on June 29th, 1950 in Northern Canada, a place called Malartic in the province of Quebec. It was a major gold mining center and it still is. My father was a mining engineer, my brother as well. I graduated with a B. Eng and M. Eng in Mining Engineering from McGill University in Montreal. As most mining people, I worked in various places in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario. Kerr Addison Exploration for three summers, bank stability engineering at Iron Ore Company of Canada, Senior Ground Control Engineer at Falconbridge Nickle Mines. Then I went to work for the Ministry of Labour in Ontario. I was Chief Mining Engineer, Director of Industrial Safety as well as a Regional Director in Ottawa. Then decided to try academics – taught at Queen’s University in the School of Policy Studies – Policy Implementation and Occupational Health and Safety and then as Kinross Professor in Mining and Sustainability, I taught introduction to Mining and a 4th year and Master’s course in Health and Safety in Mining Practice. In July 2012, I was appointed President and CEO of MIRARCO Mining Innovation in Sudbury. As well in 2016 I was appointed Associate Vice President Mining Innovation and Technology (LMIT). My son Peter lives in Ottawa and I’m still trying to get him into mining in some way. Hobbies: Philosophy, Mining History, Scotch, Travel.

Leigh McMaster: I am a proud millennial born in the early 1980’s in Johannesburg. I spent the first four years of my working career in the SME environment really finding my feet after completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Pretoria. I started my career in Health & Safety and Risk Management in 2008 and have been in love with the discipline since then. I have completed qualifications in Industrial Psychology and Health & Safety which is partly why my main interest lies with the Human Factor in Occupational Safety & Risk.

Which role do health and safety play in your daily work?

Leigh McMaster: I work for the South African Chamber of Mines which is the main employer organization for the South African mining industry. The Chamber of Mines represents 71 member companies who are collectively responsible for over 90 % of South Africa’s mineral production. The Chamber has specialists in various disciplines responsible for industry wide policy and projects.

My main role as the behavioural specialist in the Chamber is to oversee all projects related to safety leadership and behavioural change, change management as well as specialist support to the technical disciplines related to Mining Engineering, Health & Hygiene. Some of the current projects that we are busy with include a new innovative assessment technique and development framework for leadership, critical control management and a longer-term people-centred approach to modernizing the South African mining industry.

Vic Pakalnis: MIRARCO’s mission is safe productive and sustainable mining so safety is always front and center. One of MIRARCO’s centers is in Mining Safety Research – we offer executive level course called Global Minerals Industry Risk Management and we have provided government with policy advice on Technology and the Management of Change. We have undertaken research on underground diesel emission mitigation.

Part of LMIT is the Center for Research in Occupational Safety and Health. They are doing breakthrough research on mental health in mining workplaces. MIRARCO-Laurentian has just partnered with the Northeastern University, Shenyang to establish the China Canada Deep Mining Research Center – one of our focus areas is Mining Safety.

You are connected to ISSA Mining for several years and experienced the development and spread of VISION ZERO and the 7 Golden Rules for Mining. What is your experience in your region? How do managers react when introduced to the concept?

Vic Pakalnis: At our last ISSA Mining Conference in Thailand in September, I addressed Canada’s approach to Mining Safety and the fit is perfect – VISION ZERO is not just a dream but is reality for many companies and many jurisdictions. In Ontario – in Canada’s largest mining jurisdiction – with 40 mines, we achieved zero fatalities in 2016. It can be done. Every country will have some differences in approaching the road to zero but ISSA Mining was prepared to be flexible and universal. Mining is a global industry – what happens in one corner of the world affects us all. Recall the Chilean mine rescue where 33 workers were saved – everyone was watching – more than watched the moon landing (probably more TVs today!) Proud moment for Chile and mining around the world.

Leigh McMaster: The African region is somewhat still in its infancy with regards to the global vision zero program. There are however pockets, including individual organizations and country specific programmes that are well aligned with the objectives of VISION ZERO and the principles of the 7 Golden Rules. The main objectives for the African region is to extend VISION ZERO wider and share the tangible results amongst all members.

In Singapore, we saw a huge supportive feedback of international OSH experts when ISSA launched VISION ZERO and the 7 Golden Rules as a global strategy for all sectors of industry. What is your hope for this remarkable extension, and which potentials do you see for your region?

Vic Pakalnis: ISSA took the good work that ISSA Mining did and adopted it for all sectors. Very courageous move but I think it was justified. Given how complicated and risky mining is, if VISION ZERO works there, it can work anywhere. I was asked to talk about mining safety to a group from the health care sector – government, labour and industry representatives. In Ontario, their lost time injury frequency is twice that of mining. I went through the culture, technology, and practices in mining that can easily be adopted in health care if there was a will to do it. In mining engineering schools, Occupational Health and Safety is mandatory. Not so in schools of nursing or schools of medicine. Other sectors will have to adapt and manage the change that is inevitable and they will have the mining industry to look to for inspiration.

Leigh McMaster: There is immense opportunity to share health and safety and risk strategies and initiatives amongst different industries, especially those with similar risk profiles. The age is long gone where industries work on their own solutions for zero harm. The African region is an ever-growing minerals jurisdiction and it is therefore imperative that the region employs technology and processes that is benchmarked to the best in the global minerals industry.

 Interview by Peter Schrandt, German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the Raw Materials and Chemical Industry (BG RCI), Langenhagen/Germany