AngloGold Ashanti's Tirelo Sibisi on how they've navigated immigration challenges

Tirelo says multinationals like theirs have had a limited ability to call on expat talent.

Anglogold Ashanti executive VP of group HR Tirelo Sibisi says one of their toughest challenges, in the mining sector, has been finding a way to manage the limited ability to call on expat talent. Countries like Tanzania and Mali, for example, have declined the work permits from employees that were previously approved. Some of the ex-pats that had a three-year work permit, for example, have had to return home after 12 months and Anglogold now has to find those skills within the country.

“In some of the countries where we have growth projects, the skills we had been deploying were predominantly from South Africa and Australia. But the output is now slowing down in those locations because of the immigration challenges. We find ourselves now having to accelerate our skills transfer processes,” says Tirelo.  

Tirelo says their response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been varied given that there have been different challenges for the group in South Africa compared to places like Brazil and Australia.

Nevertheless, their guiding principle throughout the pandemic has been that employees should not be economically affected. 

“I suppose we have been fortunate in that we have had the gold price on our side in that regard,” says Tirelo, who also happens to have been nominated for the 2020 CHRO Awards

A few weeks into national lockdown level five, mining operations were declared an ‘essential service’ and permitted to restart and produce to a maximum of 50 percent and has been slowly ramping up capacity ever since.

"Most of the countries on the continent are focussing on localisation and that creates a skills transfer issue for companies like ours because, while it is possible to offer training and guidance online, there is a lot that can only be done in person-to-person training," says Tirelo. 

To help line managers overseeing talent that is working from home, Tirelo says they have provided them with a toolkit about online performance management. 

"It wasn’t an extensive training programme but it has helped to prepare our managers somewhat to manage people in these uncertain times. At the end of the day, when people are so accustomed to seeing their teams every day, they are really thrust into the deep-end when they suddenly have to do so without seeing people face-to-face. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of people not knowing what they don’t know,” she says.