We talked to Zakaria Zalikashvili, Public Relations Director at Georgian American Alloys, about the impact of CSR on enterprise and local community
The FINANCIAL -- Georgian American Alloys, Inc. (GAA), headquartered in Miami, FL, owns and operates a number of domestic and international ferroalloys businesses. Located in the Imereti region of Georgia, Georgian Manganese LLC’s Mine (“Chiatura Mine”) has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century. After successfully navigating over a century’s worth of evolving social, political and economic landscapes, Chiatura Mine has emerged as one of Georgia’s leading employers and producers of manganese ore.
Together, Chiatura Mine, Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant (Zestafoni), a silicomanganese processing plant, and Vartsikhe, a nearby hydroelectric facility that powers Chiatura Mine and Zestafoni, make up GAA’s Georgian holdings.
Q. Can you tell us about the status of the ongoing modernization at Georgian Manganese?
A. Chiatura Mine has a rich history dating back 130 years. Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant started operating in 1933. Technical and technological perfection of both plants reached historical level in the ‘70-‘80s. From that period, main target was to keep production process. When Georgian American Alloys took over the managing positions, a reform aimed to increase the standards of work safety, reduction of environment harm and optimization of technological processes was started. In this direction one of the main successes achieved has been the development of new types of mines at Chiatura Mining Factory. They are characterized by an extremely high index of production, safe working conditions, and maximally-environmentally friendly. At the same time the social conditions of the mine’s employees have changed and improved.
Last year one of the main events was the new 25,5 megawatt furnace installation at Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant and this is the result of cooperation with the Indian high-tech company GALSASI. The same kind of renovations happened 40 years ago in the fourth plant.
One of the main priorities for us is the modernization of the Plant’s gas filtration system. Our technological changes significantly reduced air pollution. At the moment the air pollution level in Zestafoni is much lower than the pollution limits stated by the Ministry of Environment Protection.
Q. Last time, you spoke about the bureaucracy of licensing institutions and some government organizations. Have you managed to solve the problems?
A. We are still in the process of negotiations.
Chiatura Mine is capable of producing approximately 261,000 metric tons of manganese ore per year, and approximately 400,000 metric tons of manganese concentrate per year.
Q. From your point of view, what do your stakeholders expect from you?
A. Georgian Manganese is the largest company in Georgia, employing 6000 people, and holds leading positions in the country’s export turnover. Accordingly, we have a high responsibility towards the country, the region’s residents, as well as towards our employees. I can cite an unprecedented example of our sense of responsibility. Given the conditions of the global metallurgical crisis, we stopped mining in Chiatura. During the special working regime we paid them 60% of their total salary. They also benefit from health insurance. The re-launched collective agreement with Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant employees is also very important for its social guarantees.
Q. What is the impact of your business on the local community and environment? How do you measure your impact?
A. First of all I would remark on employment and then the region’s economic stimulation. For example, in addition to invested technologies and other infrastructure, only in Chiatura salary flow is about GEL 3 million per month, that significantly stimulates country economy.
By recovering the process of re-cultivation, we managed to biologically restore about 16 hectares of open mining field territory.
Q. Please can you name the CSR activities implemented by your company last year?
A. Giving concrete examples would take us very far. I would instead name priorities: getting high quality education in the region; supporting the younger generation who have talent in sport. The realization of infrastructural projects including roads; sport arenas; funicular; water supply system regeneration; rehabilitation; restoration works in case of natural catastrophes. We are actively taking part in the social help of people in the region and financing them in the process of health rehabilitation. Georgian Manganese spends millions of GEL on the realization of the above-mentioned projects each year.
Q. You are among the few companies in Georgia supporting CSR. Can you suggest how large companies may be encouraged to follow responsible business rules?
A. As a Georgian-American company, we believe that doing good goes viral.
Q. What are the current trends on the world mining markets?
A. On the one hand there are signs of overcoming the 2014-2016 crisis, but on the other hand there has been recent, very quick change of prices on manganese ferro in a very short time.
If we take a look at historic statistics, such fluctuation on our product prices will be barely noticeable.
Q. Have you implemented activities in educating customers or employees?
A. We pay much attention to professional development and the increase of qualifications. Implementing the newest technologies needs adequate educatin and working skills. Our company actively cooperates in the regions as well as the country’s technical educational centres for improvement of our employees’ education.
Q. Do you have a system for managing health and safety?
A. Despite the fact that there is no special regulation, 4 years ago Georgian Manganese introduced health insurance for all of its employees and their family members. The company totally covers insurance expenses.
According to implemented standards in our work safety system we have had a noticeable decrease in accidents. It’s a pity that many employees don’t take into account the stated work safety rules and risk their own and co-workers’ health. We plan to make these rules even stricter in the nearest future and make a state fine system.
Q. Do you have an environmental management system?
A. We have an environment protection and ecology department, which in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment Protection sets schemes for new mining projects. It is working on the re-cultivation process and implementation of new technologies in order to minimize environmental damage.
Q. Do you have a waste management policy?
A. On the modern market it is really hard to feel strong in yourself if you don’t have recycling politics in a company. Our company is one of those who actively invests in this direction. Georgian Manganese has invested about 10 million in the implementation of slag hydro-separation at Zestafoni Ferroalloy Plant.