The Anitua Group, one of Papua New Guinea’s most successful landowner companies, has paved a new road for itself after transforming its safety and management programs
The Anitua Group was founded in 1989 by a group of Lihirian landowners. The people of the Lihir Island chain own the company – six clan groups, the local-level government and 2,500 individuals are shareholders.
The original purpose of the company was to provide the landowners with the opportunity to participate in the Lihir Gold project at one of the world’s largest gold mines. Now, The Anitua Group is the largest single supplier of goods and services to Lihir Gold Limited and has successfully expanded throughout PNG and even has two Australian-based businesses.
The Anitua Group comprises several different businesses, including Anitua Corporate Services, Anitua Mining Services, Anitua Hardware, Anitua Supermarket, Anitua Protective Services, Anitua Investments, Anitua Properties, Anitua Transport Services, Anitua Radial Drilling Services, Lihir Business Services, Lihir Auto Services, Lihir Investments (Australia), Anitua Logistics (Australia), Anitua Motors, Anitua Constructions, Anitua Farms and the mega camp management and catering groups, NCS Holdings and The Alliance Group (TAG). The Anitua Group’s services include contract mining, construction, security, roadwork and civil construction, quarrying, warehousing and logistics, retail, farming, hospitality, IT services, mine site support and earth moving, training, drilling, property investment and management, transport and shipping, small business services, catering, fresh produce, automotive sales and repairs, catering and camp management – the diversity of these services being clearly indicative of the Group’s capacity to provide solutions for all aspects of mining and resource projects not to mention those in other industries as well.
Safety is paramount to The Anitua Group, and over the past several years has been the main focus of Executive Director, Colin Vale.
“Anitua recognised early that workplace safety had to be fully integrated into all aspects of our businesses to be sustainable,” said Vale.
Since sustainability is currently a main goal for the company, a Safety, Health, Environment & Community (SHEC) management system has been adopted; this approach aligns with ISO 18001 (Occupational Health and Safety), ISO 9001 (Quality Management System) and ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System). The SHEC system has several benefits including laying the foundations for a thriving safety culture throughout the Group. The ability to meet stringent safety targets is critical to Anitua Mining Service’s contract with Lihir Gold Ltd. The Alliance Group’s (TAG’s) success in winning catering and camp management contracts on PNG’s mega LNG project is partly due to their exemplary safety record. The oil and gas industry has even more stringent requirements than the mining industry, something that both NCS and TAG have consistently demonstrated they can deliver on. Vale also touted the company’s two pronged approach to safety. The senior management and supervisors exemplify good safety practices, while lower-level employees participate in safety committees and the development of safe work procedures. This way, all employees feel empowered to work safely, and do not hesitate to raise concerns when they are noticed.
To further prove to employees that safety is a priority, Anitua has set up a safety awards program. “Anitua felt it was important to recognise those individuals that really exemplified great personal safety behaviours in the workplace and used these behaviours to influence the culture for the better,” Vale commented.
Employees are recommended by their peers and supervisors. The SHEC management committee meets and evaluates each of the nominees, and makes their decisions based off of this meeting. The Safety Through Innovation Award is a significant award coveted by each of the Group’s businesses and encourages a proactive and creative approach to solving safety issues within the workplace. The Group has introduced a new award for 2014 to recognise staff who are addressing the issue of violence against women – a considerable community and workplace safety issue in PNG. This is the first workplace safety award of its kind to be offered in PNG, and perhaps the world. Awards are a combination of prize and public recognition and the annual award ceremonies are greatly anticipated.
Approach to management
Just like with their approach to safety, management across all Anitua businesses has been streamlined, and a strong core corporate team (including finance, quality, HR, safety, business development and marketing) has been put in place. This structure provides support services to each of the many businesses within the Group, allowing them to focus on operations and growth. With over 3,400 employees, practices like team building and training, regular management meetings and a strong understanding of the company structure are important to keeping the company moving forward.
“Anitua Corporate must deliver management, processes and services that create more value for the individual business units and the group as a whole than the individual business units can do on their own,” Vale commented.
Anitua works from a flat and lean management structure, which has helped the company become one of the most successful in Papua New Guinea. The Group has been commended by World Bank PNG Country Manager, Laura Baily, as a stand out example of a successful, special and unique landowner company, and one of the best in PNG. Surveys carried out by the World Bank highlighted that The Anitua Group has the right commercial model, which is deemed critical to ongoing sustainability and success. Laura went on to explain that for landowner companies to be successful, they cannot behave as a social entity – but must have a clear and focused commercial model.
The Group’s clear and explicit understanding of its business goals (operating alongside its clear social goals) and its ability to attract senior talent who have a genuine commitment to development and a focus on building the skills of PNG workers have been key factors in the Group’s success. The Group was recognised for being able to grow and expand beyond the initial resource project that enabled it to exist – to expand and diversify the businesses within the Group and to expand geographically throughout PNG. This successful expansion and diversity of the Group’s portfolio of businesses has contributed to providing sustainable jobs, training a large number of people and helped improve the quality of life of those in the communities in which they operate.
Unlike many landowner companies in PNG, the Group is a commercial success, providing long term benefits back to the community and its Lihirian shareholders. A board consisting of representatives of each of the six major clans ensures that the interests of the local community are well represented when deciding upon the strategic direction of the Group.
Anitua has a number of training programs in place, ensuring staff at all levels have the opportunity to receive training and career progression. Annual employee feedback surveys are conducted and the results acted upon to ensure continual improvement and that the Group remains an employer of choice within PNG. An enormous effort is made to treat all employees with respect and to actively encourage women to participate in the workforce. A person is not terminated without following due process, and senior employees are not terminated without the ED reviewing the employee and case.
The management team makes an effort to “uphold and enforce values, take a stance on bullying and violence in the work place, do what we say we will and communicate regularly with employees,” Vale said. “Create a culture of family and you will attract and retain employees. We have policies and procedures and a code of conduct that we live by.”
Indicative of the culture, values and code of conduct, is the Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program, launched on White Ribbon Day in 2013. The main focus is on eliminating violence against women (EVAW). A key component of the program is the implementation of Australia’s White Ribbon Workplace Program. EVAW Program Manager, Dr Linda Van Leeuwin reports, “Anitua is very proud to be the first and only PNG business to adopt the program, the purpose of which is to make our workplaces safer for women and more supportive of those of our staff who are victims of violence.”
An eye towards the future
As The Anitua Group continues to improve its already strong safety program, and continues to strengthen the foundation for their impressive management system, Vale and the company are looking towards other opportunities outside of the gold mine on Lihir. A number of the Group’s businesses are looking to replicate the success of catering and camp management giant, NCS, which has successfully expanded off the island and now operates in 27 different sites throughout PNG. The Group’s Mining Services business is poised for strong growth, with the country enjoying a buoyant resources industry.
There are currently strategies in place for growth, with a number of opportunities close to fruition that could be potential game changers for the company.
“Interestingly every business plan I’ve ever undertaken has had stretch targets that we smashed! This always surprised me,” said Vale. The company’s continuing success, however, should be a surprise to no one.