According to Igor Kovach, the mine director, the company has reached high production rates due to well coordinated teamwork and production modernization.
- As we have said before well coordinated teamwork and acquisition of new machines contributed to our overall success. The coal mine is controlled by East Mining Company, engaged in coal-mining development project in Uglegorsk district. The modernization facilities comprise Solntsevsky Coal Mine, Coal Sea Port of Shakhtersk and a new conveyor between the mine and coal delivery port to the region’s sea gates (the longest in Russia). Following our development project we have acquired 20 BelAZ with 220 tons capacity, three Komatsu and Hitachi dredgers with 23 m3 bucket capacity each. New machines opened up new perspectives for us. We’ve invested in training of our operators and drivers and the results are breath-taking. Each single employee contributed to our success. Today coal mine system is running like clockwork with each employee fully capable to do his job and trying to do it good. We not only discharge our current tasks – we break the records.
- Igor Aleksandrovich, the growth of production volumes presupposes staff increase. How do you engage new coal mine staff?
- Staff shortage is Sakhalin’s challenge in general. The number of employees grows day by day and currently the locals cannot satisfy our workforce demand, that’s why we hire new staff from other Russian regions. It’s easier for the company to hire a local, who will have no problems with accommodation, whose family is living nearby and who is motivated to stay employed as compared to non-residents. Put it differently a non-resident specialist would rather stay here if he is well-paid. Unfortunately not all locals are qualified enough: Shakhtersk technical school, where the mining specialists were trained, was closed; then after a while Shakhtersk lyceum was turned into technical school with the branches of study corresponding to our demands, but that’s not enough. The right moment was missed and the teaching staff is no longer available. East Mining Company management understands it and plans to buy modern simulators for Shakhtersk mining technical school to train large dump trucks drivers. Although these simulators are very expensive the company understands that it’s a crucial investment in the future. Anyone can get a driving license at school, but it’s not that easy with a 100 t. BelAZ.
- Why would the locals work for your company?
- Uglegorsk district with its self-explanatory name is the major coal mining area in Sakhalin. Almost each family is in this or that way engaged in coal mining. Coal industry is the region’s future and East Mining Company is not a temporary investor, trying to get easy money at the peoples’ expense – EMCO’s investments in Uglegorsk district exceed billions of rubles and it has long-term plans. What does it mean for the locals? Stable development and future perspectives for decades.
- What about the salaries at the mine?
- The average salary exceeds the average regional rates and currently makes around 65 th.rubles. Of course not all the salaries are the same: for instance a dredger operator can earn max. 220 th.rubles; a dredger operator would never find such a well-paid job anywhere else in Sakhalin. Tip-truck drivers get around 45 - 120 th.rubles, depending on their proficiency and machine itself. A newcomer would never operate a 220 t. BelAZ, first he needs to gain experience at a smaller machine - 55 tons, 90, 130 and then 220 tons. I'll put it this way – the one who wants to earn will earn, nobody would ever pay to someone who is doing nothing.
- I hear it told that non-residents have more preferences, new machines and huge bonuses… Is that correct?
- There will always be someone who will be dissatisfied. As I noted before the company would rather hire locals. But it must be borne in mind that save for Solntsevskiy mine nobody is able to operate 90, 130 and 220 t. tip trucks in Sakhalin, and 12 - 23 m3 bucket capacity dump trucks, which means that Sakhalin specialists are not qualified enough to operate such huge machines, therefore we had to hire non-residents. But with the time the locals have mastered these machines and operate them successfully, setting new records. We also have mixed teams (locals and non-residents).
Talking about rewards and bonuses, I would stress that they are available for those who really deserve it. There is no sense to praise lazy bones. We don’t need to go far - in 2016 90% of all the staff awarded in celebration of Miner's Day were locals.
- Igor Aleksandrovich, the company is progressing steadily, you’ve told us about setting up new records and raising mining capacities. Don’t you think that such a huge company should be more socially responsible?
- You are right, the company is progressing, which means that it should contribute to regional development. East Mining Company is planning to raise its coal mining capacity to 10-12 mln.tons of coal, which will create new jobs, tax yields on all budget levels, including local level. To make all this come true EMCO should invest billions of rubles in its production with such expenses presupposing due calculations and planning. Three years ago nobody knew anything about Solntsevsky coal mine and now we are visited by the heads of major equipment producers, like Komatsu or BelAZ. EMCO made it possible for mine employees to participate in specialized exhibitions in other regions, visit other major coal enterprises, put it differently, to adopt new experience (last time it was Las Vegas).
Social responsibility of a business entity primarily covers the population life quality. If business success is attributed to the territory itself, the company should invest in it, raising the population living standards. Now the company is on the edge of leap forward in its development, which for EMCO means 45 bln. investments and 10 mln. tons of coal capacity. That done the company could implement large-scale social projects and that’s when one could make social claims. Sure enough the company is currently deeply engaged in social projects and initiatives. In order to substantiate my statement in the past two years EMCO was announced the winner of regional competitions “Philanthropist of the Year” with its major projects including church construction in Uglegorsk and monument erection in Shakhtersk. EMCO brought Marine fleet day celebration in the region back to life. Do you remember how the Miner's Day was celebrated before and now? The company’s charity activity covers sports and culture, it helps the veterans and orphan asylum. Any social responsibility should be ratable – it will extend with the company’s growth rates.
- Mining operations are directly related to ecology. With enterprise development the environmental stress accelerates. 2017 was announced the year of ecology. What is your contribution to this area?
- Environment is a crucial issue, important for any and all employees and residents. We realize that we are responsible for environmental issues. People used to complain about open tip-trucks transporting coal on public-access roads, when the coal was dropping off the trucks thus causing discomfort to all traffic participants. We’ve introduced a new rule that each coal transporting truck should be covered with a tent. Of course not all the drivers follow this rule due to lack of time or laziness, so we will appreciate any information on such violations to take the corresponding measures.
Apart from that this spring we are planning to install and launch a water purification plant at Solntsevsky coal mine, with the company’s investments exceeding 42 mln.rubles for acquisition and installation. Solntsevsky Coal Mine has already made a contract and executed all design works. The plant can clean industrial water from the mine in the required quantity.
- What are your plans for 2017?
- This year we are planning to mine 4 mln.tons of coal. Judging from our experience in 2016 we know we can make it. This year the overburden coal ratio will raise, so to mine 1 ton of coal we will have to remove more rock. But we are ready to do it. Apart from that we are planning to buy a few new auxiliary machines (bulldozers, loaders), but not the primary machines like tip-trucks or diggers. We are ready to set up new records this year.