Rising from the dust with Belabela

Daniel Chida
SMILES ON SITE: Thero Moremi

In 2012, Thero Moremi arrived at Belabela Quarries as an intern, having been rejected by BCL for being underweight.

She had just acquired her Underground Blasting Licence but was not absorbed by the copper mine because she failed her medical examination, her weight being the concern.

BCL’s loss proved Belabela’s beautiful gain!

Moremi, popular known as MmaMoremi, has moved on from that crushing blow in spectacular style, swiftly rising through the ranks at Belabela, where she now holds the position of Site Manager.

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Voice Money put on its construction helmet this week, taking the 15km trip from Gaborone to the quarry site to meet up with Moremi…

Walk us through your career journey at Belabela Quarries?

Well I started as an intern in 2012.

At the beginning of 2013 I got my Open Pit Blasting ticket and later that year there was an opening in HR and management at the time asked if I would be interested in the post, I accepted it and was taken for payroll training.

In 2014 I was asked to assist in Procurement because we suddenly had a vacancy there and for whatever reason we never advertised for that post and I was suddenly HR & Procurement Officer.

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The following year there was an opening in Operations and it is the one path I had dreamed off for so long so when the opportunity came I took it.

I was appointed a Shift Supervisor.

I really enjoyed being in operations, I was finally in the line of work I’d trained for!

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I had a shift of 16 people directly under me, was doing 12 hours shifts day and night but I was not complaining.

In 2018, I was promoted to Junior Site Manager and, fast-forward November 2023, I was promoted and became the Site Manager.

Quite the journey! So how have your responsibilities evolved?

A whole lot, just thinking about it, it’s wild!

When I first started here, the only thing I was concerned about was delivering quality results, through my own proficiency, whether that meant putting more hours or getting training, so be it.

To having to deliver results by developing the skills of other people who now reported to me.

It was a transition I tell you.

Now I have accepted that my job is not just to lead but to identify, equip, mobilise and empower others.

What skills did you acquire in your early roles that have been crucial in your current position?

Ooh wow, I have learnt a lot and the paths I have taken have enhanced my probability to succeed in my current role.

I have learnt to be consistent, I believe in honesty and integrity, I am more empathetic.

I now know how to effectively communicate and this has helped to create a team that is supportive, loves feedback, a team that is open to constructive criticism.

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Takes us through a typical work day for you?

Now I’m no longer doing the ‘job’ – which is still very difficult mind you! – I am responsible for inspiring, coaching and mentoring the team to become the best versions of themselves.

Now I can spend an entire afternoon talking to our customers, checking how our service is, and if there’s anything we can do to improve this service and so forth.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face in managing the site?

Market Fluctuations: Fluctuations in demand for materials like stone or sand can impact profitability.

Safety concerns: At Belabela we do not compromise on safety; the challenge comes when people become too comfortable and neglect it.

People feel they have been doing this for too long and can take shortcuts, or they get used to certain cultures – having to work on changing people’s mindset can be quite challenging.

On the subject of safety, how do you ensure you comply with industry regulations on-site?

This is a very important question, because like I just mentioned, we take safety issues seriously around here.

I also have support from qualified and experienced safety officer, Ms Ungi and her team who do not compromise either on ensuring that we adhere to all SHE Policies to getting the quality Protective Devices and equipment for our personnel here on site.

And the cherry on top is Management buy into the Safety Improvement Plan that has been making rounds.

What trends are you currently observing in the concrete, quarry dust, and aggregates market?

Sustainability and recycled material: there is a growing emphasis on sustainability and eco-friendly practices within the construction industry.

Just the other day a company that we were eager to work with wanted to know what we are doing to curb this rise of carbon in the atmosphere.

I then knew this is indeed the company I want to have dealings with because even our values are aligned.

The other trend I have observed is the demand for high strength concrete.

This is driven by the increasing construction of high-rise buildings and infrastructure projects that require durable and weather resistant material.

So what environmentally-friendly practices do you have in place?

We have Environmental Management Systems put in place that demonstrate our commitment to environmental management.

We have also invested in Emission Reduction Systems such as dust control, low emission machinery and vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

What sets you apart from competitors?

The People, period! Our employees are our biggest assets.

We are strong believers that if we take care of our employees they will take care of our company.

How do you maintain and improve relationships with your customers?

Effective communication; you see, we have clear and open lines of communication: we keep them informed about their orders, any potential delays.

Also, I have learned a very valuable lesson from my predecessor, Peter Zunckel about having an open-door policy.

My door is always open, literally.

What role does technology play in your daily operations?

Technology does play a huge role in our operations.

It’s crucial in enhancing the efficiency, safety and productivity of our daily operations.

It helps with precision mining, it helps with real time monitoring systems for safety, data analytics such as predictive maintenance and so forth.

How do you support and develop your team to ensure high performance?

Training, Training, Training!

In this industry where technology is forever changing, we need to constantly be investing in training our team to ensure high performance.

We are firm believers in acknowledging achievements by recognizing and rewarding individual and team success.

How would you describe your leadership style?

Good leadership is very important and this notion that ‘people don’t leave companies they leave bad leaders’ is something I hold close to my heart.

So I strive to be a leader who amplifies or multiplies the intelligence in the people around me.

Can you share an example of a challenging situation with team dynamics and how you resolved it?

Transitioning from being an intern to a Site Manager has been a remarkable journey, one that many in similar career paths can relate to.

This progression can sometimes lead to challenges in managing relationships with colleagues, potentially causing animosities or difficulties in establishing appropriate boundaries.

Over time, I have learned that leadership does not necessarily have to be lonely.

It is crucial to create and maintain professional boundaries while fostering a supportive and collaborative work environment.

By doing so, we can ensure mutual respect and productive relationships in our teams.

What are your short and long-term goals for the site and the company?

I always find this question daunting but my long-term plan for Belabela Quarries (BBQ) is to achieve significant progress towards sustainability, to expand the quarry and dominating the market share.

I want BBQ to be a model company on Safety Compliance.

To achieve this, I have to focus on investing in renewable energy sources, ensure our customers are satisfied with our service.

We need to invest in additional equipment and technology and continue implementing comprehensive safety training programs.

What do you see as the biggest future challenges for the quarry industry, and how is Belabela Quarries preparing for them?

Increasingly stringent environmental regulations and a growing focus on sustainability can impact operations.

We need to focus more now on investing in sustainable practices and technologies.

We must implement Environmental Management Systems, reduce waste and go more into recycling.

Technological advancements can also be costly and complex.

We need to invest and train staff to use new technologies effectively.

The other biggest future challenge would be resource depletion; here the only other thing to do is invest in exploration and the development of other quarry sites.

Are there any innovative projects or initiatives that you are currently working on?

For now, the plan is to expand the current pit, so we presently navigating the demanding initial phase of removing overburden.

This is a critical step and, while challenging, is essential for accessing the granite.

I am immensely grateful to be surrounded by a dedicated and experienced team whose support and expertise are making this process significantly more manageable.

What motivated you to pursue a career in mining, and what keeps you motivated today?

Well somebody lied and said mining has money so I went to go pursue a career in mining, but later it developed into passion and now I don’t imagine myself doing anything out of this industry.

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the mining industry, particularly in a managerial role?

Authenticity! Guys be true to yourself and your values, that’s already half the battle won.

Then be consistent, meet deadlines, deliver quality work and my recent favourite is Mentorship: seek mentors within the industry who can provide guidance and support throughout your career.

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